In Nov/Dec last year, Porsche Club partnered with “On the Road in China” and took its members on a brand new road trip to various remote parts of China and Asia, starting from the edge of the Tibetan plateau to the subtropical northern Thailand. This epic driving experience (the “Drive”) took place between 29th November and 10th December. A wide range of Porsches participated, ranging from Cayman, Boxster, 993 Turbo, 991 Carrera, Panamera, Cayenne to the latest Macan.
All the Porsches were transported from Shenzhen to Lijiang, where the Drive started, because large transportation trucks carrying the Porsches could not drive up the mountainous roads to Shangri-la. Members flew to Lijiang and the convoy of 11 Porsches headed up towards Shangri-La, then gradually went south to Tacheng, then Dali, followed by Kunming, and then Yunnan’s exotic Xishuangbanna region, before reaching Laos and crossing the Mekong River into Thailand, stopping at the Golden Triangle and finally ending this epic Drive on a high note in Chiang Mai. Unforgettable moments of the trip are countless; a selection of the highlights is listed below.
The old town of Lijiang is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Many members chose to arrive a day or two earlier just to spend some time strolling through the historical narrow streets of the old town; a place like no other which is both charming and full of character, especially in the early morning when it’s nothing but peace and quiet. Apart from numerous photo shooting opportunities, the old town centre also offers plenty of local shopping opportunities, ranging from delicacies, handicrafts to world famous Yunnan Pu’er.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
On the way from Lijiang to Shangri-La, members passed through this scenic canyon on the Jinsha River, a primary tributary of the upper Yangtze River. It is also one of the deepest gorges in the world. The water rushing down and hitting against a humongous rock (as the legend goes, the rock was used as a stepping stone by a tiger) which sits steadfast in the midst of the river mouth is a truly spectacular scene. In order to see this stunning view up close, one is required to walk down to the river’s edge, and then back up, hundreds of steps with tight corners. Due to the high altitude, some members were hesitant to walk down. However, for those who did, they all thought it was so worth their while. A couple of members who did not feel like the challenge of walking stairs but were keen not to miss the spectacular view, hired men to carry them down, and then back up, in sedan chairs (轎) for a very reasonable RMB200 per person!!
The Ganden Sumtseling Monastery
This Tibetan Buddhist monastery is the largest of its kind outside of Tibet. The hotel that members stayed at was practically just a stone throw away from the monastery. The sight that greeted them in the following morning, with the reflection of rising sunlight, was truly majestic. Those faithful Buddhist members were ecstatic to be able to pay pilgrimage and pray at this monastery. However, irrespective of whether or not members were followers or believers of Buddhism, those who visited the monastery treasured this valuable opportunity; all of them learned much from the local guide regarding history and Buddhism teachings.
Tibetan Home Visit
After the monastery tour, some members opted to visit a local Tibetan family. It’s amazing and a positive reminder to them to see how four generations of a Tibetan family could live humbly, harmoniously and happily under the same roof. Unlike the living of a typical Hong Kong modern family, it is almost unimaginable to see how they diligently stock up dried meet for the year and make butter for sale and own consumption and, also, how the comparatively large living room is the epicentre of their family lives. This up close and personal family visit was indeed an eye opener.
There are only a limited number of 9 rooms in the Tacheng hotel where members stayed, which meant that several members were required to share a room. However, this boutique hotel is full of character and is located right next to a terrace farm, where the freshest produce was selected and used to prepare the delicious meals for members. Besides the abundance of vegetables and fruits growing in this region, members could also see a lot of black semi-wild boars in the area. Yunnan ham, anyone?!!
Some members got up early in the morning before leaving Tacheng in search of these rare snub-nosed monkeys. The walk up the mountain was much more challenging than they anticipated but they just caught the park rangers feeding them breakfast. In the end, the sight of these rare monkeys (less than 2,000 in the world) and the opportunity to take some salon photos, made everything worthwhile.
Lunch in Mojian
On the way from Kunming to Xishuangbanna, members stopped at an inconspicuous small town (Mojian) for lunch. An interesting takeaway here is not about the restaurant or the food (though the food was indeed quite good). However, literally, out of the middle of nowhere in a small courtyard surrounded by buildings where the Porsches were parked, there were two Tesla charging stations. Not trying to promote another car brand here, but members were all car lovers and they were truly intrigued by this as there were absolutely no signs from the main road suggesting or indicating the availability of the charging stations. They all wondered who the hidden charging stations were for!!
Although Xishuangbanna is still part of Yunnan, diversity and contrast (both culturally and climate wise) could be detected as soon as members entered the area. The climate and vegetation resemble much more to the tropical South East Asia than the rest of Yunnan which was rather cold when they were there. In particular, after the sub-zero degrees up in the Shangri-La, the warmer temperature of this area was really welcoming. Members’ visit to the Dai minority village also demonstrated the strong Thai influence in the region.
The Boat Landing Hotel, Laos
As soon as members crossed the border and entered Laos, they noticed right away that the place felt considerably less developed than its neighbouring north. However, the place offers tranquillity which no modern city can find. The hotel that they stayed at may seem extremely basic (with no automatic flushing toilet or TV etc.), but rooms were clean and tidy. The hotel is situated right by the bank of a stream; hence, scenery was picturesque. Many of them found that this was the most restful night they had over the entire trip; though some members also claimed that they were woken up by the crowing of a rooster at 4 a.m., well before the break of dawn!!
Visiting a Laotian village
After leaving the Boat Landing Hotel and on their way to the Thai border, members visited a local village. Their living conditions are simple, basic and, also, compared to city people, not modern at all; yet they seem happy. The sight of it is indeed a forceful reminder of how city people can take simple things in life for granted. In anticipation of this visit, members brought along toys and candies for the children who were graciously thankful for the gifts. However, members learnt afterwards that, in fact, there is no dentist in the village to treat the children should they suffer from any teeth problem i.e. children there are not encouraged to eat too many sweets and candies, again something hard for city goers to imagine.
Grand Hall of Opium Museum, Golden Triangle
This museum is a gem situated right across the road from the luxurious Anantara Golden Triangle Hotel where members were staying. The museum was informative with insightful exhibits showcasing the history of the Golden Triangle region (at one time one of the most extensive opium producing areas), and many interesting facts and figures about the Opium war in China.
Driving Experience in Porsches
The scenery throughout the trip might be awe inspiring, but drivers did not forget to put the Porsches through their paces on this Drive. After all, that’s one of the key reasons to take the trouble to ship their Porsches all the way from Hong Kong to Yunnan. The road conditions of this Drive ranged from mountain pass full of twists and turns, unpaved backroads with potholes, to mirror smooth newly opened highways. This driving experience also demonstrated that Porsche sports cars can go (almost) anywhere that the Cayennes go!!
Although this is not something that any member looks forward to, it is nevertheless unavoidable at times, especially on a long road trip like this. There were 6 tire related incidents on this trip; 4 of which involved the Cayennes which were rather unexpected given that they are geared for off-road driving. Fortunately, since spare tires were brought along just for this trip, most of the tire related problems were dealt with rather easily and expediently.
The above are just some of the highlights of this Drive.