Charley Boorman: By Any Means

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a captured tank in Lam Son
We've spent more than 20 years exploring and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and have compiled this set of images comparing what it looked like then with now.

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Meeting up at the Chinese border

Charlie Boorman with Digby and Russ at the Chinese border
Charley Boorman travelled around the world by all manner of local transport for his show By Any Means. Having already traversed China, he needed a way to get from the border to Hanoi. Explore Indochina prepared a 125cc Minsk motorbike for him and waited for Charley and the crew to walk across from China at Dong Dang.

Heading into the Karst

Charlie Boorman rides the karst near the Dong Dang border crossing
Charlie Boorman and Digby Greenhalgh share a smoke
Charley was super friendly and very chilled. He liked our bike and was eager to hit the road. Digby led him through some delightful countryside where dramatic limestone karst rises out of rolling green rice fields. Off camera, Charlie helped a local man push his bike up a steep incline with two large pigs strapped to it.

The camera operators easily set up several passing shots while Charley gave commentary on his microphone, so they got their requisite 30 seconds of TV in double quick time. Charley and his producer Russ decided to ride their Minks off camera a further 100 km to Hanoi, and Digby led the way. Quite the showman, Charley proved adept at riding while standing with only one leg on the seat.

Once in Hanoi, Charlie went to the dentist to get his teeth fixed, while Digby hit the pub with Russ to hear tales about the filming of A Long Way Round with Ewan McGregor. After Hanoi, Charley and Russ went to Ha Long Bay and almost sank while riding in an overloaded speed boat.

Good Impressions

Charlie Boorman and Digby Greenhalgh
There was no doubt that Charlie was the real deal. While the Long Way Round was arguably his big break, he was savvy enough to make the most of it rather than resting on his laurels. One of life’s secrets is to have the courage to go all in when the time is right. Mick Jagger even went so far as saying the Stones were downright lucky and were in the right place at the right time, but then they worked like demons to make it work. By promoting himself in an honest fashion that appealed to viewers, Charlie created further opportunities for himself down the road. During typical banter, he was a nice enough guy to show interest in the people he was talking to, including me. He asked me about my family and how I got into bikes. He was a receiver, unlike many other celebrity types that transmit only to an audience at their behest.

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By Digby Greenhalgh

Digby Greenhalgh is the founder of Explore Indochina, and a recognized expert on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. All motorcycle tours are designed and guided by Digby.