BBC: World’s Most Dangerous Roads

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World's Most Dangerous Roads

Having taken viewers to Alaska, Ethiopia, Siberia and Peru, the makers of The World’s Most Dangerous Roads turned their attention to the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. Cluster bombs and other unexploded ordinance (UXO) blight the Laotian countryside, and the show wanted to highlight the dangers that still exist. Many sections of the Trail have signs which mark the areas where UXO has been cleared and where it is still dangerous to enter.

Digby was first contacted to guide a producer down the Trail by motorbike to see if it met their criteria. Together they rode down some of the more difficult sections of the Trail and the route was greenlit for the show. The producer of the show is an accomplished writer who wrote up a magazine story about the scout trip that can be seen below.

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getting stuck in the mud in Laos
Two months later, the crew, Sue Perkins and Liza Tarbuck arrived in Hanoi and flew to Vinh, where their jeeps were waiting. Digby was hired as the Trail guide and expert but spent most of his time keeping the presenters happy. The pair were rather demanding, and accommodation on the Trail in those days was rough, so one of his jobs was to ride ahead of Perkins and Tarbuck and ensure their rooms were presentable. That meant splashing bleach on the floor and bathrooms to eliminate unpleasant odours, laying out fresh, clean, disposable sheets, and sweeping up any nasty surprises.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail

filming for the BBC on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
drinking Vietnamese coffee during the filming of BBC's World's Most Dangerous Roads
The two-week shoot was a classic, the crew were fantastic, and the presenters did well, considering they were driving down a rough dirt trail in 35+ degree Celsius heat in an unconditioned 4WD with literally tonnes of UXO on either side.

Digby led the film crew to many famous places along the Trail. Ban Phanop Village proved difficult because it still had two live bombs stored in it. Some sections of the Trail were so remote that local people ran away from the crew and their cameras. Sue and Liza interviewed a UXO de-mining team that had just found two 500 lb. bombs, local Lao women searching for UXO scrap with metal detectors, and two American fighter jet pilots who had bombed the Trail during the war. They drove down sections of the Trail where the original cobblestones still existed and crossed several deep river crossings.

The producer found the Trail so fascinating that she later rode down it on a pink 50cc Honda Cub, which Explore Indochina prepared for her, and wrote an excellent book about the Trail titled A Short Ride in the Jungle. This book comes highly recommended for anyone interested in the Trail and riding it with Digby.

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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.