Grinding through the Green Triangle

There was simply no more room in the mini bus, or at least not for both my bike and me. Its 12 seats already had 17 people crammed into them, plus freight, which is common of Laos public transport. I was left with no choice but to make a not-so Superman like eleventh hour change into my kit and pedal off into the freezing morning fog.

It was somewhere just after 8am in Muang Sing, a small and remote village in the far north of Laos, just a few Kilometers away from the both the Burmese and Chinese border crossings. This is a region known as the “Green Triangle”.

I’d passed through here a few years back, and had vowed to return and discover its back-roads by bike. It’s such a culturally diverse and rich area – with many ethnic minorities living around the green and mountainous landscape.

It was also seemingly blessed with an endless selection of un-mapped dirt roads, which link these stilted and electricity free settlements to the comparative civilization of the town its self.

Sure enough this is the cold season, but it’s rarely this chilled. A freezing Siberian snap had dropped in for the week, and temperatures had plummeted to just above freezing. In a region where windows are glass free and where heating does not exist, and where there are few warm clothes on offer, it had come as something of a shock to the system.

Having been ill with food poisoning all through the previous night I’d decided that the rough road ride back to the next town was definitely off, but the option of waiting half a day on the off-chance of another full bus ride was not worth taking, so a woolly hat was purchased and I crammed on as many clothes as I could muster before hitting the holy road out of town.

During the lead up to this chilled morning I’d been local “bus surfing” and dirt road riding around the region, which truly is amazing - as long as you have a sense of adventure and are prepared to rough it a little.

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All in the ride south was just over 60km, with rough and broken roads for the whole way. The twist was that it came with an opening 25km uphill, not brutally ferocious, but enough to grind it out of you, especially when your guts are churning and your butt is on fire.

Tiny bamboo houses with locals sitting outside, all huddled around open fires lined the road. Young children, who were trying to sell me dead wild animals jumped out of nowhere, while a backdrop of misty jungle scenery made for an awesome mini-epic of a ride, and one I would not have missed for anything, but one that I almost did miss.

Needless to say Laos is comparatively a very poor country, and has little in the way of facilities outside of the major towns. As far as cycling goes it’s a superb destination for adventurous rough road and dirt trail riding. 

Wheels of choice - old faithful fully rigid Litespeed titanium MTB

Tech tack - all shot with a Fuji XE1 with an 18-55mm lens