He set off virtually penniless
A young student in Vietnam has embarked on a journey around the country alone after deciding to delay his studies for one school year to translate the dream of broadening his experience of various Vietnamese regions into reality.
Twenty-year-old Khong Minh Triet, living in Binh Duong Province, southern Vietnam, began his nationwide on-foot trip on the morning of December 29, 2017, temporarily leaving behind his usual academic life at the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City.
Triet secured consent from his parents and approval from his school, which will keep his academic performance results valid when he resumes studying.
His motivations are discovering attractions in Vietnam and overcoming the self-imposed challenge of trekking on the number-eight-shaped route he mapped out himself.
The route, about 4,500 kilometers long, passes through many provinces, primarily following National Route 1, one of Vietnam’s north-south arteries, and the Ho Chi Minh Trail, stretching along the mountainous western side of the central region.
The itinerary excludes some provinces in northern Vietnam, to which Triet will pay a visit by some means of transport.
He geared up for the odyssey by taking muscular exercises: regularly training with a plastic ball to increase the strength of his legs.
“The practice only consists of tossing, kicking and chasing the ball without wearing any shoes. I spent 20 minutes every day doing the training, and stuck to it for six months straight,” he recalled.
Triet said the modes of transport chosen and the route’s length to be covered are subservient to what is learned during the journey.
He left home with identity papers and only VND20,000 (nearly US$1), which unexpectedly appeared in his backpack after a check, for he wanted to carry no money.
He divides his 8-shaped route into six manageable sections, along each of which he will travel continuously for a month before stopping by major cities in Vietnam where people he wished to meet reside.
It took him 31 days and a half to reach the end of the second section in Moc Chau District, Son La Province, northwestern Vietnam, where he is laying over, after covering the first for 29 days.
The young man planned to arrive in Hanoi in a month.
The journey has hitherto left him with memorable experiences.
He has slept along road sides and fell in a panhandler’s shoes on many occasions.
“I was imagining what a beggar would do to have food and a sleeping place. I thought that people would have some leftover after a meal, so I often asked for a bowl of rice in the afternoon,” Triet recollected.
At first he slept on a public bench, but then thanks to suggestions from other people, he found seemingly more decent places that charged him no cost, like gas stations, restaurants, rest houses, hospitals, border posts, and locals’ homes.
Climatic differences interested him but also hampered his walk.
In Phu Yen Province, south-central Vietnam, “local people warned me against Tu Bong winds, because they might catapult me down to the rice paddy from the road. But I didn’t believe such stiff breezes happened in that calm weather,” he said.
He then had to take shelter from the unbelievable gust before braving the elements.
“To me the trip was mixed with happiness and difficulty. By happiness I mean the places I visited have weird occurrences, and by difficulty I mean it required huge exertion to trudge a short distance of one kilometer,” he said.