Traveling duo Dang Duc Tuan and Vo Minh Tan planted more than 500 trees during their 110-day journey through all 63 cities and provinces in Vietnam, hoping their seedlings will help a new culture of environmental awareness take root across the country.
Travel lovers in Vietnam often talk about cross-country motorbike journeys, but few have time to make the trip.
When COVID-19 brought the country to a standstill earlier this year, Tuan and Tan, both 29 years old, decided to take a break from their office jobs in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, respectively, to make the life-changing trip.
Hoping to share their mantra – 'If you love Vietnam, love its environment, too' – the two men launched A Little Vietnam, their personal initiative to spread public awareness of responsible tourism.
Tan and Tuan came up with the idea for a cross-country environmental awareness journey after social media users praised a video they made in Dak Lak Province, in which they called on people to stop riding elephants.
They felt it was a sign that they could do more to spread community values to a wider audience.
“We rode a total of three motorbikes because one broke down between Ninh Binh Province and Lai Chau Province," the two recounted.
“Traveling by motorbike made the A Little Vietnam project more flexible because it allowed us to access remote areas to plant trees.
“It was convenient to go sightseeing and to buy seedlings in provinces with seedling farms.”
|Shovels in hand, Dang Duc Tuan and Vo Minh Tan planted hundreds of trees in 63 provinces and cities in Vietnam.|
Out of pocket
Tuan and Tan mostly financed their trip on their own, but are grateful to their friends who contributed cash to help buy seedlings.
While the duo encountered many difficulties along the way, particularly given that this was their first major road trip, coping with the bitter cold weather in the northern region during the 2022 Lunar New Year holiday, or Tet, was perhaps the hardest.
Another challenge was finding places to buy seedlings and scouting communities that were supportive of their project and would care for the trees they planted.
“Once we committed ourselves to making the trip, we kept our focus on planting trees while traveling," they said.
"We had to be knowledgeable about travel and we learned a lot from the experience of gardeners and tree lovers.
“We were happy with the experience and knowledge we gained, and the result of our planting.
|Teaming up with other young people, Dang Duc Tuan and Vo Minh Tan planted 240 pine trees in the Ngoc Le Mountain in Kon Tum Province, Vietnam.|
“We really hoped to spread the message “If you love Vietnam, love its environment, too."
Enamored by Tuan and Tan’s enthusiasm, Nguyen Thi Thuy, manager of the Cuc Phuong National Botanical Garden in Ninh Binh Province, shared that the duo were “full of energy of the youth.”
“When I saw them, I was surprised that they brought shovels with them everywhere they went," Thuy said.
"I remember they bought 50 parashorea chinensis seedlings and carried them on their motorbikes.
"How impressive it was!
"It was wonderful to see young people like them have such great awareness.”
Tet holiday away from home
Tuan and Tan were not always immediately welcomed during their journey.
At first, people were skeptical, particularly given how unusual traveling with shovels is.
But after listening to their story, locals would often wish them a good journey, voice their support, and offer to look after the trees.
|Dang Duc Tuan and Vo Minh Tan plant trees near the Van Long Lagoon in Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam.|
“What we remember most is the once-in-a-lifetime memory of purchasing trees in Bac Ha District, Lao Cai Province," the two men said.
"On the morning of the 29th day of the 12th lunar month of 2021, we started the day by looking for seedlings so that we could continue traveling to other provinces.
“The weather was extremely cold and heavy rains made it difficult for us to go anywhere.
“We found a seedling farm, but the owner had closed it for Tet holiday.
"We decided to take a chance and call the owner of the farm to ask if he could allow us to jump a fence, take seedlings, and then transfer money into his account.
|Tuan and Tan bought their seedlings from a gardener in Lao Cai on the 29th day of the 12th lunar month of 2021.|
“Surprisingly, he agreed and told us how we could get onto the property."
The trees planted by the two men in Mang Den, Kon Tum Province are developing well and getting much higher, said Huyen Ho, a local resident.
"It was very considerate of them to ask me to look after the trees," Ho said.
“I feel their love for the nation’s tourism.
"Their action is extremely valuable."
|A freshly planted guava tree grows in a playground near the Red River in northern Vietnam.|
|Shovels were the duo’s companions on their journey.|
|Forest flowers bloom on Vong Canh Hill in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam.|