A Vietnamese man and a South Korean, running for their respective personal goals, met in a central city of Vietnam for a special encounter that inspires others to run for health.
Nguyen Van Son, 38, from the Vietnamese coastal city of Hai Phong, and Besa Kim, 55, a citizen of South Korea met unexpectedly in Da Nang City on their running journey.
They have both spent months running along National Highway No. 1, which connects the southernmost province of Ca Mau with the dynamic center of Ho Chi Minh City.
In recent days, photos of the two men carrying backpacks bearing a slogan for crossing Vietnam have attracted the attention of many onlookers along the way.
They arrived in Ky Anh District, located in the north-central province of Ha Tinh, at 10:30 am on February 25 and their common destination is the capital Hanoi.
Printed on Son's backpack is the phrase 'Sơn xe hơi - đi bộ xuyên Việt, Sài Gòn - Hà Nội' ('Son the car' - walking across Vietnam, Saigon - Hanoi).
'Son xe hoi' (Son the car) is the nickname of the Facebook account of Nguyen Van Son, who trades cars in Nui Deo Town, Thuy Nguyen District, Hai Phong.
The idea of walking across the nation came to Son three years ago.
On January 11, 2023, just before the Lunar New Year festival, he flew to Ho Chi Minh City to put his plan into action.
Before the big day, he prepared his strength and endurance for this challenge for three years.
He also persuaded his family to agree to the adventurous plan.
Although he is a regular runner, he admitted that the first week was the most difficult challenge for him. He had to get used to sleeping in the bush or under a bridge on the running trail.
On many days during the trip, he ran through areas without houses, so he had to set up camp on the side of the road himself when it got dark.
There were times when he wanted to give up running. Then he decided to leave about 10 kilograms of luggage behind to continue the journey.
He runs and comforts himself along the way and finds ways to enjoy himself while running.
|Nguyen Van Son walks through Vietnam on his personal mission. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre|
"Running through Vietnam is a big challenge that is not easy to overcome," Son said.
"I suffered from severe stomach pain because I ate something bad on the way.
"My body was so exhausted that I burst into tears because I felt lonely."
He cannot forget the night he walked over the Cu Mong mountain pass, which connects the two south-central provinces of Binh Dinh and Phu Yen.
"I arrived at the foot of the pass at 5:00 pm but I could not find a shelter to sleep, so I ended up walking on," Son recounted his unforgettable memory.
"It was getting dark when I ran into the middle of the pass.
"I felt my hair stand on end from fatigue and saw many altars lying on the side of the road.
"It was not until I ran down the mountain pass at 9:00 pm that day and saw some twinkling lights from nearby houses that I knew I had met the challenge."
Son takes off his pair of shoes and turns over his feet, on which there are many calluses and blisters.
The pair of shoes he is wearing is the third, after the other two worn out and he already packed them away as souvenirs.
The backpack Son carries on his back contains the essentials for the trip: packets of cold and flu medicine, toothpaste, fresh water, a camping hammock, a mosquito net, a few packs of instant noodles, and a pot for boiling water.
In the backpack, there are also sweets and cookies that people along the way have given him with their best wishes.
|Calluses on the bottom of Nguyen Van Son's left foot. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre|
During his run from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, Son had an unexpected encounter with a South Korean man who turned out to be a runner making the same journey as him.
|Besa Kim, 55, is a South Korean citizen, who also has a special passion for running. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre|
On his Facebook account, he often talks about Vietnam and says that he dreams of one day running from Ca Mau Province, Vietnam's southern tip, to Hanoi.
At the beginning of 2023, Kim flew from South Korea to Ho Chi Minh City, from where he got into a car to get to Ca Mau to realize his dream.
Before the start of the running mission, he printed out a large poster and hung it on the wall of the house near the starting point to inform everyone about his journey.
On the morning of February 28, the South Korean, whose backpack has 'Hành trình xuyên Việt từ Cà Mau - Hà Nội' (The journey through Ca Mau - Hanoi) on it, learned that there was a man running the same journey as him: Son.
They exchanged a few Vietnamese words and then continued running toward Hai Van Pass in Da Nang, with the common goal of reaching the capital Hanoi.
Kim took a completely different approach than Son. He said he did not run continuously, but stopped at some places along the road where he wanted to see the sights.
The South Korean also extensively noted down stories where he was supported and motivated by Vietnamese people on the running path.
According to Kim, traveling for the past two months has left him with so many fond memories of Vietnam, "a country with so many smiles."
In some places he passed through, locals recognized him thanks to the Vietnamese phrases written on his backpack.
They came to a roadside stand, bought a few bottles of fresh water, and pressed a few bills into his hand to motivate him.
"'Good luck!' they said to me, and I was looking forward to continuing my journey again," the South Korean wrote on his Facebook account.
Although he encounters so many happy things along the way, the scariest for Kim is encountering stray dogs while walking.
"I often get chased by dogs, so maybe that's why I run faster," he said jokingly.
Both Son and Kim said it would take them another month to reach the 'finish line' in Hanoi. That would be an excellent milestone for them.
"I will make it and I hope my story will inspire people to exercise," Son said.
"I want to spread and popularize the image of healthy and strong Vietnamese people."
|Some necessities in Nguyen Van Son's backpack. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre|
Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get the latest news about Vietnam!