Mông lad and his zero đồng journey through Việt Nam

September 06, 2022 - 08:56
After more than a year of being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and many other reasons, the ethnic minority Mông man Thào Quang Khải has just fulfilled his dream of walking across Việt Nam covering the last section Hà Nội – Hà Giang, with the cost of zero đồng.
Thào Quang Khải on his journey walking across the country. — Photo courtesy of Khải

By Thanh Nga

It’s been one heck of a journey, but for Thào Quang Khải, an ethnic Mông man, the end is finally in sight.

The 27-year-old challenged himself to walk from south to north through the whole of Việt Nam, and his budget for such a long journey? Zero đồng.

His trip was interrupted by COVID-19, but now he is about to complete the last leg of the trek, which is arguably the toughest.

“This is the most challenging stage with most of the mountainous roads, so I prepared very carefully. I am very eager to conquer this final challenge,” Khải told Việt Nam News.

"Because the coronavirus pandemic is under control, this time I go slowly to discover and spread my passion to the people. Of course, this is still a zero đồng trip."

Khải departed on August 19 from Hà Nội's outskirts district of Mê Linh and plans to reach to the Lũng Cú flagpole in Hà Giang Province – the northernmost part of the country – on September 19.

The very start of his journey began on April 18, 2021 at Cà Mau – the southernmost part of the country. After 53 days on the road, mainly walking along the coast, he finally reached the capital Hà Nội. But because of COVID, his trip ground to a halt.

Now as the pandemic has eased, it’s back on the road, with Khải hoping his journey will inspire others to experience the amazing sights, sounds, and people of Việt Nam.

“I hope that my journey through Việt Nam brings many values to young people. You shouldn’t waste your youth, just believe in yourself you can do it,” Khải said.

“The ethnic minority Mông people get married very early. I want them to face challenges and expand their knowledge."

Khải travels light, just a backpack with a few changes of clothes, two mobile phones, one battery, water bottle and a walking stick.

Thào Quang Khải (first left) enjoys a meal at a local’s house. — Photo courtesy of Khải

At first when his journey began, Khải underestimated the challenges that lay ahead. The entire trip relied on his own survival instincts.

“The first days in Cà Mau were very hard, facing many difficulties in begging and sleeping overnight. Sometimes, I just slept on a hammock in the yard but there were too many mosquitoes," he said.

"In Bạc Liêu, I asked to work at a restaurant at noon. It was also my first job that I felt very happy.”

Khải did not always ask for a meal or a place to sleep. Partly it was the pandemic time, and partly because a number of people did not trust strangers.

“When I couldn't get help, I was extremely sad and disappointed, feeling so empty and lonely. But there are still many kind people," he said.

“In provinces such as Hậu Giang, Bạc Liêu and Vĩnh Long, I was even picked up to sleep at people’s home so I had the motivation to carry on.”

Khải’s journey continued on the roads along the central coast, sometimes he found himself very lonely and empty because he was alone. There were roads that made him almost give up because of the sun and wind and absence of trees.

Khải changed two pairs of shoes, lost 5kg and it took him nearly two months to go on foot from Cà Mau to Hà Nội.

Thào Quang Khải has a break on his journey walking across the country. — Photo courtesy of Khải

But now the end is within touching distance. As he walks the roads heading north, come rain or shine, he knows the journey is reaching its conclusion.

“Now, I am about to complete my goal to go to the Lũng Cú flagpole and complete the trek across Việt Nam on time despite of difficulties, rain and sunshine,” Khải said.

“I am very happy. Every day I begin my journey at 4am, walk until 11am. In the afternoon, I go from 2pm to 6pm, about 60-70km a day.

“The important thing in these trips is to locate where there are people's houses. During the route from Hà Nội to Hà Giang this time, I have more advantages because the COVID-19 pandemic has been controlled, so I don't have too many difficulties in terms of food and accommodation.”

It’s been a momentous journey, one he will never forget, and one he hopes other people will try and follow in his footsteps.

He has visited places he’s never been before, met and made new friends, eaten food he’d never tried and heard new stories and tales from people he never knew before.

"For you it's free time, but for me it's the journey of youth with so many memories and I will never regret what I did," Khải said. VNS

Thào Quang Khải walks through Ngang Pass in Quảng Bình Province. — Photo courtesy of Khải