Sunday, August 19 2018


Around the world on a shoestring

Update: September, 21/2013 - 09:31
Itchy feet: Nguyen Thi Khanh Huyen, nicknamed Huyen Chip, on a road in Egypt. — Photos
DA NANG (VNS) — In Xach Ba Lo Len va Di (Take a Backpack and Go), Nguyen Thi Khanh Huyen describes her "unbelievable" two-year trip through Asia and Africa on a budget of US$700.

Her story was so "unbelievable" that Vietnamese audiences, well, didn't believe it.

"Applying for visas alone costs that much. You couldn't survive on $700. She's definitely lying," one commenter wrote on Facebook.

But the Ha Noi native, who goes by the nickname Huyen Chip, insists she is telling the truth. At a recent book introduction, she showed dubious readers her passport and went into painstaking detail about her journey.

"I want to make clear that $700 was my initial budget when I started the trip in 2010," Huyen said. "I planned $25,000 for the trip and asked a company to sponsor me, but I eventually refused the funding because of the sponsor's requirements. So I had to work many different jobs."

She recounted writing for websites such as, which paid $10 or $15 per story, working as an MC at a casino in Tanzania for $150 a week and doing acting gigs in Bollywood for 500 rupees. At times, she survived on only $5 a day.

In response to the visa question, she said it was "so easy" to obtain a visa in "underdeveloped countries" such as Nepal, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. However, her visa application was refused in Pakistan and Africa and she could not get permission to cross into Sudan from Egypt, so she ended up in Ethiopia.

Walk on the wild side: Huyen Chip poses for a photo next to zebras in Kenya.

"I went to 30 countries with diplomatic passports, but that does not compare to her trip to Africa. I have to take my hat off to her courage," Professor Nguyen Lan Dung wrote in the introduction.

Nguyen Hoang Anh, a lecturer at Ha Noi Foreign Trade University, checked the truth of Huyen's story along with Dung by verifying the stamps on her passport.

"I've travelled to 40 countries in the world and I believe that Huyen is telling the truth. We checked her passport and saw seals from Thailand, India, Nepal, Bolivia, Zambia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tanzania," Anh said. "Plus, a good travel story is meant to inspire readers more than anything. In the end, nobody knows if the story of Robinson Crusoe is true."

But a student at Ha Noi Foreign Trade University pointed out that the Robinson Crusoe story is a novel, while Huyen's trip is allegedly a diary.

A representative of an online forum,, questioned how Huyen was able to get a visa to Israel.

Huyen replied that she could not explain how she did, but stood by her story.

"Africa taught me the skill of acceptance. If you cannot prove that I lied, you should believe me," she said. — VNS

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