Bùi Ngọc Quý works in a restaurant kitchen in Phan Rang City in the coastal central province of Ninh Thuận. —Photo courtesy of Bùi Ngọc Quý
HÀ NỘI — Scottish band the Proclaimers famously sang about walking 1,000 miles which sounds like a lot, but one Vietnamese man has them beat for distance.
Bùi Ngọc Quý, of Hoàng Tiên Village, Chư Prông District, the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, recently finished the 1,700km (about 1,056 miles) walk from HCM City to Hà Nội and raised nearly VNĐ135 million (US$5,830) to build classrooms for poor children in the northern mountainous province of Lai Châu.
Quý started his 45-day journey at 4am on May 25 from his rented room in District 7, HCM City and finished it at 8pm at the Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum in Hà Nội on July 9.
“I started thinking of the journey when I stayed at home during the social distancing," Quý said.
The 23-year-old said he really wanted to do something significant after social distancing ended.
“Something meaningful for me, for my life,” he said.
After social distancing ended, Quý decided to quit his job at a florist in District 7, HCM City, with a monthly salary of VNĐ8 million (US$345) per month, to take the journey.
“I wanted to challenge myself, take advantage of youth to experience more and meet a lot of people,” he added.
A journey without money
Quý didn't bring money on his journey and his backpack only had five pairs of socks, three sets of clothes, two pairs of shoes, a smartphone, its charger and one power bank.
Quý said to prepare for the journey, he exercised very hard every day and jogged about 40km daily.
However, things did not always go as planned.
The first two days of the journey went smoothly. But his feet started blistering and his feet’s muscles were sore on the third day so he had to take a day off for every three days of walking.
Quý said the longest he walked in a day was nearly 80km through the Cả Pass in the coastal central province of Phú Yên.
He would often start from about 3-4am and would stop at a cheap restaurant or a local resident’s house to share his story and ask for free food at 7-8am. He then continued to walk until noon then stopped for a break and tried to get some free food. He would walk until 7-8pm and find a local gas station or someone's house to ask for free lodging.
“Taking the journey without money was really a hard challenge,” he said.
At first, he felt very embarrassed when he had to ask for free food and accommodation, Quý said.
“But when I was very hungry, too tired and sleepy, I ignored the embarrassment to beg for food and a place to sleep,” he said.
Quý said he often asked to wash dishes or work in the kitchen at restaurants or people's’ houses so they would give him some food in return.
“Begging for food is easier than begging for a place to sleep. I often slept on benches in parks during my journey,” he added.
Quý eats with a local family in the northern province of Thanh Hoá. — Photo courtesy of Bùi Ngọc Quý
Walking for charity
On the first day of his journey, Quý considered it one of the most precious experiences of his life.
But after walking for seven days, he thought his journey would be memorable if he did something meaningful for the community.
He decided to raise funds for poor children in the northern mountainous province of Lai Châu.
He contacted Vũ Thị Tâm, an employee of Mường Tè District’s Education and Training Department to talk about his idea of raising money for the local poor children in Mù Cả Commune. Tâm was on board.
Quý then posted the idea on Facebook to call for donations.
The first donation he received was VNĐ200,000 ($8.6). Quý felt very happy because there was someone who believed in his journey and charity efforts.
Ten days later, he had raised VNĐ120 million (US$5,174) from people across the country.
As well as supporting comments and donations, some people questioned Quy's motives and accused him of running a scam, which made his sad and even consider quitting the journey, he said.
But when he thought about all the work he had put in to get so far and the encouragement of the donors, he decided to continue, he added.
After the journey finished, he had raised a total of nearly VNĐ135 million ($5,830) as of July 13.
Quý said he only received the donation by bank transfer as he didn't want to carry cash on the journey.
“I might have found myself in unnecessary trouble if I held cash along the journey,” he said.
Companions on the way
Lê Huệ, 29, of Gio Linh District, the central province of Quảng Trị, heard about Quý’s journey on Facebook. Huệ met Quý when Quý reached the province and participated in a 35km section of Quý’s journey, from the province’s Hải Lăng District to Đông Hà District.
“Walking with Quý on an extremely hot day in the province, I suddenly understood the hardship that Quý experienced in his journey to conquer himself," Huệ said.
Huệ woke up at 3am, felt full of energy and started walking, however, soo Huệ could not lift up his feet due to tiredness, he said.
“I admire Quý,” Huệ said.
Nguyễn Anh Tài, the owner of a hair salon in Vinh City, the central province of Nghệ An, walked with Quý for 50km from Vinh City to Diễn Châu District.
Tài said he had planned to walk from the city (where Tài lives and works) to the district (Tài’s hometown) many times but had yet to do.
After Tài heard about Quý’s journey via Facebook, he contacted to Quý and asked Quý to let him walk together.
Quý, who was covered in sweat when he reached Hà Nội’s Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum, said he had finally finished his long journey.
“By the journey, I want to inspire young people to live a meaningful life by starting doing little but kind things,” he said.
He went to Lai Châu Province on Thursday to begin the initial steps to transfer the donation for the local poor children. — VNS