Couple in seventies rewrite travel rulebook

January 29, 2023 - 08:06
Mong Phước Minh, 74 and his wife, Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc, 70, from Long Xuyên City, An Giang Province have completed hundreds of trips at home and abroad. These trips are like a spiritual medicine to help them stay healthy and happy.
Mong Phước Minh and his wife in Hà Giang. — Photo courtesy of Minh

By Thanh Nga

Mong Phước Minh, 74 and his wife, Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc, 70, from Long Xuyên City, An Giang Province, have completed hundreds of trips at home and abroad, and say these trips are like a spiritual medicine to help them stay healthy and happy.

Back in 2005, Minh's wife was diagnosed with thyroid and ovarian cancer. And though Minh was depressed and couldn't hold back his tears, Cúc proved to be a hugely courageous woman. Along with timely treatment at a prestigious hospital, she spent time taking exercise and often asked her husband to travel to relieve stress and find joy in life.

In 2011, when Cúc’s two cancers were finally under control, the couple started to travel more regularly. For Minh, as long as his wife sits behind him, he will drive anywhere to bring joy to his wife.

Recently, they made a journey of more than 30 days across Việt Nam in their ageing Suzuki Vitara. The married couple have just returned home to welcome the Vietnamese New Year.

Mong Phước Minh and his wife, Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc have just made a journey of more than 30 days across Việt Nam. — Photo courtesy of Minh

“After many days of constant moving, sightseeing and challenges, we have returned home safely to celebrate Tết with our children and grandchildren," Minh said.

Earlier this month, they had seven days to explore the primaeval forests of Nam Trường Sơn where they had no electricity and no phone signal, but still set out to explore the waterfalls and forests.

“We have been travelling together for about 11 years now. We travel a lot, so it has turned into our passion. Whenever we have free time, we are ready for a trip,” Minh told Việt Nam News.

"As usual, we don't have an exact date, time, and destination, only a general idea. It's not exactly a principle, just a habit of not wanting to be tied down. We approach things happening on the journey randomly, because they are often unexpected and interesting things.”

Since they were students, they have loved travelling. When getting married, they often took their children around various destinations near their home.

Mong Phước Minh and his wife, Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc. — Photo courtesy of Minh

“At that time, we were busy taking care of our children, working and doing business, so we didn't have much time to travel. Later, when our children grew up, and the economy was more stable, we had more short trips on tours with our children and friends," Minh said.

In 2011, at first, the couple planned to go with their friends but as the schedule approached Minh discussed a plan with his wife that they would travel by themselves.

Over the past 11 years, they have made hundreds of trips together, including a motorbike trip from Long Xuyên City to Bờ Y border gate in Kon Tum Province to Laos and a trip across Việt Nam from south to north.

On the first trip, they travelled with a motorbike made in 1990. According to Minh, except for the need to change tyres and spark plugs, the motorbike was completely good.

They made sure to prepare enough medicine, raincoats, umbrellas, flashlights, and a mini rice cooker for the long journey.

The couple have promised their children that they will travel safely so that everyone feels secure. Every day, they call home to let them know where they are.

After a few favourable trips, in early 2012, they asked several friends to ride motorbikes with them across Việt Nam, Laos and Cambodia. The trip was very successful, which left them even more motivated.

During this trip, they passed 120km of old forest belonging to the Don Amphan Reserve in Laos. There were no houses on the way, only the married couple in the middle of many majestic mountains.

Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc takes photos in Thừa Thiên – Huế during their journey across Việt Nam. — Photo courtesy of Minh

"This road was deserted, but very beautiful. My wife was in awe of it all," Minh said.

The trip lasted a total of 25 days.

“The joy of travelling by motorbike is that it is a cheap and comfortable way to explore a favourite destination. Many people think that we are rich, as we often travel, but we have to consider it properly. That's why we often choose to ride a motorbike," Minh said.

In 2013, Minh and Cúc completed a 30-day trip through Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. Initially, Minh planned to travel by motorbike. However, Cúc wanted to ride a bicycle. To please his wife, Minh bought two folding bicycles, then sewed bags to fit the bike to carry through the border gate.

They travelled by coach through cities and countries, when they stopped to visit, they used the bicycles to move around.

Wherever they go, they obey their principle of never heading to the next destination after 4pm, to help ensure safety.

"We have a responsibility to ourselves and our families, promising our children that we must go safely to give them peace of mind,” Minh said.

During their journeys, the thing that Minh and his wife feel most fortunate about is that they have never had a serious incident other than their motorbike or car breaking down a few times.

The couple have also had the chances to visit many places in the US and Australia by train and bus when they went to visit relatives.

"We don't care how many cities and countries we've been to. We try to feel and remember the experiences we've had together on our journey," Minh said.

"Since we were students, we have always been together. Now, whether going near or far, I want to take my wife with me. As long as I have her, I know it's going to be a great trip." VNS