Phan Thanh Quoc, from HCM City, has recently spent over two months living among the people of Trung Khanh and Cao Bang.
Originally planning a month in Cao Bang to capture the rainy season, he did not return to Ho Chi Minh City, but remained to learn more about Chongqing's people and culture after the Covid pandemic broke out.
“I stayed at a new homestay run by a local family. The whole family always considered me a member. I joined them in the gardening, on the farms, and cooking...” Quoc said. These activities inspired a photo and video series about Cao Bang tourism in Quoc.
Quoc has suspended his overseas travel and is instead staying domestically, due to the pandemic. He continues to work as a programmer, and takes remote projects, invests online, and pursues his dreams of becoming a travel blogger.
“When I used to travel, I simply snapped photos for personal recollections, not to share. But Covid-19 made me want to write more and share more about travel.”
Quoc's personal blog now has over 65,000 subscribers. He often posts amazing photographs and films from his travels in 30 countries and 150 provinces and cities.
To tour the globe, he worked hard after graduating from university in Ho Chi Minh City as a programmer for both local and foreign firms.
Quoc spent three days in Cambodia in 2016. The thrill of this journey prompted him to explore more of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. Then there was France, Germany, Switzerland, India, Egypt, Nepal... These included two-month excursions.
He relished playing it by ear in lieu of planned trips, allowing him to escape time and place constraints and immerse himself in the local culture and scenery. His return would only be scheduled if his budget was running low.
An average vacation lasts two weeks, with less time in resorts, more time experiencing wonders of the world like the Egyptian Pyramids, Indonesian volcanoes, Swiss Alp villages…
Quoc is often assumed to be affluent since he frequently shares his adventures across the world. “I am wealthy in experience, not in money,” he said.
He works hard to save money for his vacation goals. Quoc earns a solid living as a coder which he will quit to travel and instead invest online, a more flexible career.
Quoc tries to spend wisely, typically finding other visitors to split room rent or travel fees (cabs). A night hotel stay is sometimes saved by taking an overnight bus. Quoc also keeps a personal water bottle, and eats a lot of starchy meals since they keep him full for a long period yet are cheap.
His parents were first concerned about his safety. Saving money for a home, vehicle, marriage, ‘settling down and living happily’ is the advice he gets from many friends and coworkers.
“With my money, purchasing a house or a vehicle is not far away, but I believe youth is just once. I can't purchase my youth or life experiences with 10 mansions and 10 automobiles.”
On Quoc's journeys he meets people from all around the world from all walks of life. Each offers him amazing cultural, historical, and geographical experiences, as well as incidents and hardships.
Quoc and a Taiwanese girl, for example, once took a cab to the pyramid in Egypt. A full night of preparing paperwork and letters to the embassy to seek a visa left him exhausted in the car.
Instead of taking the 20 km route to the Pyramid, the driver deliberately passed 80km in the wrong direction. Quoc woke up perplexed. He asked the driver to take him back to the city before he paid. However, the driver dropped them off at a desolate suburb around 20 km to the city, then requested payment, which sent Quoc fuming and the two sides fought.
They luckily got help from two random Egyptian musicians who stopped to reconcile and gave the driver 100 pounds (VND 150,000), then took Quoc and his Taiwanese companion back to the city.
Quoc also has traveled to remote places that preserved the indigenous culture and traditions. Quoc had several issues in these regions where most people did not speak English.
Quoc visited Mathura (India) in April. Upon arrival, he was astonished since he was surrounded by heavily armed military, had no Wi-Fi or available sim cards. He seemed the only foreigner during three days of exploration there. He met money cheats, and pickpockets while unable to communicate. But, as in Egypt, Quoc met a nice local, Rami, a tuk-tuk driver.
Rami took him around Mathura and Vrindavan and eagerly presented and delivered stories in his language. Quoc couldn't comprehend what Rami said, but he felt the man’s openness and simplicity.
The more Quoc travels, the wiser he gets.
“I have a new view on life, more experiences, and new conduct after the journey. My foreign language and communication abilities have improved, making my career easier and more lucrative,” Quoc said.
Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the government temporarily halted foreign travel in January 2020. He instead has spent his time touring the country's tourism sites.
The natural beauty of Vietnam is unparalleled, Quoc discovered after visiting 30 nations.
“Our country's natural beauty, culture, and identity are excellent; people are welcoming. But compared to Thailand and Singapore, our tourist media hasn’t fulfilled its mission.” To do so, he captures and shares the beauty of Vietnam, especially in Ninh Binh, Lao Cai and Cao Bang, in hopes of promoting Vietnam's tourism worldwide.
“So far, I've been in Cao Bang for almost two months, which is unusual. Beautiful nature and simple, friendly people have held me back. I suppose there are many similar areas in Vietnam.”
Quoc will travel more when the Covid-19 pandemic is under control. He aims to conquer at least 20 additional nations and areas next time.
Cao Bang’s breathtaking majesty has captivated Quoc, and he extended his stay for two months.
Quoc at an Indonesian volcanic crater.
Quoc in a Swiss town that seems like something out of a fairy tale.
The young man visits the pyramids of Giza.
He explored India.
In the course of Quoc's travels, he has gained new pals.
Quoc at Da Dia reef.
Photos/Clips provided by the character