73-year-old couple ‘addicted to gossip’


An GiangFor the past ten years, on his 30-year-old motorbike, Mr. Mong Phuoc Minh and his wife have driven each other all over the country, to Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar…

At noon on the first day of the year, in his yard on Tran Hung Dao street, Long Xuyen city, a 73-year-old man was busy installing a homemade iron bed in the back seat of the 7-seat car he had just bought.

“This year, my husband and I plan to travel the 4,000 km route from Long Xuyen to Saigon, Da Lat, Kon Tum, to Laos, Cambodia and then back to An Giang – the route of our first trip by motorbike a while ago. more than 9 years,” said the man who used to work as a lecturer at Can Tho University.

Mr. Minh and his wife in their yard in Long Xuyen city, An Giang on the first afternoon of the year. Photo: Diep Phan.

Mr. Minh and his wife in their yard in Long Xuyen city, An Giang in the early afternoon of 2021. Photo: Diep Phan.

Even though they were both “in love” since their youth, it was not until 2011 that the couple began to “take each other away” with a memorable trip. Mr. Minh recalls that that year, he and a group of photographer friends discussed organizing a trip to Laos and Cambodia by motorbike. However, at the last minute everyone gave up. Seeing this, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Cuc, 69 years old, his wife said: “If there is no one, we will both go on our own.”

To warm up for their first “overseas” trip by motorbike, they tried a few short trips. At the end of March 2012, Mr. Minh and Ms. Cuc officially set out on the road with the motorbike Deahan bought in 1990, clothes, medicine and car repair items. “My wife also carefully brought a glass of water, an electric kettle, coffee beans and a mini rice cooker,” Mr. Minh said.

Traveling by motorbike is hard, but the “rewards” given to them also make many others jealous. When passing Bo Y, Kon Tum border gate to enter Laos, the couple enjoyed the more than 120 km road from the border to the center of Attapeu province through an old forest, with no houses on both sides of the road, only trees. majestic mountain scenery. “There were times when seeing the beautiful scenery, the two of us exclaimed ‘it’s too much’ without knowing how far the distance was,” Mr. Minh recalled.

The luggage of an elderly couple on each trip. Photo: Provided by the character.

The luggage of an elderly couple on each trip. Photo: Provided by the character.

After the success of this inaugural trip, the following year, Mr. Minh invited his wife to travel by motorbike to Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar, but Ms. Cuc said: “Is there a more novel way to go?” So he bought two folding bicycles to take with him, and when traveling to capitals of other countries, he used the bicycle to “go around” sightseeing.

At that time, if you wanted to get from Thailand to Myanmar you had to go by plane, but your grandparents thought of a way to “cross the border” by bus like the locals. When they arrived at the border bridge between the two countries, they hired someone to carry their luggage and walk across the bridge. “Seeing my wife go ahead lugging things around, I suddenly felt sorry for her,” Mr. Minh said with a laugh.

The “traveling blood” was ingrained, but it was not until 2015 that Mr. Minh and his wife had their first trip across Vietnam by motorbike. This trip was less difficult in planning and traveling because they knew how to use Google Map. The husband drives, the wife sits in the back and looks at the map and directions. “Sometimes the map shows wrongly, causing the two of us to waste time asking people to get back. Sometimes he wanted to turn, but because the map only went straight, the two of them argued,” Ms. Cuc said.

In September 2015, the An Giang couple set foot in the northernmost part of the country for the first time. Mr. Nguyen Hieu, from Binh Thuan, who happened to meet Mr. Minh and his wife at the Ha Giang landmark that year, said: “That day, many people and I taking pictures at the landmark were very surprised to learn that the couple had gone. More than 20 days from Long Xuyen to here on a very old motorbike.”

Often together “on every kilometer” but what Mr. Minh and his wife feel most fortunate is that no serious incidents have ever occurred except a few times when the car’s wheel broke.

There is an interesting memory, the year they traveled across Vietnam, when they arrived in Bac Ninh province, it was dark and there was heavy rain, so he and his wife did not have many choices, so they had to rest at a small motel along the road.

When they checked in, they saw many young men with “very unusual” looks on their faces, so they felt worried. As soon as they went up to their room and were preparing things and clothes, they suddenly heard screaming and running outside. “We thought we might have hit the meeting place of some ‘stoned’ people. Imagining being robbed in the middle of the night makes me very worried. The couple discussed gathering all their things and went all the way down to check out the room and find another place to stay,” Mr. Minh said.

However, while driving the car, I glanced inside and saw a few young people watching football and the Vietnamese team won, so they shouted. Going out on the street, they also saw a large group of people holding flags and clapping hands in celebration. “Thinking back, it’s funny, these two old people are so suspicious,” Ms. Cuc said.

They moved from Vietnam to Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar by passenger car and then used a folding bicycle to explore famous places, in 2013. Photo: Provided by the character.

In 2013, they moved from Vietnam to Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar by bus and then used folding bicycles to explore famous places. Photo: Provided by the character.

Confident after successful trips across Vietnam and Southeast Asia, in 2017, the couple decided to “go big” by traveling by train and bus across the United States, from Georgia to California. “There are times when we have to stop at two or three stops to change buses or drivers. We have to stick with people traveling with us to follow for fear of making the wrong trip. After that trip, I recovered my wife’s ability to listen and speak English,” Mr. Minh said.

On her first trips, Mrs. Cuc often brought a lot of beautiful clothes. Even a few pairs of shoes, hats or scarves for photos. But later on, she only wore the simplest and most essential clothes. With the spirit of saving costs, Mr. Minh and his wife prioritized choosing cheap but clean motels with air conditioning to rest and recuperate for tomorrow.

Born and attached to the Western region, even though they have traveled to many places, sometimes when they sit and rest next to a river, they feel homesick.

“When I didn’t use social networks, every time I went abroad I used to write emails to my children. Sometimes we get so busy playing and having fun that we forget that our children are worried. Reading their emails waiting for me brought tears to my eyes. These two old people like to travel, but always consider home and hometown as the place they want to return to most,” Mr. Minh confided.