Teacher walks across Vietnam to spread environment message

By Nguyen Chi   September 15, 2019 | 06:13 pm GMT+7
Nguyen Thanh Tuan Anh returned to Saigon a few days ago after traversing the country on foot to propagate his message of environmental protection.

The idea of travelling around Vietnam had been on the 29-year-old’s mind since he started working physical education teacher at a Ho Chi Minh City college. He went with two of his students on June 24 and reached Hanoi on August 16. They had traveled through 20 provinces along National Route 1A covering 1,800 kilometers.

Nguyen Thanh Tuan Anh is a PE teacher and yoga trainer. Photo coutersy of Anh.

Nguyen Thanh Tuan Anh is a physical education teacher and yoga trainer. Photo coutersy of Anh.

From the capital, they bicycled a further 400 kilometers to the northern province of Lao Cai and up Mount Fansipan, the roof of Indochina.

On the way they collected every piece of trash that they saw and undertook community activities for the benefit of local.

In central Nha Trang Town and Da Nang City, 30 people helped them clean the beaches; the number was 40 in Nghe An and 50 in Hanoi.

The travelers had prepared carefully for the trip for a month and a half. Anh trained his companions to walk and run with weighted backpacks, and they all learned about massage, reflexology, yoga, diet, and survival skills.

The young teacher also focused on mental training, including positive thinking. During the trip their feet would sometimes blister, it would rain, there would be floods, the heat would be overpowering, but there were no negative words, discouragement or irritability; they overcame them all.

"When we were climbing Fansipan, we walked through the forest for nine hours in a flash flood. The temperature was 4-7 degrees Celsius, which was too cold for us. Fortunately, we were allowed to stay in the amusement center at the top of the mountain to recover."

During the trek, the group would rest for 5-10 minutes every hour and one day every five days. They always had adequate sleep and nutrition, and so their health was perfect.

He hoped their accomplishment would inspire Vietnamese youngsters to exercise and work out more. Wherever he went, he encouraged fitness centers to start yoga and other classes and tried to raise people’s awareness during the whole trip.

Though they did not seek to raise any money, the trio received VND40 million ($1,727) from local benefactors, which they donated to the Thu Duc College of Technology to help poor students.

Anh and his students tried to keep the environment clean. Photo coutersy of Anh.

Anh and his students cleaned up wherever they went. Photo courtesy of Anh..

Support from people all over the country

Spending only VND500,000 ($21.5) on the entire trip, they walked 30-100 kilometers daily and got unexpected support from kind people all over the country.

Anh said they spent 80 percent of the nights during the trip in local people’s houses and the rest in public physical education centers, all for free.

Walking in the summer heat required them to regularly replenish their electrolytes.

One day, when they visited a market in central Khanh Hoa Province, a number of people came and talked to them since they knew their story. He spoke to them about the idea behind his trip and exhorted them to keep the environment clean.

When departing, they were given fruits and sweets.

"I had to reject a lot of it because I thought they should sell those things for money. We said goodbye and walked for 300 meters but were followed and given cakes and ginseng. That was touching."

Another time, in Bien Hoa Town of southern Dong Nai Province, a man ran after them and gave them money. Anh could not hold back his tears while narrating the incident. "He encouraged us. We were thankful for his kindness. Then he followed us and only after he asked us to stop at a street food stall did we realize he was disabled. I thought he was a veteran."

"The key lay in our smiles and faith. Most of them greeted us after listening to our story. However, we could not afford to be late because our smiles could not be seen in the dark," he said with a laugh.

Occasionally they had to change their plans suddenly. When they arrived tired in central Thanh Hoa Province, it was almost midnight. A taxi driver saw and insisted on inviting them to stay at his place. He then picked them up for breakfast the next morning. "People in the center and the north were so kind and helpful. They taught us the lesson of giving and taking."

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