45 days of camping: a family's journey across Vietnam

By Quynh Mai   October 29, 2023 | 04:40 am PT
In a 45-day journey, Nguyen Ngoc Minh, his wife and daughter covered 22 provinces, traveling 9,000 kilometers, and camping 35 nights to embrace the beauty of nature.

After a year of meticulous planning, the family began their journey from the southern Soc Trang Province on Aug. 16, 2023. Their goal was to traverse the country from south to north, a journey that lasted until Oct. 9.

What set this road trip apart from their previous adventures was their decision not to rent rooms for accommodation. Instead, they camped out for 35 nights, opting for homestays or hotels only when circumstances demanded it.

The Minh family enjoyed natures beauty, camping at Mui Yen Cape, Phu Yen Province, with their vehicle packed for the trip. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Ngoc Minh.

Nguyen Ngoc Minh, his wife and daughter camp at Mui Yen Cape, Phu Yen Province, with their vehicle packed for the trip. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Ngoc Minh

The driving force behind this extraordinary journey was Minh's 18-month-old daughter. He aimed to introduce her to various weather, strengthen her adaptability, and help her slowly get familiar with the world in her early years.

Initially, the plan was to go from south to north. However, fate had other plans. Minh met friends who shared his passion along the trip, forming a group. They started in Can Tho City and ventured through various central provinces, Hanoi, and the stunning northern mountains.

Choosing less-visited provinces and cities, Minh's family aimed to experience the unspoiled beauty of nature. "If we can't find a campsite or it's too late, we will rent a room," he said.

While they typically spent one day and one night in each province, some locations, such as Ha Giang, Yen Bai, and Cao Bang provinces, captivated them so profoundly that they lingered for two to three days, taking in the breathtaking golden terraced fields.

Their campsites were carefully selected, offering proximity to pristine landscapes and beautiful scenery. They chose camp spots near stunning nature, like Mai Nha Island in Phu Yen, Hai Van Pass in Da Nang, Khau Pha Pass in Yen Bai, Suoi Thau Steppe in Ha Giang, and more.

Living in the south, the splendor of the northern mountain regions deeply impressed the family. The sight of blooming buckwheat flowers in Suoi Thau Steppe and the ripe rice fields in Hoang Su Phi and Mu Cang Chai districts was particularly enchanting.

Sleeping amidst majestic yet poetic mountains and hills, they experienced a variety of unforgettable mornings, from seaside sunrises to the mystique of mountains shrouded in white fog.

"Witnessing those moments makes me even more eager to go to more places and see more beautiful sights," Minh said.

One place that etched itself deep into their hearts was Hang Tau Village in Moc Chau in the north. Here, herds of buffaloes, cows, chickens, and pigs roamed freely on verdant lawns, while wooden H'Mong houses stood in isolated clusters, surrounded by mountains and forests, cut off from the outside world.

This remote haven lacked electricity, internet, or a phone signal. The traditional, self-sufficient lifestyle offered a profound sense of tranquility and slowness, a stark contrast to the fast-paced life they had grown accustomed to.

The couple said they started bringing their daughter on short camping trips, of a couple days, from when she was 3 months old. They ensured her comfort on extended trips with a child seat, warm clothes, and baby essentials.

Before this trip, Minh explored Vietnam on a motorcycle, staying in homestays or hotels. However, using a car for travel and camping had its perks: it was fuel-efficient, cost-effective, and spacious for their family and gear. Yet, it had its downsides like initial camping gear expenses, limited access to narrow roads, and more challenging vehicle issues compared to motorcycles.

Throughout the journey, the family spent an average of about VND1 million (US$40) per day. Prior to embarking on the trip, they invested in equipment such as generators, water tanks, cooking utensils, a refrigerator, and camping gear like roof-mounted tents, tables, chairs, and sleeping bags.

Minh sees this journey as a stepping stone for more adventures, hoping to inspire families to camp together and forge stronger emotional connections. His future plans include a European road trip in a mobile home and exploring beautiful landscapes with his family.

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