Estonian walks his way to romance in Vietnam

By Phan Duong   January 15, 2019 | 12:30 am PT
As he walked around the world, Meigo Mark had a great fall in Vietnam – he fell in love.

And atop a Central Highlands mountain, Meigo Mark proposed to Nguyen Thi Sam with two bamboo rings, winning the heart of the software engineer.

The wedding of Meigo, 28 and Sam, 29 was held in Dong Hung Town, Thai Binh Province, northern Vietnam – the bride’s native place, last October.

The wedding guests were not only fascinated by the foreign groom and his journey on foot around the world, but also by a board that displayed thousands of photos documenting the couple’s trek across Vietnam and four Southeast Asian countries over two years.

"I walk not for travel, for experience or to break any record, but it is a journey for me to learn more about myself, people, nature and possibilities in life. If I just sat at home and did office work, I would have never known what it is like to experience a pilgrimage with 1.5 million Indians to the sacred temple of Ambaji," Meigo said.

The Estonian man who went around the world got married to a Vietnamese woman last October. Photo courtesy of the couple.

The Estonian man walking around the world "got caught" by a Vietnamese woman last October. Photo courtesy of the couple

Meigo started trotting around the globe on May 11, 2014 from Tallinn, Estonia's capital. The Nordic country is seven times smaller than Vietnam and has a population of just 1.3 million people.

In December 2016, the Estonian musician reached Hanoi after traveling through 19 countries, living off the money he got from selling his house and donations. Meigo expected to go to China from Hanoi.

During his stay in Hanoi for almost a month to apply for a visa, Meigo met Sam, who was working at a research center for an electronics group.

The Thai Binh girl was impressed with the journey of the Nordic man. It was also her dream to do what he was doing, not walking, but run around the world. She had been running for years. She was half-joking when she said she wished to go along with Meigo.

For the following two weeks, the two began going on their morning runs together. Meigo would go to the meeting point at 6 a.m. and they would run.

On weekdays, they ran 5 km, while one round of West Lake in Hanoi, 16 km, was the goal for the weekend. As they ran together, they learnt more about each other. Sam learnt that Meigo was a vegetarian with a kind heart.

"One day when we were jogging around West Lake, Meigo saw some people fishing and was saddened by that. I jokingly told him to follow me if he wants to save the fish. Meigo cheerfully responded with approval but didn’t know how to save. I continued with my tease: "We can run very fast, grab the fish and release them back into the lake," Sam recalled.

In fact, they asked to buy the fish at a bargain price and dropped the fish back into the lake. A lot of small fish were thrown on the road, so they picked them up and returned them to the water.

After that day, Sam also became a vegetarian.

Sam and Meigo have many things in common, like traveling, vegetarian, jogging. They walked 780 km together during their 2 years of courtship. Photo courtesy of the couple.

Sam and Meigo have many things in common, like traveling, vegetarian, jogging. They walked 780 km together during their 2 years of courtship. Photo courtesy of the couple

Sam saw that Meigo was an honest person, who does not lie and is always happy, optimistic and amusing. In Meigo's stories about his journey through other countries, Sam saw the deep sympathy he had for less fortunate people.

On the other hand, Meigo said: "She is the most powerful, most knowledgeable, patient and most caring person I've ever met. With her by my side, I'm always motivated."

Then came the day Meigo had to leave. Because his visa application was not approved, he turned to southern Vietnam, instead of China. That day Sam and two friends ran down to Yen So Park, Hoang Mai, Hanoi to see off Meigo. They had enjoyed a night of camping, a lantern festival and also won a lot of gifts.

"The next morning, we both cried like babies because we were sure we would not see each other again. Every step I took was heavy, because I realized I had to leave my love," Meigo said.

At the end of the week, Sam took the bus and met Meigo in Nam Dinh City, 84 km south of Hanoi. It was the first time she walked with him for 60 km, wearing a backpack weighing nearly 10 kg.

"There was bright, full moon that night. On the small dike road, we talked about things and found we were very compatible. The more we walked, the more we talked. I had only run 30km before, but thanks to him, I crossed my limit," Sam said.

Meigo continued his journey after that, but still kept in touch with Sam. The following year, Sam saved money to buy tickets to go to four countries to meet Meigo. They went hiking together, cooked and explored new lands.

So far, Meigo and Sam have walked 740 km together in five countries: Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Meigo alone has walked 20,000 km through 22 countries in 4 years and 3 months.

Because of health problems, he halted his journey in August 2018. Soon the Estonian man returned to Vietnam.

"One afternoon at the top of Lang Biang mountain, Meigo hesitated. He did not start walking down. After everybody around us left, he told me to sit down then took out two bamboo rings to propose to me. It was really romantic and touching," Sam said, smiling.

The couple at the 836 milestone in Ban Gioc Waterfall (Cao Bang, Northern Vietnam) in a recent trip. Photo courtesy of the couple.

The couple at the 836 milestone in Ban Gioc Waterfall (Cao Bang, Northern Vietnam) on a recent trip. Photo courtesy of the couple

The couple celebrated their wedding at the bride's hometown with a vegetarian meal last October. Seven members of the groom's family attended.

Currently, Sam continues her work as a software engineer, while Meigo writes, sells photos, and shares videos of his journey. They are planning to continue their trip as three people, when their first born is strong enough.

Placing a hand on his wife's slightly round belly, Meigo said: "We will go at least another 20,000 km to complete the walk totaling 40,075 km - the equatorial length of the earth."

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