Vietnamese adventurer's journey to over 100 countries

By Tu Nguyen   July 26, 2023 | 02:21 am PT
Vietnamese adventurer Noah has been exploring more than 100 countries, risking all for hidden lands and tribal cultures.

Nguyen Noah bears a few small scars on his legs as remnants of a Colombia robbery incident in 2019. Despite the potential dangers involved in his trips, his passion for discovering new lands keeps him moving forward without hesitation.

Nearly a decade ago, Noah set his sights on an ambition: to travel to every country in the world. In April 2021, he celebrated a significant milestone by documenting 107 countries he had traversed. Since then, he has continued sharing videos of his travels to nearly 40 more countries, announcing that he has now set foot in 165 countries.

As he ventured through, Noah realized that achieving his goal of visiting every country was not an unrealistic dream but rather an attainable endeavor. Consequently, the purpose of his trips shifted. Instead of ticking off countries from a list, he now sought to delve deeper into the lesser-known aspects of each destination.

"I prefer exploring underdeveloped and less frequented places," Noah said.

War-torncountries like Afghanistan and Iraq held minimal danger in Noah's eyes. On the contrary, he discovered the people in these regions to be friendly and hospitable.

His real challenges arose in Africa, where travel information was limited.

His first foray into what he considers a "difficult" country was Mauritania – a place renowned for its female beauty standards that involved "eating a lot to be beautiful." One of the most daring experiences involves sleeping on the Train du Desert, one of the world's longest trains, which travels along the Sahara desert for 20 hours, covering a total distance of 700 kilometers.

With over 200 cars, the train has only two passenger cars, while the others are utilized for transporting iron ore.

Nguyen Noah captured a selfie from one of the iron ore train cars of the Train du Desert in Mauritania.

Nguyen Noah captured a selfie from one of the iron ore train cars of the Train du Desert in Mauritania.

The journey was made even more dramatic by the iron ore's toxic nature. To intensify the experience, Noah opted to begin the trip on an ore wagon, constantly shielding himself from the ore's inhalation as he lay down.

Travelers like him have to rely on their own resourcefulness to explore such places.

Noah joined a social networking group comprising like-minded individuals with the same global exploration goal. This exclusive community offered valuable off-the-internet information, including details about local guides that could help access remote areas.

In Haiti, Noah hired a local guide for a tour. He described Haiti as chaotic, with gangs fighting each other. He witnessed a scene where a gang was defeated and burned on the street. On his personal page, he admitted that he lived in constant fear during his time in Haiti, as danger lurked at any moment.

The Central African Republic, another politically unstable country, didn't deter Noah either. Despite warnings to remain within the capital city for safety, he ventured out to explore other regions, fortunately encountering no harmful incidents.

But he had a frightening experience in Colombia. On a busy street, he encountered a woman who seemed like an addict, and later along with two young men with knives attacked him, stealing his camera. Despite putting up a fight, he was left with bruises and scars.

"People on the street just watched but nobody helped me," Noah said.

After a bandit attack in Colombia, Nguyen Noahs landlady took care of him. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Noah

After a bandit attack in Colombia, Nguyen Noah's landlady took care of him. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Noah

Even though Noah had his share of close calls and dangerous situations while traveling, he emphasized that he was not recklessly chasing danger to portray a hero persona. In Haiti, he promptly sought shelter when warned about an impending gunfight.

For Noah, these experiences provided invaluable lessons and enriched his upcoming journeys. However, he stressed that risking his life merely to capture a video was never a part of his agenda.

"I may feel anxious and fearful during my travels, but the knowledge and insights gained are truly priceless rewards," he expressed.

With around 6-7 trips each year, lasting from 5-10 weeks per journey, Noah enjoys the freedom of freelancing, which allows him to remain flexible in his travel schedule. Often, he crafts itineraries that encompass a few countries in a single trip.

Contrary to popular tourist destinations, Noah finds no interest in visiting popular cities or idling on sunny beaches. The allure of exploration beckons him continuously, leaving him with what he describes as "itchy feet" that demand constant movement.

Noah's priciest trip was to Pacific island countries like Samoa and Tonga, costing him several thousand dollars. However, he summed it up in one word: boring.

One of Noah's keen interests lies in encountering and learning about the world's diverse tribes. Throughout his African adventures, he had the privilege of meeting and engaging with tribes such as the Dupa tribe, known for their leaf-wearing custom, and the face-tattooed tribe in Cameroon.

He also met the Mwila tribe in Angola, renowned for braiding their hair with cow dung, and the San Bushmen, the world's oldest tribe, in Namibia. His journey to Indonesia granted him the opportunity to interact with members of a tribe that historically practiced cannibalism.

Nguyen Noah poses for a photo with members of the Himba tribe in Angola. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Noah

Nguyen Noah poses for a photo with members of the Himba tribe in Angola. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Noah

"I find learning about tribes fascinating. But visiting them can be quite challenging due to language barriers and the lack of convenient transportation," Noah remarked.

Noah expressed his frustration at witnessing some tribes commercialize and lose their authenticity. His genuine interest lies in understanding their real way of life, but often, he finds himself witnessing mere performances for monetary gain, as seen with the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia, who are famous for their lip rings.

As he moves forward in his quest to conquer the remaining 30 countries to complete his global odyssey, Noah's ultimate target remains North Korea, though it remains closed due to the recent pandemic. Visitors seeking entry into the country must comply with organized tour programs.

For fellow Vietnamese adventure enthusiasts, Noah offers a single piece of advice: Live with passion, but also prioritize safety in all endeavors.

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