The Viet Kieu man returns to his homeland to discover his roots
Tony Quyen Nguyen, 25 years old, was born and raised in British Columbia, Canada. He returned to Vietnam for the first time in 2009. It was a trip with his family to meet relatives in Can Tho. At that time, young Tony was not interested in the country or culture, nor did he develop a passion for travel. The story only began when he returned to Vietnam in August 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tony and his journey to travel around Vietnam. Photo: NVCC
Initially, Tony planned to stay in Vietnam only for a year, but due to the pandemic and finding many interesting things in his native land, he decided to stay until now. Currently, he is a teacher of English, math, science, maintaining his dream of becoming a Youtuber and opening his own jewelry brand. “The most important reason why I want to explore Vietnam is that I want to experience the culture here, which is flowing inside of me, but I haven’t had a chance to find out. Also, I’m very “white,” which means mostly My friends in Canada are white, which makes me feel disconnected from my heritage and culture,” Tony said.
By going back to Vietnam and becoming a teacher, Tony better understands how his parents live and study here and understand his true human values. “I am proud to be Vietnamese and Asian. In Canada, I used to face racism, but since returning to Vietnam, I have lived true to the Vietnamese DNA in me. I’m happier now knowing I come from such a beautiful country, with so many beauties and cultural differences,” Tony smiled.
To date, Tony’s journey around Vietnam has reached 20 cities and provinces. What made him surprised and impressed when making the trip was to experience the culture in different lands; for him, “it’s so colorful.” “People in Sa Pa are very different from people in the Mekong Delta. They are different in dress and language; like in Sa Pa, there are ethnic minorities, so they speak different languages, dress differently. So by visiting as many places as possible, I have the opportunity to see the most cultural differences between people in each region. Also, my goal when shooting the video is for everyone who knows Vietnam is a great place to travel and help many people think “Let’s go!” when looking at any picture of Vietnam.
In the movies that Tony recorded, he invested a lot of effort, applying special effects to make Vietnam’s image appear like in “blockbuster” movies. “I like taking photos and videos because I consider it a hobby, passion rather than the goal of making money from social networking platforms. I have been doing this job for many years now without making money. Editing takes a lot of time. It usually takes me a week to edit vlogs, but a cinematic video with lots of transitions and effects takes one to two months,” Tony said.
Currently, the place that impresses Tony the most is Phong Nha – Ke Bang. He said this is a place with beautiful scenery with mountains, rivers, friendly people, and the opportunity to learn about the history of war. During a visit to a cave in Phong Nha, Tony’s drone crashed, and he had to crawl through about 100 meters of bushes and climb mountains to “rescue.” Later, when told by the guide, Tony learned that this was dangerous because there were still bombs in this area that had not been found. The local guides didn’t introduce much of the war, but the area's rugged terrain made Tony dive into better understanding how the soldiers lived during the war.
Tony and his girlfriend, who accompanies him on many journeys. Photo: @tonynguyeeen/Instagram
Tony traveled about 80% of the Mekong Delta by motorbike. This is also his favorite means of transportation when traveling to Vietnam. In the car, Tony and his girlfriend can choose non-main roads to see villages, children playing. He said that the difficulty he encountered on his journey was mainly due to the weather. The difficult thing when he vlogs are how to make people feel comfortable talking in front of the camera. He shared, many people feel embarrassed when talking to the camera with him. “It feels like the first time you speak in front of the camera while filming a vlog,” Tony describes.
Tony is still poor in Vietnamese and understands 60% of what his friends say, but he has learned many new sentences and words so far. He learns mainly from students older than him, reading comments in Vietnamese under photos and videos he posts.
“The people I’ve met make my journey so memorable and special,” says Tony. On his journey, many times, he was supported by local people. He remembers talking to restaurant owners he used to eat when he lost his way and was helped by locals. In those times, he remembers most when riding a motorbike with a Canadian friend and getting lost from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau because his Google Maps application only has an option for cars. A local man drove about 20 minutes farther than his house to lead them to the right path. “There are too many lovely people for me to remember them all,” Tony shared. Before coming to Vietnam, Tony befriended adventurous Vietnamese on Instagram and traveled with them when he arrived. Traveling with Vietnamese people makes him more connected with his bloodline.
Talking about what he likes most when learning about Vietnamese culture, Tony shared that it is cafes and street food. “I like the way people meet, hang out at coffee shops in the evening. I like to see how people from teenagers, adults, older adults hang out with their friends. Vietnamese food is one of the best cuisines I’ve experienced, compared to other countries I’ve been to,” Tony confided. Follow vnexpress