Jane and I invite Phouc for coffee on our last full day in Hanoi and visit the same little back alley place with the miniature furniture. It was a chance to just reflect on our trip and have a final chat with a man who has been of immense help to us in Vietnam.
Phouc’s style has been quite different from Dino’s and perfect for this leg of the trip. He is a gentle, happy man who credits his belief in Buddhism for his patient nature. He is ever ready to help us when we need him but also quite happy for us to explore on our own on the optional days of this leg.
Phouc started his career in guiding as a local guide in the Mekong Delta after completing a college degree in Tourism. He has been with Intrepid for 4 years now, quite an achievement in this business and has reached “Super Leader”, status! He was introduced to Intrepid when one of their managers happened to be on a tour he led as a local guide. Another amazing story of coincidence and meeting the right person at the right time who was able to recognise your potential! His specialises in the cycling tours but occasionally will lead a comfort or basic trip for a bit of variety.
Phouc’s shares stories about family. His home is in the Mekong Delta where he lives with his wife Yen, a teacher and his son Bi who he sees in between his trips through Vietnam and talks to everyday he is away! Bi is 5 years old and he misses him greatly. Phouc speaks a few languages, English, Vietnamese and Japanese and his wife speaks Korean and Japanese! Phouc has taught himself these languages by listening to tapes and purchasing second had books with only a few months of basic instruction initially to get him started. We are so impressed at the standard of English as well as the initiative of the Intrepid guides we have met.
I get the feeling that Phouc is also an enterprising young man. He shows us pictures of his house in the Mekong Delta and invites us to come visit, the next time we are in Vietnam. It is the biggest house in his village and looks lovely inside. He even has a guest room! We promise to look him up if we are ever back in the area. He shares some of his dreams for the future with us. He would like to eventually be a “rice middle man” in the Mekong delta, which involves buying rice from the farmers there and on selling it to retail shops. This would enable him to spend more time with his family and watch his son grow up. He also intends to buy an investment property in Saigon and dreams of starting a free English school in the front room of his house for the kids in his village. He understands the value of English for getting ahead in life and wants to give back to his community some of the benefits he has got by his interaction with western travellers. He has appreciated the chance he got to be exposed to other cultures and wants to share that with the kids in the Mekong Delta. We are touched by his dream. Here is a man of average means and he dreams of starting a free school for the kids in his village. That’s special.
We thank him again for sharing himself and his culture with us and for looking after us in Vietnam and promise to join him for breakfast before we leave for Laos. Goodbye Phouc, we wish you much success in your future endeavours!
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.