Journey back to Phu Quy, Vietnam


I’ve been back in the states about a month and it’s time for my next adventure. An adventure it is. I have not been back to this desolated island since I was 12. I’m 27 now. To be honest, I am dreading to go back and visit. When I was 4 and 12, Vietnam was my first country that I had visited outside of the United States. My view and perception of this country and island is very skewed. I was cultured shocked back then and still have these awful images in my head and feel that I won’t allow myself to be content with where I will be.

However, it is time to get over that, and head out to the island where my parents came from. On this adventure, I will be going with my mom. Only because she freaks out about everything and feels that I can’t handle myself in Vietnam…if only she knew about my adventures in South America…

Before I head back to the country I should at least get the story straight on how my parents came to the States:

My parents grew up on an island called, “Phu Quy” 62 miles from the city Phan Thiet located in the Southern Vietnam. The northern part of this island is inhabited with a population of around 20k people. What do people do on this island? Basically fish and tend to their farm. Vietnam has always been a communist country. Life on the island for my parents was rough. Both my parents wanted a better life for themselves and since the war was over, it was about time do something about it.

It all started with my dad – the adventurous, youthful, boy that thinks he can take on the world. My dad had big plans. To get off the island and some how make it to the United States and start a new life and to meet up with his older brother. My dad was 19 at the time.

My dad

My dad recruited his friend who knew how to sail a boat. In the days to come, they were planning the logistics. The first thing was to figure out how they will get fuel, food, water, etc.ย My dad couldn’t remember but he had two friends from a different town that they used to party with and fuel came up in one of the conversations and so my dad had recruited the both of them.

The next step in the plan was to get a compass. He knew of a boy whose dad had a compass because he was in the military for the Americans. Conversations were held and the next thing, my dad recruited him since he was able to get the compass for my dad.

Of course, there needs to be some romance on this James Bond trip. My mom was asked by my dad, “Em muon di America khong?” My dad, told me to write this quote in my blog. Basically, my dad asked my mom if you would like to come to America. Honestly, I am surprised that my mom went with my dad. From what I know, she’s not all that adventurous but worries like crazy! Of course, before she said yes to my dad, she asked if her best friend could come along. At first my dad had said no and my mom didn’t change her mind. So, he brought her best friend along too.

The Parents

The next night, at around 2am, my parents along with friends set out to sea. They had to pick up the other half with the fuel on the other side of the island. My dad somehow had a beacon and was able to attract the other crew that was all in a canoe.

There were a total of 14 adults all wanting to be off the island and away from the country. They were out on sea for a total of 3 nights and 4 days and seriously thought they were going to die. My dad didn’t know what to do and they were low on fuel, food, and water. After days of nothing out in the sea, my dad saw a mountain far away. As they went towards it, he noticed it was an island of some sort. As they got closer, there were guys in military outfits with rifles and there was no turning back for my parents.

They military officials were trying to get their story in English; however, the only guy on the boat that spoke English only knew how to count from 1-5. Ha. The group was relieved when they had offer them food and a place to stay. It turns out; they had landed in Indonesia and were staying at the Galang Refugee Camp. Here, every one was interviewed and waited to get a sponsor. My mom wanted to go to Australia but she was too young and my dad wanted to go to the United States. They were wed here at the camp. While they were waiting to be picked up, my mom would sell cigarettes, jewelry, and other random items to gain money. My dad was trying to figure out where his older brother was in the states. He was telling the officials that he wanted to be where he was.

After a long six months, my parents were on their first airplane to Ontario, CA. When they arrived, my parents just sat there at the gate until a lady told them to go outside of the gate. They weren’t sure what was going on or who will pick them up. When they exited the gate, waiting for them was my uncle and others that were from this island.

The parents

Filled with joy and tears, they finally made it to the US. I’m not sure how my uncle was reached but somehow the military officials in Indonesia were able to get a hold of The Redlands United Church of Christ who knew where my uncle was. Here, my parents were given shelter, food, and jobs and a sponsor. They took care of my parents and showed them around town. I wish I knew who their sponsor was so that I can thank them.


I leave tonight at 1am and I am mixed with emotions. I seriously don’t want to be on an island where it’s 85-90F with 70-85% humidity, full of mosquitoes, and the electricity goes out at 10p! I need to suck it up for the next 25 days and take this in. I want to learn more about my culture on this tiny island. Why our dialect is different than the rest of Vietnam, get sick of eating fish, learn how to cook Vietnamese food, and meet my parent’s family.

It’s funny, it’s not a backpacking trip; however, it feels like it since I am going to be stripped with a lot of amenities and accommodations. 4 suitcases, 1 carry-on, and a backpack filled with gifts of, lotions, medicine, powdered milk, Hersheyโ€™s chocolates, clothes, etc later, I am ready for this trip! It’s going to be an eye opener and I am so happy it’s with my mom! Bonding time!

My mom and I Mommy!


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