The first time I collected litter of a beach was... in 2000 when I was on vacation in Thai Binh and then Cua Lo in Nghe An. It was for fun and unserious. I picked up the litter I saw or put the litter bins back in place. Whenever I arrived, I spent about 20 minutes collecting and gathering litter. Then I left.
The reason I do this... is I love the sea, love to spend time with fishing villagers and enjoy discovering hidden beaches. I don’t expect to change people’s thoughts and awareness. I just want to give them a little cleanliness and comfort.
I travel... with my bicycle. I just put everything from clothes and medicine to kitchenware and my sleeping bag on it. Then I cycle away.
I am obsessed with bicycle touring... because it provides precious experience. I love to travel by bicycle and collect litter off beaches at the same time. It also helps me to be cautious and train my endurance and patience. Cycling takes time.
When people see me collecting litter off beaches... they stare at me, curious, and make some negative comments under their breath. Some have a conversation with me and say “thanks” when they discover I am from Hanoi and am doing this for free. Some just say: “Why are you doing this? Soon there will be more litter!”
My Facebook friends usually... tell me not to do this because it’s not my business, or it is not effective. I have to campaign to get people to believe in me.
Beaches and provinces I have been to include... Quang Ninh, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Thai Binh, The Central Regions, Quang Nam... Last August, I was in Ca Mau.
The beach that has given me the most unpleasant feeling... is Ca Mau Cape. It’s the southernmost point of Vietnam and believed to be sacred. Everyone should go there once in their life. So tourists come and take photos. They then post them on Facebook. But when they leave the beach, they leave a lot of litter behind. I collected around 30 plastic bottles, although the litter bins were right there on the beach.
Collecting litter... has to be prepared and includes many stages. Normally, I spend at least one day to get everything including gloves, masks, tools, clothes, big bags, posters and my bicycle ready. I also need to contact local authorities for some support (and this usually takes three days). After the collecting’s done, posters will be placed in important places to try and spread the word about keeping the beach clean.
In the four times I have asked other people for support... only one time worked. It was at Duy Hai (near Cua Dai, Hoi An). A group of people was sent out to help me. People usually promise me to lend a hand, but they lack enthusiasm. I remember when I was at Rang Beach (Chu Lai, Nui Thanh). I had to spend two days, from 7am to 6pm, to finish the beach by myself.
The weirdest thing... is that some people don’t want to help me at all, don’t want to understand. They get annoyed because they think what I am doing affects their daily life.
I’m the kind of person... who loves to travel and do things to help others. I’m ready to quit my job to make these dreams come true.
Now I hope... I can get some support from organisations to help draw people into this, to raise awareness about the need to keep Vietnam’s beaches clean.