Filming at Dong Nai, Vietnam

Jul 20, 2018. 4.20am, we departed from our hotel to start our working day, then back to the hotel at 9pm, not something abnormal for a filming crew. When we left the hotel, one person in our team said: “Today it’s not the rooster woke up us, but we woke up the rooster”.

It was both an interesting and unexpected day. The most significant experience was the tractor ride.

filming in Dong Nai, Vietnam
The tractor we rode.

Tractor ride

Tractors were prohibited to commute in Vietnam for at least 10 years and I haven’t seen them since then, until that day. And I even first time commuted on a tractor on that day. Though tractors have been prohibited, there is a reason for them to exist there.

There is a remote area at Thanh Son commune, Dinh Quan district, Dong Nai province where nor car or truck can enter. In dry season, people here commute by only 2 vehicles: tractor or motorbike. Tractors are mostly used for carrying goods. 1,500,000 VND round trip for the distance of 7km isn’t affordable for everyone. In rainy season: by boat. Though this place plant lots of fruits with export quality, and can sell with high price in the city, people here remain poor, due to they can’t bring their fruits to outside to sell. The transportation cost is too much, they ended up selling to middle man.

Here is a place without proper road. There is only a ‘road’ with soil and mud in the middle of the forest. I admired the tractor rider a lot because he was able to drive that “monster” (the tractor) on this kind of surface, it’s very slippery. Some tractors even have chain around its wheels to help prevent slippery. 10 of us had to leave our comfortable van to ride the tractor, in which 6 of us first time experienced. Our only business was trying to keep ourselves stable on the tractor, and even it was so difficult. The tractor was just up and down all the time and shook us. As we were moving, branches and leaves of trees come into space of the tractor and cut onto us. Plus the sun was hot all the time. Sometime, the smell of the cow dung contributed to our experience. The tractor itself isn’t a clean place and doesn’t have any chair to sit on. I was lucky and had the privilege to sit on an equipment box.

Riding on this tractor, 6 of us – the city people – had realized that we lived in comfort and convenience of city for too long. Upon arrival (around noon), the situation isn’t better. We had a simple lunch treated by our host, due to there isn’t any restaurant here and food is also expensive.

Afterward we got onto that ‘monster’ (the tractor) again to go to the filming location. There wasn’t any coffee shop around so we can rest when we need. The nearest (perhaps only) grocery shop which we can buy water was around 1-2km away. I didn’t know how to get there, so I asked help from Hang to drive me there. It was an adventure/challenge for me to stay on the motorbike. The gear of the motorbike was always at 1st/2nd gear.

People

The biggest compensation was we met incredible kind people. And the dinner was unforgettable for me. It was cooked by mother of Mr. Ngan – the one we filmed. Though it was just a meal in an ordinary village, I was impressed with it more than any meal at any big restaurant I’ve eaten. She is such a genius cook. And she is very kind, accommodated us very well with all her heart. I felt so warm being there.

In this filming trip, I was privileged to meet:

+ Poh Wei Ye – a Singaporean who has been living in Vietnam for 8 years and married to a Vietnamese lady. Wei Ye and his wife have been helping so many less fortunate people. They’ve been supporting orphanage, help people to rebuild house after storm, build bridge. Here is their page

+ Tan – a Vietnamese guy working as event organizer. Not a rich guy or was born in a rich family, but Tan has a heart to help people. Help them to build bridge, give them food. He has been asking for donation to help people. Here is the page created by him.

And many others, such as Kim, Tuyen or the nuns at Thi An orphanage, Long Dien district, Ba Ria – Vung Tau province. All of them were so welcoming, kind and accommodated us so well.

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filming in Dong Nai, Vietnam
Boarding to the tractor.


3. Part of the road we passed by.

filming in Dong Nai, Vietnam


4. Tractor wheel with chain.

filming in Dong Nai, Vietnam


5. Our tractor driver helped to build the house for filming.

filming in Dong Nai, Vietnam


6. A flock of cows go back home in the late afternoon

filming cows Vietnam
filming a poor family vietnam
The family we filmed at
filming tractor vietnam
the tractor
filming in dong nai vietnam
going back when it’s so dark and almost no light around