Penguins in Vietnam

By John Rybczyk
This item appears on page 48 of the April 2016 issue.

The 20-day tour of Vietnam that my wife, Barbara, and I took in May 2015 with Vietnam Royal Tourism (HH3 Bldg., Level 5, Me Tri Road, Tu Liem, Hanoi, Vietnam; phone +84 4 2242 5892, was our second visit to that country. Our first was in 2012, also with Vietnam Royal Tourism. I would recommend them and would use them again.

This time, the company set us up with a tour to Cù Lao Cham island, including snorkeling at Xep beach and lunch at Chong beach. The tour was great, and we got to meet a number of people from other places in the world, but there was one standout, a young man from Norway named Sigurd (Siggy) Haug.

After lunch, the three of us were sitting on the beach waiting to be transported back to our hotels, and we talked about the places we had visited and where we planned to travel in the future. Siggy then said he wanted to show us his traveling companion, and, reaching into his backpack, he brought out a stuffed penguin.

Siggy said he travels all over with “Pingvar” the penguin and that he had even made a passport for him. The “passport” was a 4"x4" pad with “PASSPORT” written on the front and his name and birth date inside. I don’t know how he did it, but Siggy had gotten Pingvar’s passport stamped by the authorities in each country he had visited.

Barbara and I have been traveling for about 15 years now, and when we started we decided that we would take gifts with us that could be given to children as well as workers like waiters and bartenders or just anybody. We came up with Hot Wheels cars, Beanie Babies and baseball caps with “Florida” written on them.

I told Siggy that I had something in my bag to show him. When I took out the Beanie Baby “Zero” the penguin, he almost died and couldn’t wait to take a couple of pictures of Pingvar and Zero together.

We later found a home for Zero with a little girl. (We always ask the parents if it’s OK to give their children gifts.) The girl’s little brother got a Hot Wheels car.

We also always carry a Polaroid Pic-300 Instant Print camera, which makes it possible to give people their pictures right away. (Even though many people say they’ll send pictures they’ve taken, they never do.) 

We have a great time giving away toy cars, Beanie Babies, caps and photos.


The Villages, FL