Quentin Dewiere and his wife Agnieszka Nanaszko walked along a Da Lat street making shop owners smile with a stained, hand-written note.
Eventually, a xe om (motorbike taxi) driver agreed to bring the couple to an area deep in Thong Thien Hoc alley.
There, they placed the note in the landlord’s hand.
Do Phan Anh, owner of the Home Sweet Home Hostel Dalat, charged them half of the listed price citing their “interesting” message.
The French-Polish freelance photographers have been traveling across Vietnam, from Sa Pa to Nha Trang, and eight other countries with help from their message, which implores locals to help them stay within their ten dollar a day budget.
They call the message a “special visa,” Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
The Vietnamese version was translated by the owner of an internet cafe.
It says: “We want to go to […]. If you’re going that way, can we come along just for a bit? We really don’t have much money. We spend most of our budget on food. And we honestly want to discover your country. Thank you very much.”
The couple said they spent years saving money for a proper round-the-world trip.
Then, one day four years ago, they learned about a 76-year-old Polish woman named Teresa Bancewicz who traveled the world for $8 a day by asking for lifts and other support.
Dewiere, 32, said traveling cheaply isn’t their only objective.
The couple wants to feel the love of people along the way.
Wandering the world in this way allows them to do both, he said.
The couple cannot recall the names of all their Vietnamese benefactors, so they used nicknames to describe more than 20 lovely locals who gave them lifts in truck cabins, invited them to street meals or offered them a free place to stay.
Agnieszka, 30, said they usually go to truck terminals and ask for free rides.
One Hanoi driver widened his eyes after reading their “visa” and asked them to hop on.
Most truckers in other countries put them in containers behind the cabin, but in Vietnam, they’re frequently invited to sit with the divers, she said.
She said they tried to insist on splitting the bill on meals, but the drivers usually insist on covering their costs.
They rely on body language and smiles to communicate.
A man named Hoang from Quang Uyen District of the northern highlands’ Cao Bang Province saved them from a cyclone last May.
Winds were sending leaves and garbage flying briskly through the air.
They were about to take cover in their sleeping bags when Hoang came by, flailing his arms to urge them to run into his house, which was sheltered by a mountain.
The cyclone tossed whole trees down onto the road where they’d planned to ride out the storm.
Night quickly fel and the couple showed Hoang the note and he asked them to stay.
He went out the next morning and asked a friend to drive them to town.
Another night, they owner of a restaurant in a remote commune in Cao Bang made them a bed out of tables and chairs.
They showed the owner the note after having dinner there, asking her to introduce a cheap room.
She responded, in broken English, that the poor area had no guest houses and arranged the bed and gave them her mosquito net and blanket.
“We get more love in remote and difficult areas of Vietnam,” Agnieszka said.
She said most of the Vietnamese they meet usually wave away any money they offer for help.
“We understood that they meant ‘Don’t bother, just go on’,” Agnieszka said before jumping on a vegetable truck bound for Ho Chi Minh City.