Lovers from Vietnam, South Korea reunite in third country
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A Vietnamese woman and her South Korean boyfriend desperate to meet each other after being apart for a long time reunited in the Philippines last week.
With their respective countries yet to open their borders fully to international travel and having several restrictions in place, Ho Phuong Nhi and Hwa Yong chose the Philippines as their reunion rendezvous after the Southeast Asian nation fully reopened its doors to foreign tourists early February and eased quarantine requirements.
On February 24, Nhi departed from HCMC while her boyfriend flew from South Korea’s Incheon Airport to Manila.
"When we met at Manila airport, I jumped for joy as we were finally reunited after two years of separation because of the Covid pandemic," Nhi said.
"Though I had prepared carefully for the first overseas trip after the pandemic, I was still worried that I would not be able to enter the Philippines," she said.
The couple then went with their Filipino friend to Saud Beach in San Fernando City. After traveling for about 13 hours, they reached one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia with clear, blue waters.
Ho Phuong Nhi (L) and her South Korean boyfriend Hwa Yong at Saud Beach in San Fernando City in the Philippines, February 2022. Photo courtesy of Ho Phuong Nhi
On the way, they visited the Paoay Church, one of the oldest churches in the country and declared a national cultural treasure in 1973 by the Filipino government.
After a day at Saud Beach, they went to the Bangui wind farm and the ancient city of Vigan in Ilocos Sur Province, famous for its cobblestone streets and the Spanish colonial architecture that has remained intact for decades.
They will spend time to explore local cuisine and all popular tourist attractions in the Philippines before returning to their respective native countries on March 11.
Long distance relationship
Nhi and Yong met and fell in love with each other five years ago. While he continued to live in South Korea and she in Vietnam, they kept meeting each other regularly until early 2020, when the pandemic broke out and regular flights from South Korea to Vietnam were suspended.
"The past two years have been really difficult for us, and we have thought about breaking up many times because of continued stress of a long distance relationship," Nhi said.
"Before coming to the Philippines, we argued a lot and even didn't contact each other. When the Philippines reopened international tourism, it was giving us an opportunity to meet again and erase all distances," Nhi said.
For the last two years, the couple had looked for all kinds of ways to go abroad and meet each other, including getting a marriage visa or applying for a Canadian visa, but nothing worked out.
When several Southeast Asian countries reopened their borders, they intended to travel to Thailand, but chose the Philippines because the procedures to enter the country were much simpler.
Without direct flights, Nhi had to book a ticket with Singapore Airlines that cost VND14.5 million ($614).
They need to make health declaration via One Health Pass three days before their flights, and provide negative PCR test results within 48 hours after departure.
When Vietnam reopens international tourism on March 15, Hwa will return to Vietnam to celebrate Nhi's birthday.
"We are looking forward to this day. We still have many plans for when we meet each other in Vietnam," Nhi said.