Bill from Saigon – Rest in Peace

I will be returning to Saigon again in about three weeks. I’m already looking forward to the fabulous fresh fruits such as the pitaya, watching the early risers engaging in group exercise in the park, seeing my friends in the Vietnamese Association of Community Colleges, and dodging my way through the crazy hustle and bustle of the bikes, scooters, cars, and trucks on each and every road. However, I am so sad to say that I can no longer look forward to once again seeing my friend, Bill from Saigon.

Bill passed away on either August 25 or 26 during his sleep. The best information I have been able to find indicates that he had been sick with pneumonia and he just became too weak and died. He was cremated a short time after.

I had been planning to see Bill again when I returned. He was always such fun to talk to. A very kind and gentle man. I started talking to him one day in March 2007 in the crazy Ben Thanh market where he sold postcards almost every day. I was so taken with him that first time that I shot some video of him with a cheesy little digital camera that I had with me that day. The video quality isn’t great, but that video turned Bill into something of a folk hero in his own country. It was re-posted on several dozen Vietnamese blogs and websites and has been viewed almost 160,000 times on YouTube (now over 625,000 times as of 2/26/13).

When I visited him again in early October 2007 he was shocked to find that he was becoming famous throughout his country because of the video that I shot of him. He was shocked, but also very proud that his fellow Vietnamese thought so highly of him, especially the young people.

On that trip in October I made a new friend in Vietnam. Her name is Chau and she is a student in Singapore and has also recently studied in the U.S. in Oklahoma City. Chau is a very intelligent and engaging young person. She was so taken by Bill’s video that she too wanted to meet him. She took that meeting and turned it into a news article about Bill. That article was published in both Vietnamese and in English by one of the local newspapers in Saigon. She also took the top photo in this post of me and Bill.

Bill’s real name was Tran Son Hung. The first video I shot of him explains how he came to be known as Bill and how he learned English and developed an American accent by watching American movies. After the first video was posted (I later published three more video responses from footage taken in October) he was visited by many people from all over the world who had seen his video and wanted to meet Bill from Saigon, or just Bill Saigon as some of them called him. He would proudly show the printout from YouTube as shown above. A couple of other people have also posted videos of their meetings with Bill in the marketplace.

This post really doesn’t do justice to the quality of person that Bill was. I miss him greatly even though we only spent a little more than an hour together during my two visits with him. Bill’s signature saying was a (slightly altered) quote from Helen Keller: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor touched, but are felt in the heart.” Then he’d end that with a hearty “G’day mate!” since he had many Australian friends who would visit him. Bill was the best, and he touched my heart.

Rest in peace my hero on the mountain.

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33 Responses

  1. […] Bill from Saigon – Rest in PeaceIt was re-posted on several dozen Vietnamese blogs and websites and has been viewed almost 160000 times on YouTube. When I visited him again in early October 2007 he was shocked to find that he was becoming famous throughout his country … […]

  2. This is a very nice post, Barry. I’m sure Bill would be happy to read this. I believe there is a time for everything. When people have to go, they have to go. I’m sure Bill has found peace, heaven must be brighter with his gorgeous smile. He will always be remembered…

  3. I stumbled on your clip on youtube. Bill was such a sweet, kind, lovable man.
    R.I.P

  4. Thanks for posted the video of Bill on the youtube. Thanks for everything that you just did for bill as you just did for Vietnamese people. l really sad to heard the bad new from Bill, But l really happy to read this thing you just made for him. l believed that Bill will be happy in another world and never forget the best time that he spent with you and Chau, and with other people who came to visited him. Just like ” the best things in the world can not be seen nor touch, but are felt in the heart”. He can felt the heart of the people who loved him. THANKYOU 4everything ^_,<

  5. I watched your video about Bill today and I liked him already. I’m sorry for the sad news. He was a merry person, inspiring and touching a lot of people. May he rest in peace.

  6. I your video with Bill for about 1 year ago. And it’s sad to hear that he passed away. But I think that you’ve made the last years of his life very memmoriable for him and his family.
    thanks barry thanks bill.

  7. Hi Barry,

    Thank you for introducing Bill on Youtube. I never knew Bill until I tumbled upon mistyping Saigon and some sort of name and accidentally saw Bill in Saigon. I was curious by going further and clicking on the clip! That’s how I knew Bill. It was more than one year ago! Life is too short!

    Is it possible to set up a charity fund for his daughter? I t would be a good idea to set up this fund to help the disable daughter after Bill passed away! Let everybody know how we can contribute to this fund!

    Thank you Barry and God bless you Bill!

    Sam Chung from Canada

  8. I can’t believe it, I want to meet him next time I go back to Vietnam, but it’s too late. “hero on the mountain” that’s his name.

    You did a great job Barry, I ‘ve read a thread at http://travelvice.com/archive/2007/10/reasons-to-hate-vietnam.php and it made me feel so bad, but I feel better when I watch your video about Bill on Youtube, Thanks Barry.
    Rest in Peace “Bill Saigon” Hero on the Mountain

  9. I came upon your videos from youtube. You did a great job and your friendship with Bill is touching. I wish I had a chance to meet him as well. Bill is inspirational for learning English and has such a positive outlook on life. He will be missed.

  10. Hi Barry,

    Bill seems like one of those infectious personalities that people love, May he rest in peace forever. Sorry for you loss Bill.

  11. The morning I was to leave HCMC (Saigon) I read an article about Bill. I still had several hours before I had to leave so I jumped into a taxi and went to the market where Bill sold postcards. Just as I was about to give up there he was squatting down. I said “Hi Bill, how are you?” Bill stood up and said “Hey man what’s happening?” A foreigner turned to me as asked how long I’d known Bill. I said about 5 seconds. Bill and I talked and I bought some postcards from him. The last time I went back to Saigon Bill’s mother had died so he wasn’t around the market. Bill told me about his daughter that was confined to a wheelchair. I wonder what will happen to her now. I’m leaving for Saigon again tomorrow, Oct. 31st and was going to stop by to see Bill. I just hope someone will take care of his daughter since he is gone. Bill you were a great guy to know.

  12. I’m a student and I am learning English. I admired Bill very much. I feel disapointed with myself. He is a good example for me to follow.

  13. Thanks you much Dr. Dahl for your videos. It’s lovely to see a MNesotan visiting my beloved Viet Nam. It was serendipitous that I was “led” to your videos, others’ clips about Bill from Saigon. I was so overcome. His essence of being, integrity, humility & humanity moved me terribly. I was astounded by his quest for learning & his choices to live perspicaciously with an open heart & the lightness of being. In Bill from Saigon, nobility exists. If possible, let’s help his daughter or better let’s establish a scholarship of its kind to nurture a true learner like Bill- the Bill without borders & nationalities from any corner of the world. And indeed, “the most important thing… love between people.” Bac Hung/Bill you were truly the Hero from the mountain. I bow to thank you, Thay/teacher.

  14. oops… thank you much instead of thanks 🙂

  15. Hi Barry,

    Thank you so much for this blog. I’ve known your video for 2 years and often watch it. I live in Hanoi and have been learning English for years but still can’t speak and listen like Mr. Bill. I adore him, and also very sad to hear that he passed away. He is such a star in an odd world like in the article “reasons to hate Vietnam” ( http://travelvice.com/archive/2007/10/reasons-to-hate-vietnam.php ) (sad but true). Vietnam often gives a bad impression to new tourists but with the ones who are here often, it is diffirent. I have a few European friends and they really love Vietnam, even my Danish friend was angry when I said to him that I was ashamed for Hanoi. He told me he discovered many beautiful things in Vietnam which Europe never has (for example, how Vietnamese sons and daughters respect and take care their old parents).

    My hero – Tran Son Hung – please rest in peace!

    Son Pham (ptsondr@hotmail.com)

  16. thanks for all things you can do for him and for everyone.

  17. Thanks Barry for the videos that you recorded of Bill Saigon. I had so much fun watching them. Your friend Chau did a great job. Chau seems like a very intelligent, talented individual.
    Bill Saigon… wherever you are, you will always be remembered by many of us who have admired you greatly.

  18. Thank you for your Video, May God be with you Mr.Bill. ” XIN CHIA TAY NEU LA MAI MAI, VA MOT LAN CHO TOI XIN MAI MAI CHIA TAY “

  19. “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor touched, but are felt in the heart.”
    I love this quote and my “mountain hero”. Thank you so much Barry.
    Louis Fong.
    A young man.

  20. Hi Barry

    vnexpress.net (the biggest Vietnamese newspaper online) mentioned about Bill today (http://vnexpress.net/GL/Vi-tinh/Giai-tri/2010/05/3BA1BFB0/). I found your video about him on youtube, and that lead me to your blog.

    Just want to say thanks to you for the videos, as well as your kindness to Bill.

    “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor touched, but are felt in the heart”.

    Thanks

  21. Hello Barry, actually people start to know and love you as well after watching video that you made for Bill. I am sure you will receive good things after you have done good things for others. Bill is inspiring others via your YouTube’s video. He made the best out of life while he did not have much but selling his postcards for a living. He always had big smile and positive attitude. Thank you Bill and Barry to give u a good laugh.. Life is “no sweat” and love one anothers. If we apply this philosophy we become as happy as Bill.
    Rest in peace Bill and we love you!

    From Barry – Hi, and thanks for leaving your very kind comment. I’m so glad that Bill’s legacy of kindness is still living even after his passing. It’s a great tribute to Tran Son Hung, aka Bill from Saigon.

  22. Hi Barry,

    Tonight my “heart felt some of the beauty in this world” when I saw your videos of Bill. Joy, love and kindness just emanated from his warm face and voice. I sat here intensely interested and happy as I watched four of the videos you posted on YouTube. Then, as I read through the comments, I was shocked and heartbroken as I read that Bill (Mr. Tran Son Hung) had passed away. It’s amazing that within 20 minutes my heart filled with good feelings from learning of this gentle man and then I would shed tears for him. I guess the tears are really for me, because I already miss him and know I will never meet him. Barry, it’s obvious that you are very kind hearted and caring. You and Chau brought the world much love and kindness through the videos and news reports you both did on Bill. I’m sure you also helped to make this gentle man so much happier. I’m also very glad at how much respect was showed Bill through the nice comments about him, especially from the younger generation.

    I am a combat wounded Vietnam Veteran. I can tell you that the Vietnamese people are generally very kind and friendly people, but Bill was exceptional. Thanks for being the kind and considerate person you are, and doing this for Bill. Chau had posted “Heaven must be brighter with his gorgeous smile,” I think she’s right. You all take care and God Bless.
    J.Cruz

  23. I found your first video of Bill last night while searching for videos of people speaking Vietnamese and following a bunch of links. I immediately was taken with his charm and enthusiasm. The world is much better for having people like Bill in it.

  24. Thanks for your video and blog about Mr. Bill. He will still stay there, in our hearts. Wish you a good health, Barry.

  25. he’s very funny ey ! i wanted to see him someday but i dun think i can make it 😦 so sad to hear about his loss …. R.I.P Bill

  26. Thanks for posting this Barry. I was lucky to meet Bill on my first trip to Vietnam 5 years ago, I too shot footage because I knew he was someone so special. I feel very lucky to have had that meeting with him, he made me laugh so hard and love so hard. A very inspiring man who has risen above a very difficult life. RIP.

  27. I watched Bill and I all I could think was, ‘ what’s my excuse?’. His was a beautiful heart, and I wonder how much he could have achieved had he grown in a different place. I am almost sure he could have become an actor.

  28. February 5 2012

    I met Bill at the market in July of 2008. Had a nice long talk with him after he introduced himself. I purchased some of his postcards and he told me about his daughter. I was amazed when he told me he learned the english language by watch movies.
    I found out later that he was featured on Utube.

    We are headed back to Viet Nam in April of this year and thought I would do some research on Viet Nam. Today I learned he has died.

    Sad to hear.

    Hopefully his daughter will be looked after.

    Jim

  29. […] hiền hơn là “oh my God”. Khi kết thúc cuộc phỏng vấn với vị khách du lịch Barry Dahl ông còn cho xem dòng chữ: “The most beautiful things in the world can not been seen nor […]

  30. Hello Barry,
    Thanks for your video!

  31. One of Bill’s relatives live here in country Queensland just out side of Brisbane. She and her family are very proud of him.

  32. R.I.P Mr.Hùng (Hero) – Real name of him

  33. I’m a VietNamese also. I’ve really admired him when I saw him on the Youtube. And my tears dropped as I heard that he passed away.
    R.I.P!

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