Ho Van Lang died last month at the age of 52 and his close friend Alvaro Cerez paid him tribute by sharing some of the great moments of his life – including visiting a city for the first time
A friend of the man who called the “real Tarzan” after 40 years in the jungle spoke about the moment he stepped back into civilization for the first time.
Ho Van Lang and his father had survived four decades alone in the Vietnamese wilderness before the decision to go home was made in 2013.
They chose jungle life after escaping the atrocities of the Vietnam War when Lang was a baby. A US bomb hit their home, killing his mother and two siblings.
The duo started a new life and lived entirely on the land – they ate honey, fruits and forest animals, built shelters and took care of themselves.
But last month, eight years after they were brought back by Lang’s older brother, he died of liver cancer at the age of 52 after experiencing the “fatal consequences” of “modern life”.
Now his friend Alvaro Cerez has shared unseen footage from a secret trip back into nature where Ho was filmed responding to flying on an airplane, sailing at sea, and seeing a big city for the first time.
The couple first met through Alvaro’s work with Docastaway, an organization that helps people escape to deserted islands, and the explorer decided to return to the wilderness he loved for a break after his father’s death.
Alvaro said: “Lang mourned his father’s death in 2018 and I decided it was the right time to help him get back to nature for a while.
“On the long journey to the lonely island, Lang discovered a lot of new things for the first time, such as seeing a big city from a distance while we stayed in a hotel near the airport.
“We avoided walking the busy streets of the city at all costs so that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed. But his reactions to things were incredible to watch.
“He was thrilled to jump on board the plane and watch in awe from the sky all the time. His only conception of planes was things that crossed him in the sky.
“In the jungle, his father explained that they weren’t birds, but hollow objects with people in them.
“But he still couldn’t understand how such a massive object could move in the air.”
While fighting as a soldier in the Vietnam War, Lang’s father, Ho Van Thanh, fled to the jungle with Lang after losing his mother and two other children when his home was bombed.
The father-son duo lived in the forest of what is now Tra Bong District for decades before they were found by Lang’s older brother Ho Van Tri – who later decided to bring his father and brother home with the help of the authorities when Thanh’s health began to emerge deteriorating in August 2013.
Alvaro and Lang met two years later when the explorer approached Lang to see if he would be willing to share some of his incredible survival skills by returning to the jungle Lang grew up in.
The couple quickly became friends and Alvaro promised that he would eventually show Lang “his world” of secret and unknown deserted islands.
Alvaro said, “I filmed a lot of the special moments that I shared with Lang, but this footage has never been seen before. The time we spent together was unforgettable.
“He had only heard of the sea in stories his growing up father told him, so it was incredible to see him discover it for the first time.
“I remember waking up one night thirsty and unable to open a coconut, so I decided to go to the bank for a drink.
“But I was horrified to see how salty the sea water is. It was like seeing the life we live today through the eyes of someone from the distant past.”