The ship's engine expires and they wash ashore into a refugee camp in Malaysia where nobody ever gets out unless they have a lot of money or whore. Binh meets a beautiful Chinese woman, Ling, who is a whore. Unexpectedly, one of the men goes crazy and is shot. The refugees get over the fence and out of the camp. Ling has enough money for Binh and Tam to get on a ship that will go to America, and Binh insists she come, too.
When they reach the giant rusting freighter, Binh gives the money and agrees that all of them, even Tam, will do jobs in the US to work off the rest of the money. The hold is terrible and a man has decided to run it his way. He's hoarding food and water, and when one of the water tanks breaks and the rice turns rotten (Tam pulls a worm out of his bowl), people start to starve. Binh makes him share, but it's too late for Tam.
When they arrive at New York City, they start working in Chinatown. Ling is still a whore; Binh has many jobs. One day he finds out that he doesn't have to hide because his father's an American, and he heads for Texas. He hitchhikes until he reaches a ranch where he finds out where his father never came back to Vietnam.