In Vietnam, water buffaloes have long been considered a symbol of hard work for its indispensable role in traditional wet rice civilization.
Many buffaloes in Hoi An City, located in the central province of Quang Nam, live a king’s life.
There, they do not have to plod through paddy fields pulling plows.
Instead, their beauty is their main job.
The prettier they are, the more money they earn.
In the late days of the Year of the Rat in 2020, a group of American tourists booked a buffalo-riding tour operated by Jack Tran Tours Hoi An Company.
Having no earlier experiences with the animals, some of them hesitated to give a try at first.
But they expressed their surprise and excitement about the buffaloes’ friendliness, professionalism and, especially, beauty when the tour ended.
|Buffalo-riding is an unmissable activity for tourists in Hoi An, Quang Nam, Vietnam. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre|
Le Nhien, a farmer in Hoi An City’s Cam Chau District, guides the tour as a side job.
Nhien said he cleans his buffalo with soap and perfume.
The buffalo is also fed with good food to stay healthy and encourage glowing hair.
“To best serve tourists, buffaloes must be in good shape,” Nhien told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
“I have worked in the industry for 15 years.
"Thanks to the job, I can support my family and afford an education for my children."
|A tourist poses with a buffalo and his owner in Hoi An, Quang Nam, Vietnam. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre|
Behind the unique and successful model was the close cooperation between local farmers and the travel agency.
Tran Van Khoa, director of Jack Tran Tours Hoi An, is also known as the industry’s pioneer for his initiative in designing buffalo-riding tours which engaged Quang Nam Province’s residents.
Khoa’s company is in charge of receiving bookings and operating tours while farmers are responsible for training and taking care of their buffaloes.
He said his network has connected around 30 farmers living in Hoi An. Fees are paid directly to the buffalo owners.
Participating in the network, farmers join different training courses of English speaking and reception skills.
Many of them can now communicate fluently in English and feed their families with their job.
|Two foreign tourists are excited at their first buffalo ride. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre|
According to the Hoi An People’s Committee, buffalo-riding tours took root in 2005.
At the time, seeing the potential of this model, Jack Tran Tours Hoi An joined hands with farmers to envision the business.
In the beginning, tours were offered in two locations.
As the model grew, more and more farmers and enterprises joined the market.
There are dozens of well-trained, good-looking buffaloes taking part in the force.
|A foreign tourist, dressed in farmers’ clothes, tries to walk a buffalo in Hoi An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre|
For each buffalo ride, tourists will pay the owners from VND20,000 (US$0.87).
During the peak season, a buffalo can earn VND500,000-700,000 ($22-30) on average per day.
Nguyen Van Son, chairman of the Hoi An People’s Committee, stressed the model as sustainable tourism, based on local values, and aligned with the city's vision for the future.
|In this aerial photo, a foreign tourist is seen experiencing traditional Vietnamese rice farming with a local farmer’s guidance. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre|
Rhonda Adams, an American tourist, said she and her daughter were excited to ride the buffaloes and roaming around peaceful and scenic Hoi An Ancient Town.
She added the tour was recommended to any person traveling to the town for a deeper understanding of local life.
Hoi An farmers offer tourists unforgettable experiences of central Vietnam’s countryside, and now the buffalo carries out a new mission – to bring more laughter to the visitors.