Life, on the other side of Saigon

By Quynh Tran   December 29, 2016 | 11:36 am GMT+7
An old couple raises their 9-year-old daughter on a ragged boat not too far away from the city's skyscrapers and shopping malls.

For more than 10 years, this has been the home of Le Van Duc, 60, his 53-year-old wife Nguyen Thi Vinh and their daughter, under the Rach Ban 2 Bridge in District 7. 


Duc lost his left leg during the war. His first wife died early and he had been raising five children alone in the Mekong Delta’s Ben Tre Province. He met Vinh 20 years ago, a divorcee with two sons.


The couple sailed a boat to Ho Chi Minh City in 2005 after their children all settled down. They used to catch fish in the city’s rivers and canals for sale. But Duc has switched to selling lottery tickets recently while Vinh now sells drinks and gasoline on the streets.


They have a daughter, now 9 years old.


Duc and his daughter on the family’s 40-year-old boat. “I’ve never thought about renting a house. Life on a boat is hard, but at least we have a place to stay even when we have no money left,” the man said.


Duc rides a bicycle to take his daughter to school every day. “When daddy had to sell tickets late, I’d walk home myself,” the girl said.


Mi plays with her father.


Duc often rides his daughter around the city when he has time. “She hopes she can go to a supermarket one day, but I don’t have money,” the father said.


Duc often resorts to herbal treatment when his daughter catches a cold. He said she was hospitalized once before and a bill of VND1 million ($44) almost crushed the family.


Family time at night.


The girl has been doing well at school, their parents said.


Like other children, she loves comic books. She has also painted "Nha toi” which means “My home” on the boat.


“I just have one wish, that my daughter will have a good education so she will have a happy life, Duc said. He is worried that he will not be healthy for long to take care of her.

Photos by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

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