The cheerful cowboy of Saigon

By Quynh Tran   November 28, 2016 | 12:27 am PT
The 52-year-old man leads a simple life away from the urban glamor.

Over the past five years, Vu Duc Toi has been tending his cattle on this field in District 2, against the backdrop of high-rise buildings in the city downtown. 


He buys cheap, skinny buffalo in Cambodia and resells them to earn profits of dozens of million dong every six months.


Grass and water are aplenty here for the cattle.


Toi usually just leaves the buffalo to roam and graze freely. Sometimes he will feed them.


Toi also picks scrap metal around nearby construction sites.


He always keeps an ice bucket to go through the Saigon heat. He has a phone but it’s usually dead and he does not mind. He also owns a motorbike to ride home in the neighboring Binh Duong Province once in a while.


Toi catches fish in a pond and also sells some.


Toi burns a bonfire every night to keep him and the cattle warm. He leaves them to sleep outdoor and they have never been stolen.


He plays with a young buffalo.


Toi shares dinner money with Bay, a guard at a construction site. Nearly all workers in the area know him.


He sleeps inside a sewer pipe, burning incense sticks to keep mosquitoes away. “I had malaria once, other than that, I’m pretty well.”


“My family has been asking me to stop this nomadic life and come home. But I am still strong enough to work, and I feel comfortable living this way,” Toi said. He has four children and three of them are married.

Photos by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

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