There are many things you can do in Vietnam. You can swim in Ha Long Bay, you can crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels, and… you can ride a water buffalo.
When I saw ‘Ride a Water Buffalo’ on my trip itinerary, I didn’t quite know what to think. So far, we had stuck to the conventional tourist activities you might see topping lists on TripAdvisor. But hey – I was up for anything!
Our travel agent hooked us up with a company called Jack Tran Tours, an environmentally-friendly family-run business in Hoi An, central Vietnam. Their mission is to expose travellers to the traditional Vietnamese culture and encourage them to engage with the local people.
And so it was that one drizzly morning, we hopped on the Jack Tran bus and were driven to where we would embark on our tour. After donning some sexy disposable waterproof ponchos, we were each assigned a bicycle which we were to cycle through a patchwork quilt of rice fields to our final destination.
We had only a rudimentary idea of what we in for. After a meet and greet with the lovely Spanish couple also in our tour group, we were introduced to the real star of the show: the water buffalo.
Having ridden an elephant in Thailand only days early, I was extremely anxious to dive headfirst into the action. As soon as our tour guide – a bubbling ray of sunshine called Yen – asked who would volunteer to ride it first, my hand shot up faster than lightening.
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Water Buffalos
- They are typically found throughout Asia, although also in places such as Australia, Turkey, Italy and Egypt as well.
- They are used (among other things) for ploughing and other forms of labor; although they have been replaced by tractors in many parts of the world, they are still used in Southeast Asia for tilling rice fields.
- Although they are more expensive than cattle, they are favoured by rice farmers because they are stronger and ideal for working in deep mud due to large hoofs and flexible foot joints.
- They spend a majority of the day submerged in water to maintain a stable body temperature.
- They can grow to 2650 pounds and 10 feet tall.
If the water buffalo was even aware of me climbing clumsily onto his back, then it didn’t feel the urge to show it. The first thing that struck me was how it’s bones jutted out from it’s skin, and how it lazily rocked side to side as it ambled onto the rice paddies.
As one of the richest agricultural countries, Vietnam – after Thailand – is the largest exporter of rice in the world. It is also the seventh-largest consumer of rice.
Perhaps the highlighting of the experience aside from riding a water buffalo was sifting rice. This is one of the latter parts of the farming process that requires sieving harvested, dried and pounded rice kernels in a flat basket to separate the loose husks.
As you will observe below, my friend and I had varying levels of success.