Photo: Home of the Lover.

Introduction

Our rating:

The former capital of Dong Thap province, Sa Dec is probably on the radar for most foreign visitors thanks to Marguerite Duras’ The Lover a dreamy autobiographical novel set in colonial southern Vietnam through the 1930s, but domestic tourists primarily hit the town for the vast flower nurseries located on the far side of the river. In our opinion, the town is worth visiting for both.


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While the town sprawls out to the west of the Sa Dec River, the most interesting part of Sa Dec sits within a couple of blocks of the same-named river. Cluttered with umbrellas and awnings, a fresh produce market runs along the river’s edge, especially between Cho Sa Dec and the primary bridge which runs over to Sa Dec hospital and the river. Take a stroll along here, if you can in the early to mid morning, when the light can be just right and the market is going at full steam. Follow Nguyen Hue up the river and take a left on Le Thanh Ton, following the sprawling market along, and then left again to walk through the main dry goods market. Look for plentiful bunches or fresh flowers and tonnes of fruit.

Down by the Sa Dec River. Photo taken in or around Sa Dec, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Down by the Sa Dec River. Photo: Stuart McDonald

From the market, walk back to the river again and walk further north along the river’s edge and, on your left you’ll see Huynh Thuy Le Ancient Home (admission 30,000 dong). Made famous by The Lover, Huynh Le Thuy was Duras’ lover—at the time he was 27 and she 15—and while this was his home, their love–nest was in Cho Lon in Ho Chi Minh City. The house dates back to 1895, renovated in 1917, and is a meld of French, Chinese and Vietnamese styles. As you walk in, note the sunken foyer floor—this is not due to subsistence, but rather a fengshui consideration, hoping to encourage the pooling of money within.

While the house is pretty, it feels a bit slapdash, with tea for sale out back and a generally not well–kept feeling. It is apparently possible to rent one of the rooms here (note the tackily added LCD TVs), but online reviews are very mixed and the rooms are not cordoned off from roving tourists, so this didn’t strike us as all that enticing a proposition. Still owned by the descendants of the same family, it is a shame more of an effort isn’t being made to retain the charm the building must once have had. Other, similarly beautiful buildings (along with some pagodas) can be seen opposite Hu Tieu Binh Danh Ba Sam on Tran Hung Dao, and also a couple of very dilapidated properties are dotted along Nguyen Hue to the south of the bridge. Lastly, across the river the villa that once housed Marguerite Duras can still be seen, though it is off limits to casual visitors.

Crabs all tied up at the market. Photo taken in or around Sa Dec, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Crabs all tied up at the market. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Sa Dec’s flower nurseries are claimed to be the largest in the Mekong Delta, covering some 300 hectares of land, primarily across the river from Sa Dec, between the Sa Dec River and the Mekong. While flowers are grown here year round, the busiest time by far is pre Tet when just about every man and his dog descends on Sa Dec to grab a bunch and wholesalers prepare to shift their product to Ho Chi Minh City. This is also a popular spot for weekenders from the big smoke, and particularly honeymooners who visit for those “among the flowers” wedding photos.

We arrived expecting vast fields of brightly coloured flowers but the scene is far more market garden, with nursery after nursery (there must be hundreds of them) and so while there were plenty of pretty flowers on display, don’t come expecting sunflower fields! The area covered by the gardens is large and while we scootered around, a bicycle would be just a good a means to explore—it is too large for walking in our opinion.

Mid afternoon shopping anyone? Photo taken in or around Sa Dec, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Mid afternoon shopping anyone? Photo: Stuart McDonald

Even if you are not staying there, consider fitting in a visit to Flower and Frog Homestay for a refreshing drink looking out over the Mekong to finish off a half–day wandering the nurseries. The vendors are generally fine with photos being taken, though, as always, it is polite to ask first.




Orientation
Sa Dec sits on the west bank of the Sa Dec River. Route QL80A (referred to on maps as Nguyen Sinh Sac in town) runs east–west through the centre, before crossing a tributary of the Sa Dec, turning south and joining up with QL80 and continuing on to Vinh Long. Most of the points of interest to the casual visitor are north of QL80A, within a couple of blocks of the Sa Dec River.

Hey pretty pretty. Photo taken in or around Sa Dec, Vietnam by Stuart McDonald.

Hey pretty pretty. Photo: Stuart McDonald

This area is totally walkable, but to get to the flower markets you need to head north to Tran Phu, take a left and cross the Sa Dec River, exploring north from there—this is not comfortable walking distance. To get to Xeo Quyt from Sa Dec, follow the same instructions to reach the flower markets, but continue to the bank of the Mekong and turn left. Follow the river north for about a kilometre and you’ll reach the ferry landing. See our Xeo Quyt section for more information on getting there.

Downtown Sa Dec has a post office (close to the market, on QL80A), and both the hospital and Sa Dec bus station are across the Sa Dec River on the way to Vinh Long. International access ATMs are scattered across the downtown area.

Huynh Thuy House 255A Nguyen Hue, Sa Dec. T: (0277) 377 3937 nhaco_hthuyle@yahoo.com.vn 30,000 admission
Sa Dec Hospital: 153 Nguyen Sinh Sac,Sa Dec. T: (0673) 770 263 http://bvdksadec.vn/
Sa Dec Post Office: 90 Hung Vuong (corner with Nguyen Sinh Sac), Sa Dec

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