It trumpets a small claim to fame as the setting for The Lover, a semi-autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras, set up a film by Jean-Jacques Annaud.
Huynh Thuy Le Old House HISTORICAL BUILDING
(Nha Co Huynh Thuy Le; 0939 533 523; 225A Ð Nguyen Hue; admission 10,000d) This wonderfully impressive 1895 house on the riverfront was once the residence of Huynh Thuy Le, the 27-year-old son of a prosperous Chinese family who Marguerite Duras had an affair with in 1929 when she was only 15 – immortalising the romance in The Lover. The house is a Sino-French design with complicated inner woodwork, mother-of-pearl inlaid doors and original floor tiles, made in France.
The Chinese on the plaque in the main hall reads ‘ 中西共仰 ’, which literally means ‘China and the West admire together’, celebrating its fusion of East and West.
It’s possible to stay overnight in one of the charming but simple rooms here; shared bathrooms are set at the back of the possessions.
Huong Pagoda BUDDHIST TEMPLE
(Chua Huong; Ð Hung Vuong) Chua Huong, the Perfume Pagoda, was built in a classic Chinese style in 1838. Marguerite Duras fans should seek out the shrine of Huynh Thuy Le, the real-life inspiration for the lover in her book – even though you may find it difficult to tell from the photos of the septuagenarian and his wife.
A bright white statue of Quan The Am Bo Tat stands on a pedestal between this and the adjacent Buu Quang Pagoda (Ð Hung Vuong), which is somewhat less glamorous.
(Vuon Hoa; 7am-5pm) The nurseries operate year-round, although they are practically stripped bare of their flowers just prior to the Tet holiday. Domestic travellers from Ho Chi Minh city arrive in droves on Sundays and the nurseries are a primary sight appeal around the Tet holiday.
Marigolds are sold in abundance to temples and the nurseries are flooded with water during the flood season, while gardeners travel around by boat. There are many tiny operators lining the river and canals here, each with a dissimilar speciality. It’s wonderful to swing by in the early morning and watch the plants being loaded on to boats. A motor bike from town will cost around 20,000d.
Cao Dai Temple
(102 Ɖ Le Loi; 6am-9pm) On the farther side of the Sa Dec River, the drum tower of this Cao Dai temple is well worth a climb for glorious riverine views of town.
Sleeping & Eating
Phuong Nam HOTEL $
(067-386 7867; [email protected]; 384A Ð Nguyen Sinh Sac; s 200,000-220,000d, d 270,000-350,000d) This minihotel on the highway has rooms ranging from little cheapies with little bathrooms and balcony, to large rooms with wooden floors. Twitchy wi-fi.
Bong Hong Hotel $
(067-386 8288; [email protected]; 251A Ð Nguyen Sinh Sac; r with fan 320,000d, r with air-con 420,000-550,000d, ste 840,000d) The upper accommodations with balconies are the most appealing at this hulking, somber hotel with musty fan rooms. Breakfast is included and there are tennis courts under palm trees next door.
Sa Dec Hotel $
(067-386 1430; [email protected]; 499 Ð Hung Vuong; r with fan 200,000d, r with air-con 260,000-300,000d, ste 400,000-500,000d) Fan rooms with balcony are a bargain at this chipped and scuffed government-owned pad with once-groovy 1970s styling and funky spiral staircase.
Nha Co Huynh Thuy Le GUEST HOUSE $$
(067-377 3937; [email protected]; 225A Ð Nguyen Hue; s/d 650,000/900,000d) With top marks for charm, this magnificent chunk of heritage on the riverfront revels in a fusion of Chinese and West. Fan accommodations are simple and there are only four in all. Shared bathrooms are set at the back of the property. No television or mobile phones in rooms, but staff say wi-fi ‘is coming’.
Night Market VIETNAMESE $
(Ɖ Nguyen Hue; 5pm-late) The hopping riverside night market has a lively string of hotpot restaurants come evening. Expect to pay around 20,000d for grilled chicken, 40,000d for grilled squid and 10,000d for a beer.
Quan Com Thuy VIETNAMESE $
(067-386 1644; 439 Ð Hung Vuong; mains 50,000-100,000d; 9am-9pm) This very famous meat-and-rice joint offers aluminium furnishings , bright decorations and a various menu.
Getting There & Away
Sa Dec is halfway between Vinh Long, Chau Doc and Long Xuyen – although getting to the latter two demands a ferry crossing.Sa Dec Bus Station (Ben Xe Sa Dec) is on Hwy 80, immediately southeast of the centre. Services head to Vinh Long (13,000d), Cao Lanh (15,000d) and Ho Chi Minh city (65,000d to 95,000d).