It trumpets a minor claim to fame as the setting for The Lover, a semi-autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras, made into a film by Jean-Jacques Annaud.
(Nha Co Huynh Thuy Le; 0939 533 523; 225A Ð Nguyen Hue; admission 10,000d) This wonderfully atmospheric 1895 house on the riverfront was once the residence of Huynh Thuy Le, the 27-year-old son of a rich 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 intricate interior 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 basic rooms here; shared bathrooms are located at the rear of the property.
(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 – although you may find it hard to tell from the photos of the septuagenarian and his wife.
(Vuon Hoa; 7am-5pm) The nurseries operate year-round, though they are practically stripped bare of their flowers just before the Tet festival. Domestic tourists from HCMC arrive in droves on Sundays and the nurseries are a major sightseeing attraction around the Tet holiday.
Marigolds are sold in abundance to temples and the nurseries are inundated with water during the flood season, when gardeners get around by boat. There are many small operators lining the river and canals here, each with a different speciality. It’s interesting to swing by in the morning and watch the plants being loaded on to boats. A motor bike from town will cost around 20,000d.
(102 Ɖ Le Loi; 6am-9pm) On the far 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
( 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 small cheapies with tiny bathrooms and balcony, to large rooms with wooden floors. Twitchy wi-fi.
( 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 rooms with balconies are the most appealing at this hulking, cheerless hotel with musty fan rooms. Breakfast is included and there are tennis courts under palm trees next door.
( 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.
( 067-377 3937; [email protected]; 225A Ð Nguyen Hue; s/d 650,000/900,000d) With top marks for charm, this glorious chunk of heritage on the riverfront revels in a fusion of Chinese and West. Fan rooms are basic and there are only four in all. Shared bathrooms are located at the back of the property. No TV or phones in rooms, but staff say wi-fi ‘is coming’.
(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.
( 067-386 1644; 439 Ð Hung Vuong; mains 50,000-100,000d; 9am-9pm) This reputable meat-and-rice joint offers aluminium furniture, bright lights and a dependable menu.
Getting There & Away
Sa Dec is midway between Vinh Long, Chau Doc and Long Xuyen – although getting to the latter two requires 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).