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A Sa Dec Travel Guide Through the Eyes of ‘The Lover’

  • By Easia Admin
  • August, 10, 2017

When you’ve got the travel bug, you’ll start to find glimmers of travel inspiration everywhere you look – in movies, songs, novels, everywhere! Here we have a little reference that has inspired us recently: L’amante (The Lover) by Marguerite Duras (1914 – 1996). Like many who have read the novel, we are drawn to the portrait of Sa Dec, a provincial city in the Mekong Delta of Southern Vietnam.

We thought we’d take you on a short journey down memory lane in Sa Dec, where the events of “The Lover” are based. So buckle up and off we go.

In the novel, the Sa Dec of the 1930s is undoubtedly different from the streets you’ll see today. However, its charming old colonial houses and Mekong Delta culture remain ever-alluring to those who wish to visit this ancient land, once called “the garden of Cochin China” for its gorgeous flower gardens and trees.
(Photo courtesy of

1. Dwelling in the mansion of Huynh family
Local people and tourists alike simply call it the “lover’s house”. But as a proclaimed “national relic for architectural arts”, the mansion is definitely worth more than a second look.

Its staple, lavishing décor of the French-Vietnam Indochina era has been well preserved to this day. With the turn of the century and East-meet-West architecture, the house offers a nostalgic feeling to those visiting. You could even check the time with the hundred-year-old clock hanging on the living room ceiling.
For those with a curious streak, try having a glance at the Trung Vuong primary school, known as The School for Young Ladies (L’École de Jeunes Filles) in the past. Once upon a time the mother of ‘The Lover’ was the principal of the school and her melancholy daughter (Duras) studied here.

The young girl took her classes behind those yellow walls and brownish red bricks – an outstanding remark of early 20th-century colonial architecture.

2. Strolling along the river bank

The Mekong Delta in Sa Dec, as described in the novel, still “…stretch[es] as far as the eye can see, the rivers flow as if the earth sloped downwards…”. Nowadays though, the growing number of small kiosks by the bank, along with the lapping sounds of ferries and small boats give this land an urban ambience.
(Photo courtesy of

There is still a chance of catching the rustic tranquillity here and there along with your walk. The economic development has not fully touched Sa Dec, as you will see.

3. Waiting for the ferry while letting your thoughts wander, just like Marguerite Duras – or her protagonist once did.

It will be potentially crowded, which is not a really comfortable feeling in the heat of Southeast Asia. But truly local experiences aren’t always the most comfortable – that’s the point of them. Enjoying the scenic view of the two river banks while giving your mind some time to relax away from Western world distraction. And who knows, maybe you’ll have a brilliant idea for a best-selling novel!

4. No. You will not see “the floating market”
When speaking of the Mekong Delta, it’s commonly assumed that there will be a floating market! But Sa Dec has this lovely thing called a traditional market instead. The old colonial construction and hustle and bustle from early morning to twilight only add to the town’s attraction.
(Photo courtesy of


5. People here are generous and down-to-earth

It has always been a trait of people from the south. The difficult weather might have etched a slightly hash look on their faces but fear not, Mekong Delta people are well known for their hospitality!

Lastly, no one is really sure of what was real and what was fictional in the autobiography. What Duras portrayed of Sa Dec was from her own perspective after all. However, we believe there is more to see and experience when traveling to this charming slice of the great Mekong Delta than could ever be confined to a book…

The origin of the Lover: The young Huynh Thuy Le (left) and Marguerite Duras (right)
For more information about this or other local experiences in the South of Vietnam, please contact us at

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