In Vietnam one of our many fascinating excursions off the Aqua Mekong is the visit of Sa Dec, discovering the history and intriguing architectural elements of the ancient house of Marguerite Duras, the celebrated French writer. This home, now a national historic site, was built in 1895 by Huynh Cam Thuan, one of the most famous and affluent Chinese businessmen in Sa Dec at that time. He was the lover of the then young author Marguerite Duras, who later wrote about her affair in her famous novel, ‘The Lover’.
This popular cruise excursion and house tour brings you back in time to relive this romantic love story and follow in the footsteps of Marguerite Duras. Her acclaimed autobiography is set in the Vietnamese village of Sa Dec where she fell in love with the handsome, wealthy Chinese gentleman who was twice her age.
For years, the home of the main male character was closed to the public in Vietnam. Now, it is recognized as a national historic site and is open to tourists.
The three-room wooden house was built in 1895 and occupied 258-square meters at the time. After its renovation in 1917, the home was enhanced with colonial elements of design that blended eastern with western charm. The sophisticated decor within the house portrays the lifestyle in southern Vietnam during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Apart from the fact that the French have long departed, not a lot has changed in Sa Dec since Duras’ day. The roof has yin-yang double-tiles in the style of Northern Vietnamese pagodas, but the French façade, floors, balconies and ceilings, have Renaissance-style embossing. The classical domes above the doors, windows and gates point West, a counterpoint to the interior’s red and gold-trimmed Chinese carving and lacquering, featuring dragons, birds and plants like orchids, apricots, bamboos and chrysanthemums, denoting wealth and rank.
The most distinctive piece of furniture in the house is a low lacquered table, again in the Chinese style, adorned with mother of pearl. The dominant pattern is that of a bat, a symbol of good luck in China.
Aqua Mekong guests who tour the home gain a better understanding of this fascinating period in Vietnamese history and culture and can visit many of the local spots the author references in her book.
Join us on the Aqua Mekong for a taste of Mekong Delta culture which rekindles a fabled romance and treats all to a vibrant Southeast Asian tapestry of Vietnamese history, architecture and culinary delights.