Once the capital of the Dong Thap Province, Sa Dec is a quiet city in South Vietnam’s Mekong Delta Region. Renowned for its beautiful streets lined with flowers and trees, Sa Dec boasts an impressive array of colonial architecture. Apart from its appearance, the city is an important river port, agricultural, trading, and shipping center for Vietnam.
Most tourists skip out on visiting Sa Dec in favor of more popular destinations like My Tho or Can Tho. However, travelers should take a chance and plan a few nights in the city as it may very well surprise you with its upbeat character and busy streets.
Riverside City in the Mekong Delta Region
Sa Dec sits on the left bank of the Han Giang River in the heart of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta Region. Even though the city is somewhat out of the way for travelers in the Mekong Delta, Sa Dec is well connected to other parts of the country by road. In fact, one major highway links Sa Dec directly to the coastal city, Rach Gia via Long Xuyen.
Boats on the river outside of Sa Déc. Photo: Joseph Hunkins
Though the mini-metropolis was once the capital of Dong Thap Province, Sa Dec is now simply a Class-2 city. Even though Sa Dec is nearly in the center of the Mekong Delta Region, the city is somewhat isolated and tourists often choose to visit either Cao Lanh, Vinh Long, or Long Xuyen instead.
Connected by road, all three cities are about 45 minutes to 1 hour away from Sa Dec. Saigon, Vietnam’s famous southern city that now goes by the name Ho Chi Minh is about 3 hours north from Sa Dec. The easiest way for travelers to get to Sa Dec is by hiring a private car or taking a bus to go by road.
Before Sa Dec became an industrial and agricultural stronghold for Southern Vietnam, the city was ruled by the Khmer Empire from Cambodia. Under the Khmer Empire, the city was known as “Phsar Dek”, which is quite similar to the modern name Sa Déc. For hundreds of years, the empire reigned over much of Southern Vietnam until 1757, when the area was returned to Vietnam.
Just over 100 years after Vietnam regained control of Sa Dec, the area was colonized by the French. Starting in the late 1870s and lasting for six decades, the French heavily influenced the city. There are numerous colonial buildings that still stand, with one of the most famous called “The Lover’s House”.
Historic photograph of Sa Déc. Photo: manhhai
Moving on through the years, Sa Dec became a PBR (Patrol Boat, River) Base for American Forces during the Vietnam War. Lasting only during 1966 and 1967, the Sa DecBase was a strategic point for both the US Navy and the Republic of Vietnam Navy. Not extensively developed, the base lacked permanent structures and accommodation.
Near the end of the Vietnam War, Sa Dec was both a city and province. As the area recovered from the battles, the Sa Dec Province was combined with the Kien Phong Province to form the current Dong Thap Province. In April 1994, Sa Dec was replaced as the provincial capital by Cao Lanh, which is just to the north.
Though no longer the provincial capital, Sa Dec continued to thrive and build strong economic foundations for the region.
- Phan Van Nhiêu is the current mayor of Sa Dec.
- A small city, Sa Dec covers an area of 60 sq km (20 sq mi).
- The census from 2019 estimates that the population of Sa Dec is 214,610 people.
Exterior of the Lover’s House in Sa Déc, Vietnam. Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
As a compact city, Sa Dec has a lot to offer tourists in terms of entertainment and attractions. Many are drawn to Sa Dec because of the city’s colonial architecture, but few know of the area’s reputation for growing amazing flowers. With options to explore both the city and countryside, Sa Dec is one of the Mekong Delta’s most underrated vacation destinations.
Highlights in Sa Dec include the Lover’s House, Flower Village Park, Tram Chim National Park, and local markets.
The Lover’s House
Known to locals as the Huynh Thuy Le Ancient House, this piece of beautiful colonial architecture is widely recognized as being tied to the French author Marguerite Duras. The most famous piece of work by Duras was the film, Hiroshima mon amour (1959), for which she wrote the script and won the Academy Award.
Living in Sa Dec from 1928 to 1932, Duras fell in love with a man from a wealthy Chinese family. Though Duras herself never lived in the house, the man’s family did. Immortalized in the film, The Lover, based on Duras’ life, the home has become the city’s top tourist attraction.
Flower Village Park
Planted and blossoming buds at the Flower Village. Photo:
Growing on the bank of the Tien River, which branches off from the Mekong River, the Sa Dec Flower Village Park is the city’s second-biggest tourist attraction after the Lover’s House. Structured in bamboo baskets, the flowers are aligned in rows and are grown using river water. A beautiful sight, the Flower Village Park is always filled with floral scents and bold colors.
Types of flowers that are grown in the park include roses and chrysanthemums. Annually, the flowers come into bloom late in the year, usually during the month of December.
Tram Chim National Park
One destination that is rather far from Sa Dec but frequently gets mentioned as a tourist attraction for the area is the Tram Chim National Park. Located 1 hour and 40 minutes north of Sa Dec, the Tram Chim National Park is a famous wetland area in Vietnam’s Plain of Reeds.
With open swamps and Melaleuca forests, the park is home to rare bird species like the sarus crane. Visitors are encouraged to visit the park with a guide to learn more about the various habitats and ecosystems.
View of the Central Market in Sa Déc. Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Tourists who are spending time in Sa Dec City should visit the local markets. Special to the area, Sa Dec has both markets in the center of town and floating on the river. There are a lot of products available in the markets, but the most popular purchases tend to be from the sections with fresh fruit, local produce, and affordable seafood.
Tourists can navigate the markets on their own but should keep in mind that the streets can get quite crowded on the weekends.
Lacking big resorts and glamorous hotels, accommodation options in Sa Dec are clean and affordable. Many hotels have been remodeled and their smaller size ensures that guests will feel at home during their stay. The highest-rated hotels in Sa Dec are the Hotel Sao Khuê, Nam Phuong Hotel, Flower & Frog Homestay, Thanh Cong Hotel, and Maison en Bambou Phong-Le Vent.
Hotel Sao Khuê – On the river in Sa Dec, Hotel Sao Khuê is a quiet property where guests can relax at the on-site bar, garden, or terrace. A small reception desk has friendly staff while guest rooms have AC and a TV. Private bathrooms and linens give travelers more privacy, though there is the option for backpackers to share a dormitory room too.
Nam Phuong Hotel – One of the more developed hotels, Nam Phuong features a water park, fitness center, lounge, terrace, and 24-hour front desk. Guests have the option of booking a single, double, or quadruple room, all of which have a private bathroom, desk, balcony, TV, and seating area. Located on a quiet street, the hotel is still close to local restaurants and attractions.
Flower & Frog Homestay. Photo: Flower & Frog Homestay Sadec
Flower & Frog Homestay – Another homestay with smaller rooms and private bookings is the Flower & Frog Homestay. Located away from the noisy city streets, the property boasts a restaurant, bar, garden, and community kitchen. Guests are treated to a complimentary breakfast with Asian and vegetarian options and there are English-speaking staff on-site.
Thanh Cong Hotel – Steps inland from the river, Thanh Cong Hotel is a nice property that features a groomed garden, terraces, and a restaurant. A 24-hour front desk is available to provide room service and currency exchange to guests. Room options include a small double, double, standard quadruple, and superior quadruple, which come with a TV, private bathroom, AC, and wardrobe.
Maison en Bambou Phong-Le Vent – Away from the city center, Maison en Bambou Phong-Le Vent is the best homestay for tourists in Sa Dec. The country-like setting ensures an escape and most rooms have a garden view. While some have private bathrooms, rooms come in single and double sizes in addition to there being 8-bed dorms. Provided by the hotel are Wi-Fi and bicycles.
Fresh produce at the local market. Photo: Joseph Hunkins
Not all the hotels and homestays in Sa Dec have their own restaurant and even if they do, travelers might want to explore the city’s restaurants. Usually, the menus will have local dishes featuring fresh ingredients, though some may have a few international options. The top-rated restaurants in Sa Dec are the Dragon Palace, Hu Tiêu Sadec, Khói Quán, and the Nhà Hàng Tám Thành.
Dragon Palace – Set in an ornate building in Sa Dec, Dragon Palace is one of the fanciest hotels in the city. The professional staff is efficient and friendly to ensure that every guest is happy with their meal. Quality chefs serve a variety of local dishes including seafood favorites and meat platters.
Hu Tiêu Sadec – Serving noodle soup and fresh fish, Hu Tiêu Sadec is another big restaurant in the city. Located on the river, the restaurant has a fun atmosphere and good service. Well-rated amongst travelers, the restaurant offers dine-in and takeaway options.
Traditional Vietnamese noodle dish. Photo: mangocyborg
Khói Quán – A small restaurant that is loved for its lively atmosphere, the menu at the Khói Quán features a blend of Vietnamese and European influence. Meals at the restaurant are generous in portions, so travelers can easily place multiple orders to share amongst a group. For convenience, the restaurant does offer takeaway and delivery.
Nhà Hàng Tám Thành – For good food with affordable prices, travelers should have a meal at the Nhà Hàng Tám Thành. Ingredients used by the chefs at the restaurant rely on the local fishermen to provide fresh fish to diners. For vegetarians, there are also a few items on the menu that uses locally sourced vegetables instead.
While there are numerous celebrations in Sa Dec throughout the year, the city’s most famous festival is held to honor the flowers. Hosted when the flowers are in bloom, the festival features musical performances, folk dances, roller skating, flower arrangements, and fruit displays.
During the festival, there are dozens of types of flowers and bonsais brought to be displayed in the city markets. The Sa Dec Flower Village also takes center stage as many people head to the area to view the year’s current budding flowers. Popular with locals and vendors, the festival is expanded every year in the hopes of bringing more international tourists to Sa Dec.
View of the river from Sa Déc. Photo: Joseph Hunkins
Although Sa Dec is a small city, it’s still a rather large area to navigate solely on foot. For tourists, walking around the neighborhoods and markets is a great way to experience the local lifestyle and culture. However, there may be times when travelers need to find transportation to get around the city.
Popular ways to get around Sa Dec include hiring a taxi, renting a motorbike, taking a public bus, or using a bicycle. All these transportation options are affordable, and some hotels may even offer these services to their guests for a reduced or complimentary rate.
Sa Dec has two weather seasons throughout the year like much of Vietnam. The wet season can start as early as May and lasts through October. While most would avoid the rain, the increased levels of water make the area more beautiful. With green landscapes, the rain transforms Sa Dec into a lush jungle.
For those who would rather avoid the rain and see the flowers bloom, the best time to visit Sa Dec is at the end of the year during the months of November and December. January is also a popular time to visit because of the New Year celebrations.
Much quieter than other places in the Mekong Delta, travelers can take an easy pace when visiting Sa Dec. Lulled by the slow-flowing waterways and blossoming flowers, the city will enchant you. Additionally, the historic, beautiful, and vibrant attractions in Sa Dec deserve to be seen by more tourists, and taking a few days to explore this southern city is highly recommended.
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