The Huynh Thuy Le ancient house in Sa Dec town in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap, is famous for its unique mixture of East-West architecture. The house was the setting of a passionate love affair between its owner Huynh Thuy Le and Marguerite Duras – a well-known French writer who penned the famous novel L’Amant (The Lover).
The ancient house was built by Huynh Thuy Le’s father – a famous Chinese merchant in 1895 at a busy trading hub on the Sa Dec riverfront. When his father died, Le inherited the house and renovated it in 1917. After Le’s death in 1972, his wife and children settled overseas, leaving the house unused. It became an administrative building in 1975 and a tourist destination in 2007.
The original 2,000-square-meter ancient house used to include a main building, a garage, a kitchen, and a garden, with two sides looking to the streets, but urbanization destroyed everything except for the main building of 250 square meters.
At first glance, it looks like a French villa with the house’s façade, the domes, windows and gates are in the Roman architectural style, which gives the house spacious and airy feeling. But inside the signature Vietnamese traditional architecture is displayed outstandingly on the three-compartment main house. The curved roof covered with yin-yang double tiles resemble the design of temples in pagodas in the Northern region while the front balcony was engraved with a pair of phoenixes, a symbol of “happily ever after”, others were carved with different species of birds, which present wealth and nobility. All luxurious wooden furniture like wardrobes, beds, and altars are also delicately carved. The cabinet, wardrobes, tea sets, vases, gramophones, and TVs still remain intact.
The Huynh Thuy Le ancient house is associated with the real love story between a French girl named Marguerite Duras and Le, whose father strongly opposed their affair due to misalliance and cultural differences. After breaking up with Duras, Le married with another woman at his father’s arrangement. They had a happy marriage with five children who all studied in France.
50 years later, Marguerite Duras wrote a semi-autobiographical novel named L’Amant (The Lover). The novel tells her first heartbreaking 18-month-long affair with the owner of the house. The story was set in 1929 in Saigon and the Mekong Delta. That time, Duras was 15 and Huynh Thuy Le was 32. The novel then was awarded the 1984 Prix Goncourt, the most prestigious literature award in France, and was translated into 43 languages and adapted into a movie directed by Jean Jacques Annaud and released in 1992. However, scenes in the movie were shot at Binh Thuy Ancient House in Can Tho province, not this house. Nowadays, Huynh Thuy Le ancient house is a popular tourist destination in the Mekong Delta region.
- The house’s address: 225A Nguyen Hue street, ward 2, Sa Dec town, Dong Thap province
- Entrance fee: VND 30,000 per person (including a tour guide speaking English, French or Vietnamese, and welcome snack).
- Guests can have lunch here, price: 200,000 VND / person.
- There are two rooms for those want to stay overnight here, the price: 500,000 VND / 1 people / 1 room, 550,000 VND / 2 people / 1 room (Not including other services).