Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Huynh Thuy Le’s Ancient House

The quaint riverfront at Sa Dec is cluttered by the daily market. Emerging from the stacks of fruit, it’s possible to find the house of Marguerite Duras’ first lover. French novelist Duras lived in Sa Dec with her family and based her famous book ‘The Lover’ on an illicit affair she enjoyed with the Chinese gentleman who became her beau. Huynh Thuy Le lived at this beautiful courtyard home on Nguyen Hue Street. Built in 1895 and restored in 1917, the interior wooden frames are stunning — spirals of carved pheasants, peacocks and small birds painted in gold leaf pose in crafted wood. The floor tiles are from France and the centrepiece is a fearsome, striking golden image of the rotund Quan Cong, a revered Chinese warrior. Mr Huynh’s family were wealthy and owned two-thirds of the town, guide Xuan told me. On the walls are photographs of Duras and the Huynh family and the Sa Dec school where Duras’ mother worked; Mr Huynh later married and had five daughters and three sons. The Nha Co Huynh Thuy Le also has several rooms for guests to stay in. Failing that book in advance for lunch or dinner in the front room. And, failing that, Xuan and her colleague Huynh will invite you for tea and candied ginger... the only way to pass the afternoon in the most appealing town in the delta.