The Garden City (Sa Dec)
Sa Dec is not a destination that many tourists would find themselves while visiting Vietnam. It’s just far enough off the typical routes one might take in the Mekong Delta to bypass the tiny city. Generally people tend to lean more towards the Can Tho area, or south west, hoping to see floating markets. Or even the ferry ride to Chau Doc to make their way to Cambodia. But there is something very special about Sa Dec that I think people miss out on.
There is still a little French colonial maybe even precolonial charm to the town that gives it a feel unlike other towns in the region. The surrounding areas will not charm you, they look pretty much like any other city. Get into the core of the city, however, and one’s perception changes. Passing by the dry goods market and the fresh produce market it’s like stepping back in time. Open air markets that still look like they did fifty or sixty years ago. Old women in pyjama suits and conical hats selling anything from jack fruit to freshly cut pork. The architecture along the river has been untouched for years. The faded colonial colours and the weathered plaster always excites me from an artistic perspective and gives the city s a special character. The one side of the road is what you would expect with the buildings wedged together like Lego blocks, the other there are clusters of umbrellas covering merchants selling all kinds of seafood and fresh
fruit imaginable. It’s a striking contrast to see the fading paint against the fresh produce.
A short drive to the north of the city and the true beauty of Sa Dec opens up. It’s known for being a garden city, growing everything from bedding plants, to flowers, to bonsai trees. Rows upon rows of gardens line the dirt tracks leading to the edge of town. The majority of plants are grown for domestic markets throughout Vietnam. I’ve been told the display of colour and the number of plants is best seen just before the Tet holiday. If you are fortunate enough to arrive during a shipping period you will see truck, carts and boats stacked with beautiful flora being packed off to markets around Vietnam.
Driving to and from Sa Dec is exhilarating and also makes the journey to this little village in The Delta worthwhile. Coming from Can Tho and crossing at the Can Pha Ferry, you can go between secondary highways and river roads that will take to the half way point between Vinh Long and Sa Dec on the QL80 highway. A highly recommended route due to the lack of traffic. Along the way you see many fishing villages and local markets filled with smiley friendly locals, willing to come and check out the new faces, Coming from My Tho, you can take the first right after the suspension bridge and follow a small country road that cuts through rows of coconut plantations. Then cross a ferry at Cho Lach and follow the island road. It is by far the most peaceful and enjoyable piece of road I can imagine. Continue on until you arrive at the Pha Dinh ferry that takes you to Vinh Long. At this point, again, follow the QL80 straight up to Sa Dec. From whatever direction you choose come to or leave from Sa Dec, I’m sure you will not be disappointed.
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