A 124-year-old Mekong Delta house bespeaks opulence and romance

By Quynh Tran   October 14, 2019 | 12:12 pm GMT+7

An old house in Dong Thap allows a peek into the opulence and romance that inspired The Lover, a novel by Marguerite Duras.

The Huynh Thuy Le ancient house was built by Huynh Cam Thuan, a wealthy Chinese businessman in 1895 by the Sa Dec river in the bustling Sa Dec City, Dong Thap Province in the Mekong Delta.The house, at 255A Nguyen Hue Street, has a mixed flair of Western and Chinese architecture sitting on an area of 258 square meters. When Thuan passed away, his youngest son, Huynh Thuy Le, whose name the house took after, inherited the house.

The 258 square meter Huynh Thuy Le House was built in 1895 by Huynh Cam Thuan, a wealthy Chinese businessman, on the banks of the Sa Dec River, Dong Thap Province. The house, on 255A Nguyen Hue Street, combines Chinese architecture with some Western elements.

When Thuan passed away, his youngest son, Huynh Thuy Le, inherited the house, and it was named after him.

The house is interesting to many not only because of its physical attributes but also Le’s love story. By chance, Le met Marguerite Duras, a writer on a ferry in 1929 and the two sparked an interest in one another, but Let’s father didn’t approve the relationship. After the writer returned to France, Le married a Vietnamese woman. Marguerite Duras turned the union into an autobiographical novel The Lover.The work was awarded the Goncourt, Frances top literature award and translated into 43 languages, adapted into an eponymous film starring Hong Kong actor Tony Leung.

Besides its architectural features and artifacts that reflect the luxurious lifestyle of a very wealthy person many years ago, the house acquired added interest with Le’s love story.

By chance, Le met Marguerite Duras, a writer, on a ferry in 1929. Le's father did not approve of their relationship and his will prevailed. After the writer returned to France, Le married a Vietnamese woman. Duras turned their relationship into an autobiographical novel, The Lover.

The work was awarded the Goncourt prize, France's top literature award and translated into 43 languages. It was later adapted into an eponymous film starring Hong Kong actor Tony Leung.

The nostalgic beauty and the love story attract many tourists to Sa Dec. For nearly 10 years, the Huynh Thuy Le house has allowed visitors to stay at the cost VND 550,000 per room per night with provided breakfast and lunch.The house has only two bedrooms so reservations are required. In the fully equipped bedrooms, the movie The Lover is pre-set on TV.For those who only want to visit the place, the admission is VND 20,000 per person.

The love story attracts many tourists to Sa Dec. For nearly 10 years, the Huynh Thuy Le house has allowed visitors to stay there for VND550,000 ($24) per room per night, inclusive of breakfast and lunch.

The house has only two bedrooms, so reservations are required. In the fully equipped bedrooms, the The Lover is pre-set on TV. For those who only want to visit the place, the admission fee is VND20,000 ($0.86) per person.

On the roof, the intricately carved reliefs are still in tact.

On the roof of the house, the intricately carved reliefs are still intact.

The arches have the 17th-century Roman design with flower, plant and bird carving.

The house's arches have a 17th-century Roman design with engraved patterns of flowers, plants and birds.

The house is reminiscent of a French villa. The floor level from the outside gets gradually lower as one walks towards the center of the house. This reflects the feng shui belief signfying money flowing in the house.

The house is reminiscent of a French villa. The floor level from the outside gets inclines downward gradually towards the center of the house, reflecting the feng shui practice that signifies money flowing into the house.

The house has three spaces with doors, pillars, altars painted in gold color with phoenix carving. The alter of Quan Cong, a Chinese general is placed in the middle of the house.

The house has three spaces with doors, pillars, altars painted in gold color with phoenix carvings. The altar of Quan Cong, a Chinese general (196–247 or 198–249, according to Wikipedia), is placed in the middle of the house.

Carvings of different creatures stand out in the living room. The gold color represents the nobility of the home owner.

Carvings of different creatures stand out in the living room. The gold color represents the nobility of the home owner.

On the wall, there are many family photos, including the portrait of Huynh Thuy Le and his wife.

On the wall are many family photos, including the portrait of Huynh Thuy Le and his wife.

The interior of the house remains including the furniture, watch, mirror, chandelier intact.

Much of the house's interior is intact, including the the furniture, watch, mirror and chandelier.

A set of teapot, dishes, cups that is about as old as the house itself is still in the cupboard.

A set of teapot, dishes, cups that is about as old as the house itself is still in the cupboard.

Behind the altar of Quan Cong, there are two bedrooms on either side. In the middle of the corridor was a wooden bed bench tinted with the history of the residence.After Le died, his children left the country and lived overseas. The house was requisitioned as a police headquarters until 2007 when it was repurposed as a touristic spot.The house welcomes tens of thousands of international visitors every year, a lot among them is the Francophone community. It was certified as a provincial monument in 2008 and a national monument in 2009.

Behind the altar of Quan Cong, there are two bedrooms on either side. In the middle of the corridor is a wooden bed bench.

After Le died, his children left the country and settled abroad. The house was requisitioned as a police headquarters until 2007 when it was repurposed as a touristic spot. It welcomes tens of thousands of foreign visitors every year, a lot among them from the Francophone community.

The ancient house was certified as a provincial monument in 2008 and a national monument in 2009.

 
 
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