As the Tet (Lunar New Year) draws closer, Sa Dec is transforming itself from a sleepy little town on the banks of the Tien River into the Mekong Delta’s mammoth flower market.
The Tien, the Mekong River’s main distributary, flows quietly through Sa Dec, a popular Mekong Delta destination during the winter months that make up the town’s high flower season.
Sa Dec’s outer villages are abuzz: gardeners are busy pruning and watering pots of apricot trees, orchids, roses, daisies, marigolds, cockscombs, hollyhocks and nearly 1,000 other kinds of flowers that will be on display in festival-like settings during the run-up to Tet.
For years, Sa Dec flowers and bonsai trees have provided local farmers solid incomes – up to several hundred million dong per hectare – while also drawing a blend of curious foreign and Vietnamese tourists.
The best place to visit during and before Tet is the town’s Tan Quy Dong Ward, the Sa Dec’s flower-growing cradle.
More than 100 years ago, Tan Quy Dong rice farmers took advantage of their free time after the harvest at the end of the year to grow flowers with which they decorated their homes during Tet.
The flower growers became known for the generousness, giving out the multi-colored buds of their labor to their friends, families and neighbors.
Gradually, floriculture in Tan Quy Dong bloomed and flower fields expanded across the ward. The busiest time is before Tet, when the gardens and orchards surrounding Tan Quy Dong bloom like a quilt blanket filled with all the colors of the horticultural rainbow.
Tran Van Thang from the Sa Dec Association of Ornamental Plant and Pet Tenders said that a few decades ago only 30-40 families grew flowers as a business. “But now the number has increased to thousands,” he said.
What is now known semiofficially as the Sa Dec Flower Village covers nearly 300 hectares in buds, blossoms and petals. Certainly the Mekong Delta’s flower hub, the area is now also one of the country’s largest flower-growing regions, with Sa Dec specialties now shipping abroad to China, Laos and Cambodia. Luckily, Sa Dec is known to have “four springs” so seasonality is never a problem.
Fields of dreams
Driving into Sa Dec, you can see what looks like endless rows of potted flowers on wooden racks nearby the rice fields. Visitors are free to stroll the paths between the flower gardens on foot or wander the orchards by bicycle.
Local families usually have no problem showing off their prized plants, and many are more than willing to give impromptu tours or invite wide-eyed guests home for tea.
Typically, Sa Dec farmers grow flowers in bamboo pots filled with soil and burned rice husks that are hung on racks above their flooded fields. Looking out at the fields, you can see farmers gliding by their rice and flowers on boats as they water the tops of the plants.
Sa Dec is 140 kilometers from HCMC and is easily accessible by road. From HCMC, travel southwest along National Road 1. After crossing the My Thuan Bridge, turn right on National Road 80 and a pleasant 30-45 minute drive along the river peppered with brick kilns brings you right to the heart of Sa Dec.