Visit the birthplace of one of France’s most accomplished authors as you trace the footsteps of her formative years in Saigon and Sa Dec, laid-back town in the Mekong Delta


5 Days, 4 Nights     FROM US$ 795 PER PERSON

This tour transports you back to a bygone era to follow the footsteps of one of France’s most celebrated writers, Marguerite Duras. Born and raised in Vietnam to French parents, Duras’ most acclaimed work ’L’Amant’ is set in old Saigon and the laid-back town of Sa Dec, where she lived until the age of 17. While in Sa Dec you’ll also have the chance to visit the home of her former lover, who was the inspiration for her novel.

Although much has changed, Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, still retains plentiful elements of the old-world charm that Duras depicts in her autobiographical novel which tells the tale of her love affair with a wealthy Chinese merchant’s son.

Throughout the five-day, four-night tour you’ll have the chance to visit some of the places Duras makes reference to in her book, as well as seeing some of the historical buildings and places that molded Duras’ early life.

As well as iconic attractions such as the Opera House, Continental Hotel, City Hall, the Post Office, Notre Dame Basilica, you’ll also visit Reunification Palace, the capture of which marked the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. You will visit Le Quy Don High School, where Duras studied, and the house on Testard Street where she and her family lived.

After exploring Ho Chi Minh City you’ll travel by boat to Sa Dec, along the way stopping at Cai Be and Vinh Long allowing you to soak up and more accurately understand Duras’ world.


Each of our itineraries can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and our destination based teams will start planning a unique and personalized trip.

The Backyard Travel Team,


Climb aboard ’L’Amant’, a boat named after Duras’ novel, which will take you through the Mekong Delta to Sa Dec, Cai Be and Vinh Long
See significant lesser-known sites of Duras’ formative years, including two of her former houses, the school she attended and the former house of her lover as described in her novel
Take a cooking demonstration aboard ’L’Amant’ and learn how to prepare some of Vietnam’s traditional dishes
Visit one of Vinh Long’s famous orchards and try some mouth-watering tropical fruit fresh from the vines

Daily Itinerary

Daily Itinerary

  • Start
  • Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City

    Welcome to Vietnam! Upon arrival, your guide will meet you at Ton Son Nhat International Airport and transfer you by private car to your hotel. The remainder of your day is free to spend at your leisure, either exploring the exciting city on foot, or relaxing at one of the many cafés, bars or restaurants around town. Feel free to ask your guide for a restaurant recommendation or a tip for local markets or parks.

    Ho Chi Minh City, still affectionately known as Saigon, is Vietnam’s largest city and was once the capital of the French colony of Cochin-china. The city lines the banks of the Saigon River and is home to approximately nine million people. This tailor-made tour will open your eyes to Vietnam and the influence of the French as you follow the footsteps of one of France’s most noted literary legends, Marguerite Duras. Born in what was then known as Gia-Dinh (subsequently known as Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City), Duras lived in Vietnam until the age of 17 before moving to France to study. Many of her best literary works are based upon her time spent in Southeast Asia.

    Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City

    Meals included on this day: None

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  • Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City

    You’ll start your day with a hearty breakfast, followed by a fun rickshaw (known locally as a ‘cyclo’) ride through the streets of old Saigon. Along the ride, you’ll pass famous streets, such as Dong Khoi Street (once known as Catinat Street) where Marguerite Duras’ mother used to work at the Eden Cinema. You’ll also pass many French colonial-style buildings around town, namely the Opera House, Continental Hotel, City Hall, the Post Office and Notre Dame Basilica.

    Along the rickshaw tour you’ll visit the Reunification Palace, which was built on the grounds of the Presidential Palace, a main landmark of the city in Duras’ time. It was this building that North Vietnamese tanks seized on the morning of April 30, 1975, as Saigon fell, ending the Vietnam War. This fascinating building where time has stood still, and walking through its empty, abandoned halls is an eerie experience.

    After visiting the palace, your tour will continue, taking in significant sites of the one of France’s most famous writers, Duras. You’ll stop at Le Quy Don High School, formerly Chasseloup-Laubat High School that Duras attended between 1929 and 1931. You’ll then pass by the house where she and her family lived, on Testard Street.

    After lunch at a local Vietnamese restaurant on the grounds of the city’s former opium factory, you’ll head to Cholon, the city’s Chinatown district. This was the area where Duras and her lover used to meet and spend their evenings together; escapades which formed the substance for her most acclaimed work L’Amant, which depicts her youthful affair with the son of a Chinese business magnate, heir to a large fortune. The novel was awarded the Prix Goncourt in 1984, and was also turned into a movie in 1992 under the English title The Lover.

    Today’s Chinatown has evolved somewhat since those days but the district is still as fascinating and captivating to discover as ever. You’ll have time to wander the markets and shops of the area, and experience the buzz of the busy streets. When your feet get weary, why not take a break outside one of Vietnam’s bustling coffee shops set on the street, or in one of the city’s ‘skinny’ buildings.

    Next you’ll pay a visit to the Thien Hau Temple, which is dedicated to Thien Hau, the Lady of the Sea, and contains some striking porcelain dioramas depicting scenes of history and an alter to the goddess with three impressive statues.

    Your evening is yours to spend as you please, perhaps wandering the city’s streets. Feel free to ask your guide for their restaurant recommendation or for where to go to see the city’s nightlife.

    Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and Lunch

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  • Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City - Cai Be - Vinh Long - Sa Dec

    After breakfast you will hop on board a shared coach (departing at 9:30am) for a two-hour transfer to Cai Be for your overnight boat trip.

    Cai Be lies in the very heart of the Mekong Delta in the Tien Giang Province. On arrival, you’ll set foot on board ‘L’Amant’, a boat named after Duras’ famous novel. Once you’ve cast off you’ll enjoy a delectable lunch as you get acquainted with the charismatic crew, as the vessel begins the journey to Vinh Long.

    Once you’ve landed at Vinh Long in the early afternoon, you’ll then transfer to a smaller boat for a short trip to the An Binh Islands. On arrival, you’ll continue the tour by bicycle to visit Tien Chau ancient pagoda, which was restored in 1899, and discover the everyday life in the Mekong Delta.

    After stopping at the ancient pagoda you’ll visit a traditional Vietnamese house and enjoy some mouth-watering tropical fruit. You’ll then hop back into a small boat for a tour along the canals and make a stop at a local fruit orchard for which Cai Be is famous and helps sustain the region’s economy.

    In the evening you’ll be treated to a delightful dinner aboard ‘L’Amant’.

    Overnight in Sa Dec

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

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  • Day 4: Sa Dec - Cai Be

    After breakfast on board the boat, you’ll visit Sa Dec, an old-fashioned town famous for its blooming flowers and bonsai trees, and where Marguerite Duras spent a large part of her childhood. During your visit you’ll stop to visit the former house of Huynh Thuy Le, (Duras’ former lover) as described in her novel L’Amant, which is now open to the public. After visiting the house you’ll head to a Chinese temple and stop at Huynh Thuy Le’s tomb.

    After the tomb visit, you will have the chance to pass the school where Marguerite’s mother spent time working as a teacher, as well as the house she used to live in which are both often referenced in her award-winning novel. On the way back, you’ll stroll through the lively market streets of this fascinating place and soak up the atmosphere of this charming town.

    Lunch is served aboard ‘L’Amant’ which will be followed in the afternoon with a cooking class. You’ll learn how to prepare some of the typical Vietnamese delicacies and dishes before relaxing on the sun deck while the boat drifts back to Cai Be.

    In the evening you will enjoy a delightful dinner and stay overnight on board ‘L’Amant’.Please Note: the school is closed during Tet (Vietnamese New Year festival) and other public holidays.

    Overnight in Cai Be

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

  • Day 5: Cai Be - Ho Chi Minh City

    On your final day, after breakfast on board L’Amant, you’ll check-out (8:00 am) and board on a local sampan boat and sail through Cai Be’s quaint floating market then take a rowing boat through the numerous creeks and canals.

    After soaking up the atmosphere of the bustling market and serenity of the Mekong Delta, you’ll visit a period house that was built over 100 years ago and a traditional rice popcorn factory and taste the local specialties.

    After the visit, you’ll be driven by car two hours back to Ho Chi Minh City, arriving around 1:00pm. You’ll then be free until your transfer to the airport for your flight home, or on to your next destination.

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast

All of our Tours can be Tailored, Just Ask!

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Tour Details

All of our itineraries can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and we’ll start planning your unique personalized trip!

Tour prices are a guideline only, and are based on two persons travelling together, sharing a double or twin room in luxury accommodation. Each tour price and can be adjusted depending on budget, activities included and standard of accommodation desired.

Tour and airfare prices include all applicable taxes and are subject to change without prior notice until services are booked.

You, your holiday and booking direct: Backyard Travel are on the ground year-round in Asia, which means you are booking direct with a local travel company, allowing you to save on the cost of your holiday. Our tailor-made tours are designed by local Travel Specialists who investigate every aspect of the trip themselves, giving you a unique view of each destination.

icon Included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Accommodation with daily breakfast at selected hotels
Private tours, transfers and all services as mentioned in the itinerary
Services of a private driver and air-conditioned vehicles
Service of English speaking guides in every location
Entrance fees for all mentioned sights visited
Meals as mentioned in the itinerary

icon Not included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Domestic and international flights
Departure taxes if applicable
Meals other than those mentioned in the itinerary
Early check-in and late check-out at hotels
Personal expenses (such as laundry, telephone, drinks, etc.)
Tips for guides and drivers
Personal travel insurance
Visa fees (contact us for further information)

Why Backyard Travel?

Our experienced travel specialists possess years of local insider knowledge, because they live here.

We have offices in all of our destinations in asia, fully staffed and open all year-round.

With backyard travel you are booking direct, allowing you to save and benefit local residents.

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