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[Photos] The Incredibly Eye-Catching, Organic Signage of Sa Đéc

Signs are like voices.

They can be bold or meek, enticing or off-putting, warm or cold, welcoming or threatening. Both voices and signage have the primary purpose of transmitting information via language, but they also have aesthetics that impact that message. 

One cannot help but consider the effect of a sign’s style when gazing at the lettering found on buildings in Sa Dec. The Mekong Delta city is home to an arresting assortment of typography scrawled across dazzlingly pastel buildings. 

Vietnamese modernist architecture shares some design elements with mid-20th-century structures around the world, but Vietnamese architects concocted their own version of the style, thanks in part to the bright colors most suitable to the tropics. Striking blues, reds, and greens used on storefronts and banners counteract the brutalism that typifies many buildings in other locations. This is apparent when viewing the homes and shops in Dong Thap Province.

From Nhựt Tân to Kỳ Xương, the signs are not announcing anything out of the ordinary, yet they catch one’s attention and demand appreciation the same way a grocery list might if it were sung by Nina Simone.

Sa Dec might not be on the top of many people’s desired tourism destinations, yet a morning ambling around and stopping by the side of the road to admire the signs and colorful fronts they adorn serves as a great reminder that travel is what one makes of it. If you approach the mundane surroundings with curiosity and a keen eye, you’re likely to find something extraordinary.

Of course, Sa Dec is home to at least one conventional tourism site. The Lover (L'amant), an autobiographical novel written in French by Marguerite Duras, takes place in the city. The story details the romance between a 15-year-old French girl and an older, wealthy Chinese businessman that began in 1929. Her older lover lived at an impressive wooden home that his father had built in 1895. It features a unique confluence of European and East Asian architectural elements. After the house's descendants emigrated abroad, it was briefly used as a local police station before opening for tourists. 

The ostentatious home and other modernist buildings in the city with creative signage exemplify southern Vietnam’s eclectic style that takes inspiration from bits and pieces of outside influences to craft something wholly original, not unlike a sparrow constructing a nest out of materials pilfered from a scrapyard. And while we rightfully bemoan the loss of such artifacts in the face of cheaper, global trend-conforming constructions, some gems like these in Sa Dec remain. 

Take a look below:

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