Tea and sympathy with the zen mistress of Bamboo Village

(No.8, Vol.3, Sep 2013 Vietnam Heritage Magazine,Advertorial)

A glass of soothing green Vietnamese tea was set before me and I immediately felt at ease. It was clear from the beginning that this was going to be a conversation and not an interview. I was in the company of that rare kind of person who, after only a few minutes talking, makes you feel as if you have known her for years. I had no trouble communicating with Mrs Ngo Thanh Loan, as she is fluent in English, holding both American and Vietnamese passports and dividing her time between the two lands. She is the original creative inspiration and the driving force behind The Bamboo Village Beach Resort & Spa at Mui Ne, Phan Thiet. This award-winning four-star hotel, one of the first to appear on this lovely stretch of the coastline, is to celebrate its fifteenth birthday in September. I was chatting with her at their sales office in HCMC to try to find out what makes her tick.

Mrs Ngo Thanh Loan, the President of Bamboo Village Beach
Resort & Spa, receives the Certificate of Excellence for the resort awarded by The Guide in August, 2013

I asked Mrs Loan from where she had taken her ideas for Bamboo Village. ‘Well,’ she replied, ‘I spent a lot of time before starting construction looking at resorts in Thailand. I discovered people did not like to stay in impersonal block hotels that could be practically anywhere in the world. They preferred low-rise places that gave you a feeling for the country and area you are in.’ At Bamboo Village, accommodation is in well-spaced-out bungalows giving a rustic village feel and is made from Hawaiian classic bamboo with thatched roof exteriors, not unlike some dwellings you may find in the nearby countryside. Using these same principles, a second resort hotel is at the planning stage at La Gi on the coast of the same province, but closer to Ho Chi Minh City.
‘Then’, she continued, ‘I also noticed how universally people love nature’. The coconut trees around the swimming pools will give you the ambiance of the Mekong Delta and the gardens with its copious tropical greenery will make you feel you are in a rain forest. There is the wide golden sand beach not far from your bungalow and of course the infinite azure expanse of the ocean to add to your meditation. Be prepared for some mild encounters with nature herself in the form of bird life, frogs, colourful lizards and bats at night time. With sprays and netting, however, mosquitoes are kept well at bay. Finally, for your spiritual relaxation, the resort spa specialises in yoga.
Next, I was anxious to learn Mrs Loan’s philosophy on how to manage a hotel successfully. ‘I have learned a lot and apply a lot from my religion, Buddhism’, was the thrust of the reply. ‘There is the “circle of happiness” which we must keep turning. First I need to keep my staff happy. We make sure all new staff are welcomed and assigned a mentor. We listen to our staff and hold regular appraisals. There are no big hierarchical differences and everyone works as a team. Once the staff is happy, this is passed on to the guests. We listen to the guests and are always looking at ways of improving performance and increasing guest satisfaction. We offer value for money and provide a big breakfast buffet to cater for all nationalities and tastes. In short ‘Share, Care, Win’ is our motto and the win is for everyone.’
This share-and-care policy extends beyond the confines of Bamboo Village into the community of Binh Thuan province and the world beyond. She is an effective fund raiser for worthy causes such as a heart operation for a Mui Ne villager, a clean water supply project, or a construction of a bridge. She is also active in helping children with congenital hearing conditions and works with Buddhist monasteries in poor areas.
The outreach extends even to co-operating with Catholic nuns who run houses for homeless children in several provinces. ‘They all call me Mum when I go to visit.’ she says.
Mrs Loan is active in the Tourist Association of Mui Ne, promoting both the meaning of her hotel and the destination itself in exhibitions. She is upbeat about the future of tourism in Vietnam. ‘We still have many places to develop. Look how long, for instance, our coastline is compared to that of Thailand.’ says Mrs Loan.
Mrs Loan reinforces the idea that you will only win if you listen to, co-operate with and above all care for those around you, and not simply those directly in your employ. In a troubled world where suffering and negativity abound, it is heart-warming to be reminded that there are people who do care. As I was coming away from the Bamboo Village office I was fully aware it was not only the Vietnamese tea that had soothed me but also the spirit of the woman herself.

Bamboo Village Beach Resort& Spa
38 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, Ham Tien Ward, Phan Tiet City, Binh Thuan Province,
tel: (062) 3847-007
Office at 90 Tran Dinh Xu St, Dist.1, HCMC, tel: (08) 3838-9358

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