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The heroes of their own stories
Besides the mesmerizing landscape, one other main reason to get fascinated with the region of Ninh Binh is its warm-hearted people. Not only are they cheerful, and hardworking, but they also treat travelers with genuine care and attention. In fact, Ninh Binh residents are known to retain a beautifully innocent charm and kindness.
Spontaneity, genuine and sympathetic approach, as well as dedication are essential qualities that undoubtedly make the difference. That is one of the reasons why we decided to find these precious qualities in the heart of the surrounding villages, among the local population. So expect to be received with a warm welcome full of sincerity, and to experience a service without pretense. You will never be welcomed as a customer, but always as a friend.
More than half of our employees have been working with us since the opening of our ecolodge, and no matter how far away you are from Ninh Binh, you can instantly get to know our Tam Coc Garden family, one unique story at a time. Each narrative, just like a piece of the mosaic fits into the bigger picture of Tam Coc Garden’s tale.
My name is Tâm, and I was born in the traditional stone village of Ninh Van, Ninh Binh. My parents were agricultural workers and our family wasn’t very well off. I remember feeling extremely lucky in 6th grade when I had the opportunity to learn English. It soon became the one subject that seemed to come naturally to me, and since then, I have been holding a dream to be able to speak the language well enough to communicate with foreigners.
I have been a receptionist at Tam Coc Garden for over 6 years now, and I couldn’t be happier because every single day, I am reminded that my love for English language gave me the energy to follow my dreams and to get where I am now. I feel so privileged to meet so many people around the world, and discover their fascinating cultures and I’m passionate about helping travelers in a foreign land while allowing them to understand more about Vietnamese culture.
Back in 2012, Ninh Binh used to be so different, and I feel extremely grateful for the development in tourism these past few years because not only did it improve our infrastructure, but it also helped me find my dream job.
Tam Coc Garden is both a neighbor and a second family, where my husband and sister have become my colleagues.
I am Tinh and I am 30 years old and I was born and raised in Ninh Binh. After graduating from Hanoi University, I worked for several places in the capital in the field of tourism. At the end of 2014, I decided to relocate to my hometown. Several people have asked me why I left Hanoi, the city with so much potential and many opportunities, but the simple truth is that I wanted to be close to my family. As long as I had the opportunity to work in the tourism sector, I was happy.
Shortly after returning home, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Tam Coc Garden, an ecolodge that from the start felt so welcoming. Working at the front desk, the property's central location and the primary link between different departments and guests, I learned a lot in a short time. Communicating with guests on a daily basis has completely broadened my general knowledge about the world, and it is the side of my work that I appreciate the most because each day is different, and after spending almost 6 years as a receptionist, I can say that I still love my job.
One factor that makes Tam Coc Garden even more special to me is that this is the place where I met my other half Dũng, who works in the Tech department. We got married in 2018 and since then we simply walk to work as we live next door. It’s something truly invaluable to my family, especially compared to most colleagues who must travel + 20km every day. I can thus save time to be with our little girl “Mango”. My husband and I both have rotating shifts so we can divide the time to take care of our child, which unfortunately means we spend less time at home together. Despite this, we still try to balance everything between work and family in order to build our cosy nest full of simple happiness.
My journey from being a woman who only knew how to embroider and work in the fields, to becoming a Housekeeping Manager
I’m Ha, and I was born and raised in a family of farmers in the peaceful Hai Nham village, the neighboring area opposite Tam Coc Garden.
Not as lucky as many other women, growing up, I only received education until 9th grade and went straight to work after that, to support my family. I got married very early which unfortunately ended in a divorce, and me becoming a single mom of two.
I used to have various little jobs from farming to sewing to basically doing anything I could find. Raising two children by myself, this was an extremely difficult period for me, with an unstable income which in turn affected my family’s quality of life.
Since the opening of Tam Coc Garden however, I found the opportunity to work on a daily basis, with a fixed monthly salary. The beginnings weren’t easy, but I was never afraid of challenges as the hope for a better future for my children would always push me to work harder. Of course I had doubtful moments during my career, wondering whether I meet the requirements and everyone’s expectations, but with the enthusiastic guidance I have received throughout the years, I managed to go from Room Attendant to Housekeeping Manager. Having a stable income, my family’s quality of life has improved a lot, and the future of my children looks much brighter today, which I couldn’t be more grateful for. In addition, half of my family members have been working in this place for over 5 years, my younger brother as a Technical Supervisor and my sister-in-law as a Receptionist. It's heart-warming to say that Tam Coc Garden went from being our neighbor, to becoming our second home.
My name is Duong, I'm 30 years old and I was born and raised in Ninh Binh close to Bai Dinh pagoda.
From a young age, I enjoyed studying foreign languages and dreamed that I could one day study abroad, but I never found the financial means to do so. I started learning English at 12, and went to university to study Russian. After graduating, I worked in a hotel in Mui Ne where I met a lot of tourists from different countries. I was suddenly eager to talk to them in their own languages. Since then, I have started learning German, Chinese, and Polish on my own. My favorite quote is “Learn, learn more, learn forever” after all.
I started my journey at Tam Coc Garden in July 2018 as a waiter and bartender. During these past 2 years, I have learnt so much, and met truly amazing people including my wife, who also works in the Food & Beverage department and with whom I now have a lovely daughter. My small family motivates me every single day to become a better employee, colleague, husband and father. Currently, my manager is teaching me a bit of French, and on the side I am learning Dutch and Hebrew. My desire is to understand the culinary language and culture of each guest’s nation and have a rich and meaningful conversation through which we exchange valuable cultural information about our respective countries. I hope that my actions contribute in some way to my beautiful homeland.
I believe that fate has brought me to Tam Coc Garden in order to make me become the person I am today
I’m Thu, I was born in the village of Non Khe - Yen Tu - Yen Mo - Ninh Binh and raised in a family of farmers along with my 2 sisters. Back then, it was common for a family without a son to receive a lot of judgment from other people but my parents have always supported me and my siblings, providing us with the best possible education, hoping we wouldn’t work covered in mud like they had to.
I used to dream of becoming an English teacher, but the teaching conditions in rural areas weren’t great so when I applied to the Pedagogy Section in the National University of Foreign Languages, I failed. Perhaps it was then my predestined fate to go back to Ninh Binh and study accounting instead, because right when I graduated, Tam Coc Garden had just opened. I applied as an accountant, and with the help of Mrs. Huong, the owner of Tam Coc Garden and my colleagues, I improved immensely, gaining valuable experience and skills from the smallest things like how to compose an email, to making excel documents.
I am now a Product Service Supervisor and my sister has become one of my colleagues. Although our workplace is far away from our home, and that we have to commute 50km every day by motorbike, we truly believe that fate has brought us both to Tam Coc Garden to help us become who we are today and we will commit to this place, through thick and thin.
Born and raised in a farming family with 7 siblings, my parents have always done their best so that their children can find professional stability.
Since childhood, my dream was to become a police officer, but unfortunately I did not manage to pass all the requirements. I decided to join the military, but soon after discovering this environment, I realized it wasn’t what I expected. After 2 years of uncertainty and confusion, I decided to enroll in a cooking school. At first I just thought it was going to be a job, like any other, to help me earn a living.
However, through the process of working and interacting with many successful people, I was enlightened by a sudden inspiration that I had never experienced before. It was exactly then that I realized that cooking is not only a simple job to make a living, but it's also, if not mostly about love and passion. When I walk into the kitchen, I can see myself putting my soul into the food and doing what I really love.
Being a Chef is such a creative and rewarding job at the same time. The best moment for me is seeing guests genuinely enjoying the dishes that I have created with meticulous care, especially those that showcase my homeland’s cuisine. To this day, apart from my small family that is the most important thing to me, I can say that the kitchen is the perfect place where I don't see the time passing, and despite the daily difficulties, I will certainly continue developing this career for the rest of my life.
Back in the day, along with the youths of Nham village, I volunteered to join the army at the call of the Motherland. After peace was restored, I was one of the fortunate soldiers to be reunited with his family with a healthy body and a healthy mind. I soon fell in love with and married a beautiful girl in the village, with whom I have now two grown children, one son and one daughter.
I have a simple but positive view of life: when God gives you good health and the warmth of a family, you must contribute to society, and most importantly work hard, not relying on anybody else but yourself. Before Tam Coc Garden was founded, I was a police officer of the commune, in charge of all security-related matters in the area. My past experience has provided me with the adequate skills to fulfill this role.
My life has become more meaningful since I met Hieu and his wife (founders of Tam Coc Garden) back in 2013. They offered me the position of Night Security Guard, which was convenient as my house is right next to the hotel. Knowing every nook and cranny of the village, and with my valuable military skills, the job was a piece of cake. I decided to volunteer as a gardener of Tam Coc Garden, tending trees and caring for the plants during the day. Just because I used to work in the army doesn’t mean I don’t have a romantic side; in fact, I know how to appreciate beauty and am quite a sensitive person. Being able to do what I’m good at, and what I enjoy while receiving a stable income to raise my children properly, I feel extremely lucky. I have also influenced both my children to enter the hospitality industry and they recently have been trained at Tam Coc Garden to become full-time employees. Meeting Hieu and his family for me was like a blessing, and I am genuinely determined to stay in Tam Coc Garden until I can no longer work.
My name is Hoang Thi Xuyen. Born and raised in a family of farmers in a small village of Ninh Binh, my childhood was always filled with moments in nature, between raising water buffaloes, mowing the lawn, and catching crabs and snails. I have always wanted to find a job that suited my interests, and that is why I consider myself extremely lucky to have been recruited as a gardener by Tam Coc Garden since the opening of the ecolodge, already 8 years ago.
People often say that the garden is the soul of Tam Coc Garden. Seeing guests, from adults to children, strolling in the garden to take photos, laughing on the swings or just enjoying this peaceful haven, gives me a feeling of fulfillment.
By nature I am a very patient and rigorous person. Even with the simplest task, I would do my best to complete it in the best possible way. Since my arrival at Tam Coc garden, I have been trained several times and learned many new skills, which for me has a priceless value. Given that my family situation is still difficult since I am raising 2 children myself, my colleagues are always attentive to my needs and ready to support me, which I consider a gift for which I will always be grateful.
After graduating from the Technical University, in the Department of Electronics, just like many fresh graduates, I had no clue what to do with my life. Born to a traditional family in Nam Dinh (30km away from Ninh Binh), I always had the pressure of being a breadwinner, not only for my wife and children but also for my elderly parents.
There weren’t many job opportunities before 2012, and because I had just recently graduated, I wasn’t experienced or confident enough to apply to larger companies so my work consisted of freelance jobs here and there, without a stable income.
Tam Coc Garden’s opening became a big turning point in my life and I have been attached to this house for over 8 years now. Far away from my family, located in a remote countryside and very much “into the wild”, my friends and family didn’t support my choice at the time. But I had a completely different view of things; I was always passionate about working in a dynamic environment, allowing me to continuously explore and satisfy my curious mind. I was never afraid of adversity or discomfort as long as I had a stable career that would make my parents proud. During high seasons or back in the construction times, I had so much work that I didn’t even return home for a month and thank heavens my family was understanding enough for me to make time for my passion.
After 8 years of apprenticeship from scratch, my career has given me so much: stability, knowledge about endless international cultures that I’ve never even heard of before, my colleagues who share the same daily challenges and successes, and last but not least, a stable income that allows me to take care of my parents, wife and children. So remember...as long as you’re willing to put in the hard work, you will achieve your goals and dreams!
Turning strangers into neighbors, and neighbors into family
Neighbours can play such an important part in our daily lives. Good neighbours can become great friends, and in some cases like family. Tam Coc Garden was lucky enough to have a number of wonderful neighbours, which has made our business and daily life more meaningful.
As you cycle around the picturesque lush landscape, brace yourself for some waves, big smiles and friendly hellos from locals and youngsters in the area. You will be amazed how despite the cultural and linguistic differences, you can still have such a strong connection with someone; friendship has no language or culture barriers after all!
There’s a lot of talk about neighbors and community in Ninh Binh: the value of needing one another, how to build connections...And from the humble beginnings, we’ve always tried to strike up and maintain friendly and respectful relationships with our neighbors. The same relationships that make us appreciate the idea that we have something in common with everyone. Perhaps, sometimes we should focus on our similarities rather than our differences. Community doesn’t magically appear overnight, but it stems from a series of small actions over time. The same actions that turn strangers into neighbors, and neighbors into family. Here are the stories of our neighbors, part of Tam Coc Garden’s family, waiting to be heard.
My family has been linked to Nham village land for many generations. Now, our family consists of my wife, my 3 children, my daughter-in-law, son-in-law and grandchildren. Counting nearly 10 people, a few dogs, a cat, and a flock of chickens, we all live in the same tile roofed house, terrace with 1 fish pond and 1 vegetable garden. Sometimes you can hear our dogs and cats barking and meowing, although they’re very gentle. My three children have been provided with work opportunities at Tam Coc Garden since the early days of construction. My son works as a technician, repairing electricity and water issues, while my two daughters work in Housekeeping. As for me, I sometimes take part in teaching guests to learn handicraft trade village activities such as: teaching basket weaving, teaching children to make traditional kites, making Bỏng (Vietnamese popcorn). Seeing my children have a stable and socially recognized career, is something that I have never imagined before. In the countryside, we were originally only engaged in wet rice cultivation, embroidery and rowing. My wife and I simply wanted to let our children learn a trade to take care of their families in the future. We’re very proud of our children who, despite ending their education after highschool, were able to find jobs in a hotel, with a stable income and the kind of knowledge that we were never able to provide them. I’m sure the generation of my grandchildren will learn even more and go even further. As for me, I will remain in the peaceful Nham village, keeping this ancestral land for my children, while enjoying a simple and fulfilling life.
Referring to the culturally immersive activities of Tam Coc Garden like folk arts, calligraphy etc., it is impossible not to mention Mr. Thym, born in 1940, and originally from Van Lam, Ninh Hai commune, Hoa Lu. That old gentleman is me, indeed! In the past, like many people in the Tam Coc area, I made a living from rice cultivation, as well as traditional embroidery. But once tourism developed in the region, I started bringing tourists in my traditional sampan boat to visit Tam Coc caves. Passionate about art, I am often eager to learn new things. In 2000, I became the guardian of Thai Vy Temple and have lived there ever since. My children and grandchildren live in the village nearby and often come to the temple to visit and have family lunch with me. Although I did not study at any professional music school, I learned to play several different types of instruments myself. From an early age I learned to play the flute, and soon after I learned to play the trumpet. As an adult, I learned to play both đàn bầu (monochord) and đàn nhị (two-string fiddle) and since then, along with other villagers, I often perform for special delegations visiting the village and the temple. Thanks to these useful activities and despite old age, my mind remains young and my health excellent. My simple wish now is to live even longer so that I can share my knowledge about the history and culture of the village with my grandchildren and to set a good example of a studious and active spirit for the next generations.
Surely anyone who has ever stayed at Tam Coc Garden saw “an old lady” scooping up leaves in the yard, picking vegetables in front of the hotel’s gate, or walking on the way home from the market at least once. Yes you guessed right, that person is me, Nhu, the next-door neighbor of Tam Coc Garden!
I have been living in the land of Nham village for over 60 years and my neighbors at the time had the financial means to move to the city so they sold their land to Hieu's family, which is now known as the renowned Tam Coc Garden. Living alone, with no husband nor children, I’d like to stick to my ancestors’ land as long as possible.
Initially, I was worried that my peaceful life in the village would be negatively affected by the hotel which I expected to be like any hotel: big and noisy. But Hieu and Huong kept their promise, preserving the entire piece of land and building beautiful houses surrounded by greenery, even more beautiful and fresh than that of my previous neighbors’.
Since the opening of the hotel, the owners have supported me so much. I now have free use of electricity and clean water, and every year during Tet time (Lunar New Year), knowing that I’m home by myself, the staff brings me presents which I find extremely heartwarming.
During those past 8 years, I got familiarized with the image of foreign tourists, almost 2m tall, with their fair skin and looking pretty as a picture. They never forget to greet me with a smile whenever they see me walking by, and although I never understand what they’re saying to me, I always smile and greet them back. My life, although very simple, is filled with happiness and daily pleasures. And thanks to Tam Coc Garden, although I live completely alone, I never feel lonely.