Tinh Gia Garden House
The first owner of Tinh Gia was a princess who lived four generations ago. In 1979, it became the property of Nguyen Huu Van, a musician and a nephew of Mr Nguyen Huu Ba, the owner of Ty Ba Trang.
Mr Huu Van is an avid collector of bonsai. He has amassed over three hundred different species, most of which surround a spectacular rockwork construction with a waterfall and small clouds of mist. Some of his specimens could be classified as unique works of art, such as a 150-year-old apricot bonsai, and a cycad bonsai begun more than two centuries ago.
However, Ton Nu Thi Ha, the owner’s wife, began offering meals based upon the complicated cuisine of the Hue Imperial Court a few years ago. As she is a famous Vietnamese chef with many Vietnamese and international medals and awards for culinary excellence, she was successful in attracting a sizeable clientele.
Consequently, the dining function has now swallowed up most of rooms in the house, but unlike the unfortunate Ty Ba Trang garden house (the garden transformed into a standard Vietnamese restaurant and the house empty and deserted), Mrs. Ha has stayed true to the combined cultural traditions of bonsai and Hue’s Imperial cuisine.
The Tinh Gia garden house lacks many of the distinct features of garden houses, and Mrs. Ha lacks the time to explain the intricacies and symbolism of the large rockwork that dominates the garden or the bonsais. Cooking is close to her heart, however, so guests can explore the complexities of Royal food and dining. You’ll need a guide to interpret for you, though.
Many of Hue’s larger restaurants and hotels offer tourists meals in Royal dining rooms or large-scale banquets, complete with full sets of robes and uniforms for dressing up to play at being members of the Imperial Court. At Haivenu, we frown upon such obvious fakery. However, if trying a Royal meal interests you, you might find Mrs. Ha’s garden house a better bet – probably cheaper, more authentic and better prepared, and you’re not expected to play silly games.