Flora Sweeting immerses herself in the musical and cultural heritage of Huế over one unforgettable evening. 

We arrived in the early evening, stepping out of the car onto a peaceful road on the outskirts of Huế, only moments away from the Imperial Citadel. As the sun set, casting a golden hue over the tranquil surroundings, we were warmly welcomed by Camille and Ngo. Camille is a talented artist and musician, a relation of the former Emperor Minh Mạng of Vietnam, and Ngo, a former Swiss banker, is her devoted husband. Their return to Vietnam from Europe is driven by a passion for preserving and promoting traditional Vietnamese culture through music, art, and culinary excellencea combination that promises an unforgettable experience. 

Their dream began with a plan to return to Huế, Camille’s hometown, after more than 40 years in Europe. They envisioned building a family home entirely from recycled materials, including reclaimed bricks, wood, and porcelain from sunken ships. This labour of love took 10 years to bring to fruition, resulting in a stunning haven that beautifully reflects Camille and Ngo’s heritage and characters. Every detail of the house is meticulously crafted, from the porcelain mosaic clouds to the crescent moon that graces the view from the banks of the Perfume River. Ngo takes immense pride in their lush garden, which is filled with fruit trees, vibrant flowers, aromatic herbs and serene corners perfect for peaceful contemplation. 

Upon our arrival, Camille and Ngo took the time to get to know us, making us feel genuinely welcome and at ease. As we sipped on refreshing watermelon juice, we engaged in delightful conversation, learning about their journey and dreams. The living room, where we were soon ushered, serves as a traditional Vietnamese space for entertaining guests. Adorned with pieces from Camille’s art collection, the room was a testament to her extraordinary talent. 

The highlight of the evening was a specially arranged musical soiree featuring three skilled musicians, who are teachers at Huế Academy of Music. They played traditional Vietnamese instruments, while Camille’s soulful singing filled the room with a profound sense of emotion. Her performance was so moving that it brought tears to my eyes. The repertoire included songs from various regions of Vietnam, as well as a few of Camille’s own compositions. To enhance our understanding and appreciation, the lyrics were provided in translation, allowing us to fully grasp the meaning behind each song. 

After the mesmerising concert, we were led to the dining room for a six-course Vietnamese dinner. Thankfully, our guide had advised us to have only a light lunch that day, as the meal was a feast for the senses. Every dish was bio-organic, gluten-free, dairy-free and glutamate-free, prepared with the freshest ingredients and bursting with flavour. The culinary mastery displayed in each course was nothing short of spectacular. 

As the evening ended, we found ourselves reflecting on the incredible experiences we shared with Camille and Ngo. Their dedication to preserving Vietnamese culture and their hospitality left us with lasting memories that we will cherish forever. Our night at Ben Xuan Garden Theatre was more than just an evening of entertainment; it was a deeply enriching cultural experience that touched our hearts and souls. 

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Flora Sweeting
Venetia Cox
Auriole Potter

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