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A Waiter Retires… for Three Days
After thirty-two years working in this building, mostly as a waiter, Mr. Duong Dung (his first name, Dung, is pronounced Yoom), retired. He lasted three days.
This was last April. He came into my office and removed his hat, and he said, “I really miss the hotel. In fact, I’m homesick for it, and I want to contribute. Can I come back to work a few hours every day?”
What could I say. Dung is 60 years old, and one of the most memorable people any guest will ever meet at La Residence. And so we steered him back into his old post in Le Parfum, where he continues to brighten everyone’s morning with a smile that more than makes up for his liabilities in English.
But let’s go back in time a few years to 1976 when Dung waded into the world of work. The war was just over, and he’d hoped to be admitted to university to study medicine. That didn’t work out as he’d hoped, so he took a job in hotel administration at a place on the banks of the Perfume River.
One day a big group came in from the Soviet Union, and it was all hands on deck. Dung lent a hand, and he was so good in operations, he stayed in operations.
“It’s fate that drew me to this work,” he says today.
In 1982, he started work in the hotel at 2 Le Loi Street, a place that was demolished some time ago to make way for new construction. In 1985, he started work here at 5 Le Loi when the anchor building to La Residence was then a government guest house.
At that time, some of the great names in modern Vietnamese history, such as Vo Nguyen Giap (famous general) and Le Duc Anh (president of Vietnam), passed through 5 Le Loi, and Dung served them breakfast.
He relished stories of this building’s former days when it was part of the residence of the colonial governor, and when bodyguards for political VIPs would close the street in front of the hotel.
When the old guest house was renovated as the hotel it is today, Dung remembers the discovery of three soldiers of the National Liberation Front, also known as Viet Cong, in the garden. The men couldn’t be identified, but we remember them with a small temple in our garden.
Working the morning shift only is enough for Dung. He has two sons, one living in Melbourne as a computer engineer, the other working in Ho Chi Minh City as an architect.
More than 200 people work in the hotel today – 205 to be exact. Each has a story all his own. And now you know a little of Mr. Dung’s.
By Phan Trong Minh, General Manager La Residence Hotel & Spa