Jasmin Garden, hidden garden in Paradise
What make Jasmin Garden so special for its guest?
Jasmin Garden (www.jasmingardenkohkood.net) is a newly open boutique resort located in Koh Kood, one of the most natural islands in Thailand, next to Cambodia. With only 4 premium bungalows, we offer our guest unique tranquillity with a very warm family atmosphere. Every service is personalised including breakfast or dinner served at the bungalow’s terraces or in our beautiful sea front garden.
The location is unique too. We are surrounded by wild forests and we face a crystal-clear coral barrier with colourful fishes. It is not rare to see from time to time wild monkeys crossing our garden, or sea turtles in the corals. Jasmin Garden is definitely made for nature lovers and snorkelers. Although our sea front is rocky, white sand beaches are never far, the first one in Ban Bao Bay only 5 minutes away by walk.
We paid also a lot of attention to the Bungalows design and decoration. They all have a different Asian style, a private garden and a sea view. The most amazing is the Japanese bungalow which offers a magic 180-degree wide open ocean view. If you like the music of the waves to fell asleep, this is definitely the bungalow you should book.
Jasmin Garden offers many activities and equipment’s, all included in the room price: canoe, paddles, snorkelling equipment, pool table, darts, board games and more. And because we, the owners, are a French-Thai couple, don’t be surprised to find also a well-supplied wine cave and even a Pétanque playground to play “boules” at sun set while enjoying a glass of Pastis like in Marseille.
Tell us about your story. What did you bring to create Jasmin Garden?
We are a Thai-French couple married for more than 20 years. Jee, my wife, run the resort with her sister, her nephew and Care, a Thai employee who recently joined the team. She is also the cook and, believe me, a great one! An extremely caring person and a former artist, Jee has a truly contagious smile. Back to Thailand after 20 years of expatriation in Serbia, Albania, Burkina-Faso and France, Jee’s speaks French and English fluently and has a rare cultural curiosity as well as a natural generosity. As for me, I ensure the back-end support, including online communication and logistic. I’m based near Geneva from where I still work with my organisation for a better access to education of refugees in Africa and Middle East.
We fall in love of Koh Kood 18 years ago. A humanitarian worker, having worked for 25 years in many post conflict and post disaster areas in Asia, Eastern Europa and Africa, I remember very well my first impression when I discovered Koh Kood back in 2005. It was just after my post-Tsunami relief mission in Bandah Aceh, Indonesia. I had seen there the terrible and destructive power of ocean. But this did not prevent me to keep exploring actively Thai islands in search of an affordable sea front plot which we eventually found after 2 years of efforts. Born in Marseille fifty years ago, I used to spend all my summers when I was a child on the rocks of the crystal-clear Mediterranean creeks. Mys dream was to build one day a restaurant in a beautiful wild creek. This is exactly what we found, Jee and I, in Koh Kood.
What’s made Koh Kood so different?
With no cars and almost no real roads, covered by 90% of pristine forests, Koh Kood was still very isolated and its natural beauty was almost untouched. The contact with inhabitants was so different from the touristic island we had visited. Genuinely simple and friendly, like in the village of Jee in rural Issan. Koh Kood has developed since then, but not so much. A road has been built but the Island has fortunately managed to keep its peacefully atmosphere. No disco, no supermarkets, no prostitution, the island remains a hidden gem for families and snorkelers.
How a humanitarian worker managed to build such a luxurious boutique hotel?
In 2005 we invested all our savings and even more, mobilizing several friends as co-investors and eventually we managed to collect 100,000 USD, just enough to purchase 3000 square meters of sea front jungle in a rocky land with no road and no electricity. But the land has a proper land title, a buildable one, which was rare enough at that time. It took us 10 years before we would be able to pay back friend’s loans and save enough to build a first very simple holiday house.
With the arrival of the road and of an electric line we were then able to start looking for possible partners willing to help develop our piece of paradise. Looking for partners was the logical thing to do for us because the education of our daughter in Europe and also because of my humanitarian engagements, both still had the priority in our lives.
A first Thai couple launch a restaurant and gave up after 3 months only. A French couple then rented the house during 3 seasons but eventually gave-up plans to open a restaurant and build bungalows. The third try was more successful and another French couple agreed to build and run Jasmin Garden for ten years in exchange of a low rent and a sell-back promised.
Jasmin Garden was launched in 2020 by this couple, unfortunately right at the beginning of the Covid Pandemic. Not the right time to launch a resort. Thailand stayed closed to foreigners for almost 2 years. Early 2022 the couple decided to give up and we accepted to buy back their share with a loan provided by a bank.
Running a resort in a Thailand is such a big change in your life, I guess, want did you learn?
A totally new life indeed, especially for Jee, when she took over the management of Jasmin Garden in the summer 2022. She rapidly learned how to create one of the best experience guests can find in Koh Kood with generous homemade family cooking (no place for frozen food in Jee’s kitchen!), absolute cleanliness of bungalows, constant and swift communication with guests before and during their stay and finally a genuine sense of hospitality. Excellent service combined with a right design and a unique location contributed to rapidly reward Jasmin Garden with one of the best guest reviews in the island (https://www.booking.com/Share-WBhmw3D).
This success story wasn’t without challenges I guest, how did you address them?
Indeed. Investing in a land with no visibility on how and when condition will be met to develop it required a significant risk appetite and long-term vision. A bet on the future, only secured by our intimate confidence on the solidity of our own couple to overcome obstacles and stay together.
Having no personal wealth and a non-profit career, we rapidly understood we could not make it without partners. Identifying reliable partners was one of the greatest challenges and we rapidly experimented how business can be tricky and driven by greed. If trust and respect to agreements had always been an obvious principle during our lives, we learned, the hard way, to be much careful with our new business relationships.
Today our main challenge remains the human side of managing a business, namely finding skilled and motivated human resources. In a country with literally no unemployment we were amazed to receive not a single application to our job vacancies despite offering very decent salaries. We understood that most of resort employees in the Island are actually migrants from low income neighbour countries, mostly Cambodia. Obtaining work permits for foreign staff is a real and expensive administrative ordeal, not a reasonable objective for a small business as Jasmin Garden. Discussion with friends and family revealed the lack of appetite of Thai people for hospitality work requiring long day’s work and isolation from family. For those living in Bangkok, even with boring jobs, Koh Kood was perceived as a downgrading return to village. For those living in village working in a resort was just too demanding. It took 6 months and several unsuccessful tries for us to eventually constitute a solid team: one former guest who fall in love of the place and two family members, with whom Jee is learning how to dissociate work and family relationships.
How do you see the future for Jasmin Garden? and what kind lesson did you learn which you like to share to fellow entrepreneurs?
There is more to do to develop Jasmin Garden as a full fledge success story. New investments to be done in the infrastructure, better use of social media and we also need property management tools to facilitate and increase direct bookings and reduce the high share of Online Travel Agencies commissions.
We still have a lot to learn. Because we are new to this business world we are definitely not in a position to give advices. Simply we can indeed share some lesson learned. The first thread our entrepreneurial experience has always been to favour authenticity and quality on short term profit. Quality of the location, quality of the design, quality and generosity of the service have made Jasmin Garden a great experience for our guests.
The second thread has been to keep a long-term vision and be perseverant. Keeping our dream alive during 18 years, we never lost faith despite competing life priorities, a lot of uncertainty and several disillusions with business relationships.
Finally, our third learning was to keep planning and progressing step by step, watching our back and seeking help in order to reduce risks and also financial pressure.
When our 22-year’s old daughter will have finished her studies in Geneva I will certainly stop my humanitarian engagement and join Jee in Koh Kood. We hope that by that time Jasmin Garden will be sustainable and our daughter independent. Our new challenge then may well be to learn how to work together as a couple, maintaining the highest level of service but without damaging our own personal life!
Jasmin Garden surrounded by wild forest and a coral barrier
Sun set at Jasmin Garden
Thierry and Jee, Jasmin Garden owners
The magic of the Japanese Bungalow
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