Serenity and happiness at private Shangri-La

     The fairy-tale story of the former Danish university lecturer, his Thai wife and their small resort all began approximately nine years ago when Niels Pedersen was on a holiday trip to Thailand, to be specific, Phuket. That was where he met his wife Chom both on their way to the airport, and both of them going to Koh Samui, Niels on holiday, Chom back to work at a hotel.
     After they married, the Pedersens had to live in Denmark for another two years until Niels could retire, leave Denmark for good and travel to England, where he is still settled due to Thai immigration laws.
Knowing that Europe would not be their future, the Pedersens moved back to live in Thailand. They spent their holidays for two consecutive years looking for a plot of land all over the country to build their house. They finally ended up at Ao Nang.
     “We came to Ao Nang on a holiday in 2000 to celebrate the turn of the century,” says Niels Pedersen.
     “After travelling all over Thailand looking for a plot of land and having seen a lot of beaches and islands, we were so impressed with the beauty of the countryside and the beaches here that we had no doubt in our minds that this was where we would like to live,” he adds.
     Niels and Chom Pedersen began to develop the land straight away, pushing the jungle back and built a small cottage for themselves.
     “We needed a bungalow for our escape and some sort of honeymoon, and today it’s still our humble abode – we’ve simply been so busy that we haven’t had time to build for ourselves,” remarks Niels Pedersen.
     The Jungle Village Resort began about four and a half years ago, but a different strategy was adopted after a year or so. The Pedersens initially planned to build a big house for themselves and small cottages for their friends and relatives. But soon they could see that it would make good sense to make a holiday resort and buy some more land for further development. At that time tourism was booming in Ao Nang.
     “I don’t know any other place in Thailand where so many new constructions are mushrooming as here,” comments Niels Pedersen.
     “We were far out in the jungle when we first bought the land, but every day we’re getting nearer to the centre of Ao Nang,” he adds.
     Jungle Village was developed in two stages. The first stage was their bungalow and two small cottages for friends and relatives. Seeing the potential of tourism development, the Pedersens decided to set up more bungalows and developed the rest of the resort, which took over a year to complete.
     Jungle Village tries to cater for the whole range of tourist travellers by offering a variety of rooms at varying prices and a wide range of services for all guests. The resort comprises 16 rooms plus six adjacent, but extramural rooms for backpackers. The prices are reasonable compared to the services offered in the package such as fitness room, internet room, laundry service, restaurant and bar, swimming pool, mini-library, car and motorbike rentals, free local transfer and garden sports including golf putting. The premium quality rooms are of course cleaned every day.
     “We provide a lot of services at low cost because we are not financially dependent on Jungle Village,” says Niels Pedersen.
     “We live here. This is our private Shangri-La,” he adds.
     “We treat all guests who come here as if they were our private guests and make them feel that Jungle Village is their second home in Thailand. I’m proud to say that this slogan has in fact been given to Jungle Village by people living here – not least because we are also able to help people with any practical issue they might have, something that often requires special local knowledge and insight into Thai culture and legislation. This gives people a strong feeling of securiy. Our restaurant specialises in traditional, genuine Scandinavian food as my wife learned to cook it in during our stay in Denmark,” remarks Niels Pedersen, ”but we also serve superb, savoury Thai dishes.”
     About 98% of the guests coming to Jungle Village are people who have been there before or their friends and relatives. By word of mouth the circle is getting bigger, and Niels and Chom have had to expand the resort to the full without sacrificing the high standards they want to maintain. Most guests are Scandinavians with the Danes and Swedes adding up to 50% of the guests.
     “We have a lot of guests from England, Germany, US, Australia – well practically all parts of the globe, which makes it a wonderful place for me to meet interesting people,” remarks Niels Pedersen.
     “The overall aim for me is to give my wife the opportunity to run a small business of her own. I don’t work here – I’m a pensioner, but I enjoy talking to people from all over the world,” he adds.
     Niels Pedersen speaks fluent English, German, is good at Swedish and French and his mother tongue, Danish. He has been an English teacher for 38 years, and for 32 years a university teacher. After accomplishing research in business studies, he was in 1996 promoted as Associate Professor of Business Studies at the Flensburg Department of the University of Southern Denmark, from where he graduated himself. He retired in 2002. The only connection he has in Denmark now is his two grown up daughters from his first marriage and a lot of friends.
     The Danish proprietor tries to keep up high standards. He has constructed everything himself from making the drawings for the bungalows, the layout of the gardens and the illumination to monitoring every process and details of the construction work.
     “When you want to do something, especially in Thailand, you have to aim a lot higher than normal and push the limit and quality up and only accept the best of the best you can get, which is very, very difficult here,” comments Niels Pedersen.
     “You have to care for all details and set high standards to be successful,” he adds.
     The former professor has thorough theoretical business knowledge and after long years of teaching, he has eventually put what he taught into practice, which was quite difficult at first, but turned out well after adapting theories to Thai culture, he said.
     “I love Thailand and the relaxing and happy-go-easy life. Thailand definitely offers all that life can afford,” he comments with a smile.

     (Readers can contact Chom and Niels at junglevillage@hotmail.com)

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