Retirement Is Not An Option

In his colourful shirt Ib Ottesen could look like any tourist sitting at the restaurant, while an elephant walks by behind him. Well he is not.
  He owns the Jomtien Boathouse, restaurant and hotel next to the beach.
  That and his other restaurant, Captains Corner, down the road. And two apartment blocks.
  How does a Dane, born and raised in Fredericia, become a property developer and multi-millionaire in Thailand?
  It all started when Ib Ottesen was 15 years old. Some of Ib’s friends were sailors and they showed Ib pictures of girls they had met in Thailand.
  “The girls were so beautiful that I decided that I had to come and see them for myself,” Ib Ottesen says enthusiastically.
  And one way to see Thailand and the rest of the world is by becoming a sailor. Like his father and his older brother. But to become a sailor, Ib had to quit boarding school, but that was not a problem to him.
  “I hated going to school. I never learned anything useful anyway, so I sneaked out in the middle of the night and got my first job on a Danish ship.”
  But the first job did not get Ib Ottesen chance to see as much of the world as he had hoped for. The ship hardly ever left Danish waters, so in stead of seeing exotic places like Thailand and Rio, Ib Ottesen got to see places like Stigsnæs and Kalø Vig. And that was not all. The weather was not exotic either.
  “The winter of 68/69 was very cold. As a ship’s boy I had tasks to do inside the ship as well as outside. Going from one place to another all the time. Sometimes I went out without my jacket and it was so very cold,” Ib Ottesen says shivering despite the tropic heat.
  After three months Ib Ottesen wanted no more of cold Danish waters. He got a job on an EAC ship sailing to America. And the new job was better.
  “When we arrived in Los Angeles I ran down the gangway and it was great to be there. But still, something was missing. It just was not exotic enough for me,” Ib Ottesen says.
  However, sailing to America made him realize that he wanted to go back to school in Denmark. To the School of Navigation in Svendborg to become a radio officer and this time he did learn something.
  “I learned more in six months here than I did in eight years at my school in Fredericia. Probably, because people were not forced to be here, but wanted to come,” Ib Ottesen says.
  But the late sixties were not the right time to become a radio officer. Why use the Morse code, when you can just pick up the phone and call someone??
  For that reason, the principal of the school, Arno Jørgensen, told Ib Ottesen “You are not going to be a radio officer. You are going to be an officer!” And Ib Ottesen knew the principal was right.
  In 1970 Ib Ottesen started in A.P. Møller as an officer’s trainee. Sailing for a year to Central America and then between Hamburg and Japan before sailing from Japan to Bangkok.
  In September 1972 it was finally time for Ib Ottesen to see the Thai girls for himself. Not just on pictures like back in hometown Fredericia. And even though Ib’s expectations were high, he was not disappointed.
  “They were so great. Just like I have imagined and it did not take long, before I started dating one and ended up marrying her. I am sure that was one of the girls I saw at the picture back home,” Ib tells with a toothpick dangling from the corner of his mouth.
  The exotic East was just was Ib had been looking for so there was no doubt in his mind, where he was going to be spending a three months holiday in 1973. Bangkok. But what does a 21 year old Dane do to make a living for himself in Thailand. Did he not learn anything else at boarding school, he learned to play the guitar and that came in handy now. Ib Ottesen played the guitar and song songs by e.g. John Denver and Johnny Cash every night at Cloud 9 in Patpong.
  “For four hours every night, just me. That was hard work, but I was not the one to be complaining. I was paid 200 baht a night, and the sailors out here made 3,000 baht a month. It was just perfect being here. The adventure. The free life,” Ib Ottesen says blissfully happy.
  But all good must come to an end. Ib Ottesen had to return to Denmark to finish his studies. He packed his bags and went back with his Thai wife. Ib’s studies went well. In 1975 he became an officer and in 1976 a ship master. A.P. Møller had been so pleased with him that they hired him after he graduated.
  Working with A.P. Møller, Ib Ottesen sailed the seven seas. But things did not turn out just as well on the home front. Ib divorced his Thai wife. But Thailand was still on the young man’s mind and being a single man, it was no difficult decision to make. In November 1978 Ib settled in Bangkok. Barely arrived, Ib Ottesen started a Danish restaurant in Bangkok with two fellow Danes. But the  restaurant did not turn out to be as profitable as Ib had expected. Ib barely knew what was going on in the restaurant, as he spent much time at sea. 
  But in 1980 Ib stopped spending time at sea.
  “By then I had made sure that A.P. Møller was doing just fine and that gave me the opportunity to leave the company,” Ib says with a smile.
  But Ib stayed in contact with the shipping trade. In his new job he had to calculate how much cargo a ship contained. He also did statuary inspections of the ships and checked them for damages. But to see whether a ship is damaged you need to go diving. For that reason Ib Ottesen became a professional diver in 1980.
  But the company Ib worked for could not repair the damages and for a man like Ib there is just one solution to that. Make a company that can. Ib made Marine Surveyors in Bangkok with fellow Dane Jørgen Lundbæk.
  “It was pretty clever. In my ordinary job I could inspect the ships and then Mermaid’s Marine Services could offer to fix the damages,” Ib tells smilingly.
But two jobs were not enough for Ib Ottesen. He bought a part of another Danish restaurant in Bangkok in 1987. But 1991 became a year of big changes for Ib Ottesen. All activities in Bangkok were sold and Ib moved to Pattaya with his new Thai wife, whom he had met in 1988, and their kids.
  “The kids were going to start at school, and we did not want to spend up to three hours each day bringing them to school and back. And we needed some fresh air,” Ib Ottesen says.
  Pattaya was no random choice. In 1989 Ib built the hotel Mermaid Beach Resort there, but he sold that in 92/93.
  Many years of hard work and successful investments had made Ib a wealthy man and he decided to retire and enjoy life at the age of 41.
But what do you do, when you do not want to do no more? Ib and his wife slept till late, took a swim, saw some CNN, went for a couple of hours to the diving school Ib still has shares in and saw some more CNN. A couple of years went by, but something was missing.
  One day his wife came home telling she saw some land that would be perfect for a divers’ hotel.
  “Soon we were building the hotel and working round the clock again,” Ib says with a smile on his face. “I just love it when we are going to build something new. See that is working and that people likes to live there is a thrill to me.”
  Later Ib build Residence Gardens and Residence Suites making a total of almost 70 apartments and 60 more to follow next December.
  Then he will go back to sea. On the 16 million baht boat he is planning to buy.
  “Then I will go fishing and diving. Fortunately there is communications equipment on a boat like that so I will still be able to answer e-mails and calls and take care of my businesses.”
  There will always be something new to build and some more business to do for the Dane. Because after having tried it, one thing is certain.
  “I will NEVER retire.”

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