Danish Jail House in Hua Hin

Jail House, reads the sign. Denmark, shouts the building. Next to the entrance there is one Danish flag and on first floor two more big Danish flags wave in the Hua Hin sea breeze, attracting attention to this latest Danish restaurant in the Royal Thai seaside resort.
     Jail House is run by the former factory worker, window polisher and music lover Kurt Andersen. He grew up in Aarhus but then moved to Skive in the Northwest of Denmark where he lived for over 20 year. The turning point came when Kurt Andersen rewarded himself with a two week vacation to Thailand together with a friend.
     Since then, life has never been the same. Neither for Kurt Andersen, nor for the thirty years younger girl Yen, he met in Bangkok and instantly fell in love with.
     Kurt Andersen is a completely self made man. He didn’t even complete the compulsory seven years of schooling as a child, but left three month early to work as a messenger at the Danish newspaper Jylland-Posten.
     When he was old enough, he later applied to be a machine operator at AMC in Aabyhoj outside Aarhus. In his sparetime he helped his brother clean windows and when hen completed his education, he went full time into window cleaning.
     Ten years and a divorce later, he moved to Skive to run his brothers gasoline station. Four years later, he left to take up a job at MR Doors in Skive where he stayed on for the next 16 years.
     This was where Kurt Andersen was in his life, when he and his friend booked a vacation to Thailand.
     “I had never been outside Europe so experiencing Thailand was fantastic,” Kurt Andersen recalls.
     “The tour was planned with one week in Bangkok and one week in Hua Hin. I met Yen in Bangkok and she came with us to Hua Hin where we had a wonderful time together.”
     Back in Skive Kurt worked on getting his dream girl to Denmark, and two month later she arrived on a three month tourist visa.
     “She enjoyed life in Denmark. We sailed in my boat, helped each other keep the garden and the house and had a great time. In a way it was a test on our relationship. Yen was thirty years younger than me and I was anxious to see if the relationship could survive everyday life in Denmark.
     Yen was granted an extension of her visa for another three months and started preparing for a life in Denmark, but at that time Kurt was already making other plans for a life together in Thailand. His house, his boat, the car, an apartment in Spain which he and his siblings had inherited from their father, every thing was sold. Eight months after his first group tour visit to Thailand, Kurt Andersen arrived back in the Kingdom to start up his new life together with Yen in Hua Hin.
     His plan was to open a bar together with his friend from the first visit. But when he arrived and they opened up a place together, the partnership lasted only three months. Kurt Andersen had found a place of his own and sold his share in the first bar to his friend.
     “It was a wooden house with a good atmosphere. We called it “Jail House” and we played a great selection of music and had 10 to 15 girls working in the bar. It went fine, we had many guests – not least other Danes on vacation – who appreciated the nice ambience we had created.”
     Kurt Andersen decided to change his track when a Thai lawyer managed to cheat him out of the renting contract for the house and later offered him to rent the house again from … the lawyer himself!
     “I declined,” Kurt says dryly. In the mean time he and Yen had become the proud parents of a little daughter, Ploy Rikke. She was two years old and Kurt – who had been busy building up Jail House – thought it was a nice opportunity to spend some more time with her.
     However, a few months later he was stopped by a former supplier down by the harbour in Hua Hin who showed him a building nearby for rent. It was too far from the down town bar district of Hua Hin to replicate the Jail House bar concept. But it could be a good location for a real restaurant, he thought.
     Today, the family rents all four floors of the building. On the ground floor the restaurant and kitchen has been established. The vast music selection has moved with Kurt and some of the CD’s are placed in a shelf for the guests own choice. The food is Danish and the decoration is Danish and Kurt and Yen enjoy running the place immensely.
     Each day starts early in the morning with offering Danish breakfast rolls which Kurt picks up from a German baker in town at seven o’clock. They are served with Danish yellow cheese and Danish red salami and real brewed coffee. Lunch and dinner is similarly Danish through and through. In the evening Yen is in charge of the late night atmosphere and the service until they close up around midnight.
     “I enjoy life here so much. We have had time to travel a bit and Yen and I have been driving around the countryside thousands of kilometres on my big motorcycle. It is such a beautiful country,” Kurt says.
     But he has made the interesting observation, that life in Thailand does not get any easier as the years go by.
     “I had been in Thailand for only three days, when a Canadian long time resident told me that the more he learned about the Thais the less he understood them. I didn’t understand what he meant at the time, but today I certainly do. I don’t think I will ever learn to completely understand the Thais and it becomes obviously more and more difficult over time just as the Canadian predicted.”
     Pressed for a few examples, Kurt mentions his careful selection of a good supplier of raw material for the restaurant on the local market. When he had found the quality and the service he appreciated, he made a deal with her. He promised her a good price which he did not want to negotiate everyday if she would just ensure him the same good quality of raw materials he needed every day.
     “After a few months I suddenly noticed she had billed me for more than she had delivered. I don’t know for how long she had done so. When I complained, she just smiled and paid back the overcharged money for that day. It was no error. It was just an attempt to cheat me for as long as possible.”
     Kurt was her best customer, but he has never bought anything from her since that day. Everyday, when he goes shopping, he makes sure that she sees him walk by her stall to buy with somebody else.
     “But I am not sure she has learned the lesson she should have learn from the incident. She is probably just happy with the money she managed to overcharge me before I found out,” he says.
     As a foreigner, he also has to live with the self righteousness of the Thais “just like the Danes probably feel they have the right over foreigners back in Denmark,” he adds. When asked whose side his wife Yen is on when there is a conflict – his side or the side of her fellow countrymen, the reply comes within a split second.
     “She will always be on their side. Every time it happens it makes me very upset, but that’s how it is. I have no illusions that I can change the attitude of a whole population.”
     Still, he has no plans of leaving Thailand.
     “Life is simply too good here and I enjoy being developing the restaurant. We are soon going to open up a bar on the second floor of the building – then I can listen to some more of all the many CD’s I have – and when that is up and running, I’ll turn the third floor into two nice apartments,” Kurt Andersen explains.

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