In his Danish Grandfather’s footstep

Mads and Terry Rahbek are traveling around Thailand and Malaysia to re-discover the places that Mads’ adventurous Grandfather described in four books, which the couple is currently translating from Danish to English. The Grandfather, Olaf Ascanius, worked for the Danish East Asiatic Company around the turn of the last century – a company which Mads father, Erik Ascanius, also worked for a generation later.

On Thursday 5 April 2018 the couple visited the editorial office of ScandAsia in Bangkok to obtain a copy of the two books “From the Time of the Crocs” by Flemming Winther Nielsen and the classic “Scandinavians in Siam‘ in its 2000 edition.

Mads Rahbek Ascanius is born in Penang, Malaysia in 1956 as the third child of Erik and Ulla Ascanius. His older brother was also born in Malaysia – only their older sister was born back in Denmark before their parents moved to Malaysia.

Mads has continued the family tradition of living a globalized life. His wife Terry is a Canadian and the couple live in Canada today.

But the most adventurous of the family was without a doubt Mads’ Grandfather Olaf Ascanius.

Olaf Ascanius came to Bandon, Thailand (now Surat Thani) in 1909 and spent the next 7 years exploring the jungle and negotiating with tribal elders for elephants and access to teak and rubber. In this capacity he was crisscrossing the land and hills north east, south and west of the Phum Duang river going inland from Surat Thani.

Olaf also set up the sawmill in Bandon for the EAC, based on the teak concessions and deals, he negotiated for the EAC.

In 1916 Olaf returned to Denmark, married, and with his bride Karen came back to Malaysia where the couple stayed until 1927. In Malaysia Olaf was manager of Teluk Merbau Plantation.

Apart from being a planter, Olaf was also a captivating writer. He wrote four books on his travels among indigenous people in the area.

In 1951, Olaf’s son Erik Ascanius followed in his father’s footsteps and began working for the East Asiatic Company. Erik was in Malaysia for the EAC from 1951 to 1961 as manager of Padang Maya rubber plantation. Erik had his wife Ulla and the couple’s daughter Karen with him but their two sons – of whom Mads as mentioned is the youngest – were born in Malaysia.

Of course the hospital in Penang, where he was born, is on the long list of places that Terry and Mads plan to visit during this trip. But they also want to re-visit the places described in Mads’ Grandfathers books.

“We have decided it is time to translate the four books that Mads’ Grandfather write so they can have a wider audience not least out here in Asia,” says Terry.

“But before we do that, we would like to visit the places he described in his books as well as in the many speeches and slideshows that he held all over Denmark after his return. Ideally, we would like to show the photo, which Olaf took, next to the one we can take today standing at the same spot,” Mads adds.

When the books are ready to be marketed, ScandAsia readers will be informed of the opportunity to obtain a copy. The 2 other books mentioned above can be bought here:


About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Gregers Møller

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *