The Nong Khai oasis

The signs outside doesn’t necessarily give it away. Pale green background – a bit faded – with white letters that spell out Park & Pool Resort and may as well belong to a small motel with a dirty pool in the center and pay-per-view channels.

That is far from the truth though. On the outskirts of Nong Khai, just by the train station, lies a big, isolated green oasis away from the public eye. Numerous trees surrounds the central features of Park & Pool – a pool, a restaurant and outdoor dining hall, fountains, small lakes and a general sense of seclusion even though it’s but a five minute drive from the city.

The place has only recently begun to attact customers. Photo: Jan Mouritsen

As of now, the place is managed by the couple Peter Arne Jensen and Siraprapa “New” Jensen and it isn’t necessarily suited for every tourist making their way to Thailand:

“This place is not for the kind of people who want to relax on a beach for two weeks. You can do that anywhere in the world. This is for those who want to see what life in Thailand is really like,” Peter says and refers to the area surrounding Park & Pool and Nong Khai.

The resort also lies about a kilometer from the border to Laos – and thereby also to the enormous Mekong River.

From fisherman to entrepreneur – and fisherman again

Peter Arne Jensen is originally from the city of Esbjerg, located in the southwest of Denmark. It’s a harbor city relying mostly on maritime industries such as off-shore energy, freight and fishing. And Peter used to be one of the fishermen occupying the harbor – and in a sense he still is.

New is the manager of the whole thing, Peter pretty much does nothing, he explains. Photo: Jan Mouritsen

Back in 2005 he was offered to broaden the knowledge of a certain type of fishing in Bangladesh, a type the country desperately needed to expand the seafood industry. For the first couple of years he traveled between Denmark and Bangladesh, always spending a bit of time in Thailand. But after a while he decided that the trip back to Denmark really wasn’t worth it, and he moved to Thailand for good.

As he met his wife, more and more business opportunities began to emerge: Her family had a certain milk-drink recipe, which they began producing for other shops, and as the production grew, the couple also began distributing and selling clothes in shops around the area of Nong Khai.

And meanwhile the small business imperium grew in the northeastern Thailand, Peter was still a fisherman – one month in Bangladesh, one month in Thailand.

Creating profit

Only a few months  ago, the couple decided to rent and take over the Park & Pool Resort to see if it was possible to turn it into a profit.

“We thought we could do better than the previous owners and it’s looking like it. Yesterday a bus of 140 guests arrived, and generally the resort has been very well visited over the last couple of months” Peter says and gives credit to his wife

“In truth New is the mind behind all this – branding the resort, managing it and making sure that it’s a place people want to visit. In reality I don’t do much around here,” he laughs.

The couple hopes to generate a profit from Park & Pool when the season begins again in October. Photo: Jan Mouritsen

And since the couple moved in, there has certainly been some improvement. Way more staff has been added to the list, the Thai huts have been finished and overall the place is very much more efficient, than it was before – even though it takes a little while to get the food, something that’s going to change as soon as the new kitchen is ready.

And they do have whatever a tourist desires, a blend between traditional Thai food and Northern European food. Everything from traditional phad thai to a large and greasy wienerschnitzel with potatoes can be found in the kitchen.

“We aren’t making a profit from this place yet,” Peter says, “but things like social media has already increased the amount of visitors, so I hope that we should be able to turn this place into profit around October, when the season begins again.”

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