Dutch Jeff was never at a loss for words! He had a rather loud, almost obnoxious voice, until you actually listened to what he was saying!!
Many newcomers took him to be a German, but the big Dutchman was anything but!
Jeff has been around alot since WWII where he had helped the Allied Underground in Europe as a little more than a kid from Amsterdam, his journeys and jobs had taken him all over the world, but Baan Nam Sai Yen would be his final abode.
When we arrived on Patong Beach in 79, Jeff was already there, had been living in the “Green” house in the middle of the coconut grove, situated where Paradise Complex lay today.
He and his lil wife, Dao could be seen surf fishing, that is, Dao threw a net while Jeff had another Singha, most any day. Once in a while they’d “borrow” a long tail and venture out into the bay, never really getting far off shore, coming back with more fish in one trip than they’d caught off the beach in a month!
Then, Jeff would haul palm fronds into a big pile, torch them and Dao would BBQ the catch, selling it quickly to locals and tourist alike.
At least once a week, you’d see the big fire smoking away on the beach and see a small crowd mingling, drinking beers and eating good BBQ pla.
Jeff and Dao got by, they didn’t need much or have much, but life on Old Patong was easy then. A BIG liter bottle of Singha was about 20baht and most folks would make their own fun.
No jet skis, ski boats, trinket sellers, etc were around, just another lazy day on the beach. The few bungalows were small, 6-8 room compounds, a good room with cold water shower and two lousy beds could be had for 20baht, maybe 30baht for tourist, travellers never paid over 20baht, Dutch Jeff rented the “Green” house for 300 baht per month!
Jeff and Dao met Crazy Dave in 79, by 1980, Thai Garden was up and running, Jeff & Dave being co-general mgrs, while Dao did all the work!
Jeff took off for a visa run to Butterworth, Malaysia, Jeff would take the Baht bus from one small town to another, it was cheap and Jeff knew how to stretch a Satang!! By the time he returned, Dao had run off with Dave on a short tour of Songkla, NikonSiTammarat, Ko Samui,etc.
Jeff took things in stride, he been forced to play the cards he was dealt and he played them close to his chest! There were few words between Dave, Dao and Jeff after that, but Jeff hung around, acting co-general mgr for several more seasons, meanwhile, Dao’s relatives started showing up to “help” around Thai Garden for the next 7 yrs!
Jeff finally moved into the wee village behind Patong Beach, Baan Sai Nam Yen, he built a small house there, married another local gal and soon had several small ones crawling around.
At the time I felt sorry for Jeff, but years later he said it was the best thing that could have happened to him, now Crazy Dave was stuck with Dao and her relatives, Jeff chuckled.
After a few seasons, it was obvious that Dao’s kin just wouldn’t go away, that is unless the proper amount of bakshees were kindly granted, then they’d be gone with wind! Scurrying back to Krabi or Korat or parts unknown, that is, until the dry season around April each year, you’d see them coming back to the goldmine on Patong Beach.
Dao’s father was a rubber cutter, a truly nice fella, he was sadly afflicted by snake bites and each season when he’d show up, it would be with stumps instead of feet! The snakes deadly venom had robbed this hard working man of his toes, but he’d just wrap his stumps in cardboard or mats and carry on, never a sad word from Khun Nok, he was a real man!
Dao’s mother considered the lawn chair on the north side of the restaurant to be her private palace, where she instructed various family members how and what to do daily! She was clearly in charge and had little problem getting things accomplished.
Dao’s little bro Coo-et, always practicing his school lesson, though as far as I can remember, none of Dao’s brothers or sisters ever went to school while living at Patong.
Every 90 days, Crazy Dave made a Visa run, but Dao was still there when he returned. She knew how her rice was buttered, but often Dave would find about half of his kitchen tools…”I let my friend use”, would be gone and sometimes not even a pan was around to make a Thai omelette! This was never a happy time, we knew the geckos would hit the ceiling fan when Crazy Dave returned from each Visa run, it NEVER changed, he’d leave for several days and mak mak panha would ensue, ALL the beer and food would quickly run out, no one but David seemed to know you had to go to Phuket open market and order supplies, etc.
We could see the toll it was taking on David, but, he was too sure of himself and a typical “owner/operator” refused to hire good help, when he felt he was getting “free” labor from Dao’s inexhaustible supply of relatives! Sometimes you get what you pay for…:-)
Meanwhile, back in the village, Jeff and his new wife Panom were busy baking cookies and cakes for the hotels, bungalows and tourist. Dutch Jeff could always turn a Satang into a Baht and lived on such a low budget, that even when he didn’t make a Satang, they still ate good!
One thing about Old Patong, no one went hungry! You’d rarely see anyone begging and those few that wandered along the beach were often given all they could eat and a job!
Jeff would still roll into Thai Garden daily, usually in the morning after the paper boy had dumped off a supply of Bangkok Post, Jeff never bought a paper, a beer or anything at Thai Garden, there were always plenty of travellers, tourists and expats supplying any & all, the party really never ended there, at least for a decade or so.
Jeff, having read the paper, discussed the Night Owl “Trink” column in depth, finished the jumble, crossword and read the “Born Loser” comics, he’d be off on his little 70cc Honda, dwarfing the little bike with his big frame, but he kept that bike going like knew for as long as I knew him, and almost like a local, he could easily carry his wife and two kids, maybe a maid, a big fish, basket[S]of veggies,etc while putting along the dirt beach track back to his house.
One thing Jeff would always look for in Thai Garden were paper back books! Many of the visitors just left their once read, nearly new looking books on a table, Jeff only took the books that were flawless and new looking! His small house had one entire wall covered from floor to ceiling with these volumes! From the Classics to stories about Hitlers Gold, Jeff had them all, of course Crazy Dave knew what was going on, but he never mentioned it or begruded Jeff as Jeff would often leave with a hand full of books[naturally Dave had already read most of them anyway].
Things went along this way for most of the decade of the 80’s, life was good on Old Patong, where every day was indeed, a holiday and every meal a banquet, every night, friday night and every Saturday a fiesta!
Old Patong, where the beer flowed like a river, the bbq aroma would fill the air for 100 meters and you never, ever saw a sign that said “NO SHIRT OR SHOES, NO SERVICE”!!! Bikinis and singlets were the outfit of the day, course at night, the wiser visitors knew that long fisherman’s pants would at least keep those biting mosquitos at bay!