82 years old Knud Klausen is a life-enjoying pensioner with 66 countries visited through his life and is now visiting his beloved Thailand for the last time.
By Janni Møller Thomsen.
Photographed by Brandt & Nobel.
- It was always in the back of my head – as a silent dream – that I could open a bar somewhere warmer than Denmark and enjoy my senior life, and after I visited Thailand in the late nineties, I decided that Phuket would be the right place, Knud Klausen shares with a big smile and adds: I love the sun, and I am the best version of me in 25-35 degrees Celsius.
In 1960, 20 years old Knud Klausen joined the NATO command in Rendsburg, Germany. 62 years and 66 visited countries later, he believes that the years as a young lieutenant in an international environment taught him many life lessons. The budding interest in getting to know other cultures was awoken.
- I did my military service, and then I was offered to join the Danish forces under the command of NATO in Rendsburg. I was excited and said yes. I ended up spending three and a half years there and was appointed Lieutenant, Knud Klausen says, while his bright smile reappears.
He returned to Denmark, and after six months with The Danish Defense, he applied to join IBM and worked there for 33 years – the last years as an event manager, and then he founded his own event company.
- Whenever a youngster cares to listen to an old man, I tell them, go see the world. Meet the foreign. It will teach you lessons; no book can.
“People are asking me how I keep myself busy, and I reply asking how I can get more hours a day so that I won’t be too busy. I still have dreams to fulfil.”
Time for Thailand
In December 2005, Knud Klausen gathered his boys and a few close friends for dinner and told them that he had bought a bar in Thailand and would take off soon.
- After my divorce in 1997, the dream was increasing, and I wanted to realize it. People thought it was a crazy idea, and my sons were not satisfied that I had not shared the plans with them earlier, but that is how I am, and I want things to be certain before I share them, Knud Klausen states.
He packed his bags a few days later and left Denmark - alone but eager to start his new adventure.
- It was fascinating and some interesting years. There were ups and downs, but without bragging, I think, I made a difference in the rough bar environment, Knud Klausen says and continues:
- They did not treat their staff nice, and it was normal to beat them if they made mistakes. I did not accept that, and we eradicated the violence in our district. I am proud of that.
Knud Klausen wanted to do a little extra to attract attention to the bar for the annual Phuket Festival, so he surprised everyone with two elephants outside.
- It was crazy, but people were excited.
Knud Klausen was a popular figure and socialized with ´the king and the queen´.
- I called them that. It was obvious there was a hierarchy, but I gained the Thais trust and became part of their inner circle, he says and recalls an episode that emphasized his position.
- I came to a packed restaurant and saw them. I went over to say hi, and the person next to the King was sent away. There was only a stool available, so they sent a waiter to the restaurant next door to get me a chair with armrests. Courtesy is essential for the Thais, but that was a little overwhelming, Knud Klausen laughs.
The backside of the medal
Knud Klausen always expected to return to Denmark, and in 2015 he did.
- I wrote a book about the corruption and some other incidents I experienced, and I decided that it would best to leave the country before my book was published, he says. Knud Klausen sold the bar and returned to The Cold North.
- I left Thailand thinking; I had seen this beautiful country and my friends there for the last time because it can be crucial to criticize the system and the local police.
Leaving Thailand was not easy. He knew he would miss nature, warm weather, spicy food, and good friends.
- After a year in Denmark, I decided to travel back to Thailand on vacation, hoping they had not heard about my book.
He handed over his passport to the passport control with sweaty hands, and they let him in without further notice.
- It was a relief. I have been there every year since. Not 2021 because of the Covid19-pandemic, but a few months each year I go back and visit my friends and to enjoy the sun, food and friendly population.
“I love the sun, and I am the best version of me in 25-35 degrees Celsius.”
Keep going or stall
Even though Knud Klausen is 82 years old, he is still going strong and is not planning to slow down unless his state of health forces him to.
- I have been working my entire life, and I still do. I have film jobs, modelling and things like that. I like to get out of my apartment and meet people, and I can’t just sit at home and roll my thumbs. No, that’s not for me, he says while the hearty laugh resounds. He says that he went to South Africa with a good friend back in September and hopes to keep himself busy and out of the elder homes.
- I call it the forecourt of death, and I hope I’ll never end up there, even though I am aware, what the alternative is, he says and emphasizes that his mindset is to keep going.
- People are asking me how I keep myself busy, and I reply asking how I can get more hours a day so that I won’t be too busy. I still have dreams to fulfil, Knud Klausen says, but now he is facing a life-changing health challenge.
- I have been diagnosed with COPD, and it limits me and my whereabouts. I can’t walk far or carry heavy things, and I lose my breath. It’s very uncomfortable, so I have to cut back a little, but I won’t let it prevent me from living the good life, he states and shares, that he will spend January in Thailand:
- I will enjoy every moment of my trip to Thailand because this time, it will be my last.