Writer and sailor Harold Stephens sure gets around. He lied about his age so he join join the Marines and fight in the Pacific, was imprisoned by the Chinese communists, escaped on a junk, rode across Australia on a motorcycle, and built his own concrete boat, which split apart in a hurricane after seeing endless numbers of ports. Eventually, someone’s going to write a book about him.
One of Stephens’ great interests is people, and in At Home in Asia: Expatriates in Southeast Asia and Their Stories (1995, ISBN 0-96425221-1-2), he chronicles some of them.
It’s interesting to read this book, written more than a decade ago, from a historical perspective. John Everingham, who famously scuba-dived his girlfriend from under the noses of the Lao military, runs a successful travel agency as of this writing. Bill Heineke remains a well-known and regarded businessman in Bangkok. Some of the others have passed away. Living or dead, their stories are magnificent. Some, like Barbara Adams, had relationships with royalty (hers was in Nepal). Others, like Han Snel, became successful painters (he in Bali). And there are some fascinating tales of wonderful hoteliers, too, from Frans Schutzman at Singapore’s Raffles Hotel (he was fired by the Chinese owners for giving W. Somerset Maugham a free room), to Kurt Wechtveitl at Bangkok’s Oriental Hotel, to Boris Lissonevitch and Kathmandu’s Hotel Royal, as described in the chapter on his wife, Inger.
This is the kind of book you don’t read in one sitting, as you want to luxuriate in the individual stories of the 14 people profiled in the book. They’re stories made up of adventure, serendipity, smarts, and a desire to live out of the box in an exotic world far from where these fascinating individuals originated. Buy it now at the WoWasis estore, powered by Amazon.