Throughout history, no matter where in the timeline one happens to appear, we are all authors of our own lives, fulfilling quests in pursuit of our own adventures. Travel propels us forward. It unveils the spirit of discovery, filling our lives with moments of unique friendships and stories. I’m sharing with you a few moments from my memorable life...
1862 - 1867
“Welcome to the Kingdom of Siam” said the captain. As I stood aboard the wooden deck of the Siamese steamer Chow Phya, we swayed from the traffic churning through Bangkok’s mighty Chao Phraya. I gripped my mother’s hand tighter, seeking reassurance as I took in the scene before us. Golden temple spires, thatched-roof homes, towering stupas and palms seared my tender mind. This was the East. The Far East! A shack-like structure nearby, the ‘Oriental Lodge’ caught my attention. I was only six and this was our new home, the Grand Royal Palace. Bangkok--my first taste of adventure. I was hooked.
1873 – 1881
Something kept pulling me forward. I needed to know what lay ahead. I travelled across the seas from Ireland to America, and then crossed the country taking odd jobs. In Arkansas, deep in America’s South, I worked at the Land Department of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad Company. And then, a thousand miles away, I took a job with a steamship company in Pennsylvania. But the pull of wanderlust was too strong. Before I knew it I was in Australia and had begun a 600-mile trek across the country’s harsh terrain towards Palmers goldfields. The whisper of adventure was in the wind. I had to be part of it.
1881 - 1884
I had a desire to return to the land of my youth, Siam. I had been given the task of protecting surveyor James McCarthy and his crew, who were mapping the boundaries of Siamese and French territory, from Haw tribesmen. The monotonous gait of our elephants inspired contemplation of Thailand’s countryside, from its crumbling temples to dense jungle where tigers stalked their prey. Two hundred infantrymen accompanied us on this journey to Northeastern Siam. This was uncharted territory for me, but the lure of adventure compelled me forward.
1884 - 1889
In 1884, I started to work for the Borneo Company as a teak agent at Raheng and Paknampho. The confluence of rivers from the north created the perfect location to collect and safeguard the teak logs. The company had built a beautiful teak mansion at Raheng for Caroline and me. We loved to welcome guests to our home and started the tradition of measuring their heights and carving their names on teak posts on our verandah. This was our way to remember all those special people we had welcomed. Our tallest guest was a giant Dane named G.K. Peterkin at 6 feet 4 inches!
I had my favorite reading rooms and social functions in Siam, which included the United Club, the British Club and the Deutscher Klub. In 1898 with four other gentlemen working in Northern Siam we started the Gymkhana Club in Chiangmai. These were exciting days of encouraging sport and social functions. I also enjoyed hosting friends and visitors at the Gymkhana Club in Bangkok and on my travels to Rangoon. The Dvi Panya Club, which literally translates as “Increased Wisdom”, was founded in April 1904 by H.R.H. the Crown Prince of Siam. Its success, as the leading social club in Bangkok, is in large part due to the liberality with which his Royal Highness supported it.
What had begun as a sense of curiosity had grown into a great love for Siam and its people. As the Shan rebels descended on Lampang in 1902 I couldn’t turn my back. I may have looked like a foreigner here but after so many years as a denizen of this soil, this was where I belonged. My home was transformed into a point of refuge and I worked to erect barricades of teak on the main roads. I mustered the troops and did what I could to protect what I loved.
1905 – Present
When I incorporated The Louis Thomas Leonowens Company on March, 3rd, 1905, I had no way of knowing the company would endure on for more than a century and that my story was to spark many new tales.
Louis T Collection believes in the adventure of travel, spirit of discovery, profound moments filled with simple everyday beauty. We believe in the timelessness of classic, culture of home, hospitality that is simple and humble as we take care of one another and the world we live in.