Most people in Pattaya know Lewis Underwood. With his
sunglasses around his neck, his sweat band on his right arm, this Harley
Davidson rider has had one of the more interesting voyages through life to
end up in Pattaya.
in Honolulu, the elder son of a sugar-cane plantation manager, his family
moved to the mainland when he was four years of age. He began his
schooling in San Carlos and despite his teacher’s efforts at educating
the young Lewis as to what his name really was - the boy became
“Woody”, a name which has stuck with him all his life.
He then went to junior college in San Mateo and
developed an interest in rock music. The UK groups were known as the
British Invasion, and young Woody and his brother knew them before they
even reached American shores, attending many rock concerts to experience
groups such as the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin and Cream. His dream
at that time was to become a professional baseball player, but his choice
of college was wrong as they did not foster the sport.
Leaving San Mateo, he thought about becoming a teacher
and enrolled at Humboldt State University, taking English Literature and
philosophy. This did not last long and he changed to Wildlife Biology.
“I decided to do courses I was interested in that would allow me to live
in a natural environment.” He was 21 years old and the Redwoods were
After helping his father in his business, Woody left to
‘do’ Europe. On his return he applied for posts in wildlife parks and
the Peace Corps. This resulted in offers from Alaska or with the Peace
Corps in Nepal. Woody had the travel bug and headed for Nepal.
Woody’s part was to show the local people how to go
about sustainable fishing, stocking the waters with carp to provide
protein for their diet. Considering that he was dealing with Hindu people,
and Woody was a vegetarian at the time, this was quite a feat.
After his two year tour of duty with the Peace Corps he
was supposed to return home. “I had learned the Nepali language, and to
know the language is to know the culture. At the end of my time, I had
only just become effective.” With this knowledge, he stayed and began
training the new waves of Peace Corps officers. As a part of that he also
wrote a cross-cultural manual on Nepal.
Meeting a naturalist who was involved with the 800 odd
species of birds in Nepal, this led to Woody taking people on treks
through the country, and in turn hooking up with a travel agency to handle
all their trekking tours. This he did for a total of twelve years.
However, this was not his only source of income. He
began sending Tibetan artifacts and rugs to the US, and financed trips
back to the States through this, but it had been seven years after he left
to join the Peace Corps before he returned to America and saw his family
It was on these trips to the US that Woody had his
first taste of Thailand. On the way he stopped off in Bangkok and in his
words, “I had Asia in my blood, and this looked kinda nice.” As the
Nepalese authorities began to make it harder for non-residents to get
visas, he began to split his time between Nepal and Thailand.
It was around then that he decided that Pattaya was
“kinda nice too.” He met local expats such as Bjarne Nielsen who was
very supportive, and Woody began to think about how he could settle down
in this country. A couple of abortive starts were a rubber plantation in
Surat Thani and an export business for tiger prawns. However, a friend was
opening a rock and roll bar on Beach Road in Pattaya and with Woody’s
background and his life-long interest in rock and roll, he was asked to
become the music advisor for the bar. This was 1986, and fifteen years
later, he is still with TQ (Tahitian Queen), Pattaya’s first rock and
roll bar. This was not the only string to Woody’s bow, however, as he
was still doing treks in Nepal up till 1994, followed by treks in Vietnam,
up till 1997.
Being associated with a bar, Woody integrated into the
community very quickly and has been involved with the Hash House Harriers
and has been a vice president of the Pattaya Sports Club. He loves
motorcycles and bought his first Harley in 1990 and was instrumental in
forming the Jesters Motorcycle Club in 1996. “I got the idea of the logo
from a hat I brought back from the States.” Originally 10 members, there
are now 31.
Through Alice Poulsen, a Fountain of Life volunteer,
Woody and his Jesters became involved with the Good Shepherd Sisters and
the Fountain of Life and the resulting Children’s Fair and Jesters Pub
Nights are now firmly in the Pattaya calendar as some of the premier
fund-raising events for charity in this city.
Success for Woody, being self employed with no pension
or fall-back career, is in staying busy as well as having strong bonds
with his family - his Thai wife and his five year old daughter, plus his
father, still going strong at ninety years old back in America.
His advice to those who ask him about opening a bar in
Pattaya is simple - “Don’t!”
As far as some ambition as yet unfulfilled -
“There’s something more, but I don’t know what it is. It may be
writing. I’ve got the book title - it’s ‘Wet Stone Dancer’ after a
whistling thrush that dances on slippery wet stones.” You cannot help
feeling that this self-made entrepreneur sees his own life that way.
It will be an interesting book, Lewis “Woody”
Underwood is a very interesting person.