Pattaya’s longest-stay foreign resident is 91

Ulla Dohlon, the grand old lady of Jomtien, with her much-loved poodle Mimi.

Ulla Dohlon was born in Sweden in 1930, first visited Thailand in 1959 and has been domiciled here ever since. She has permanent resident status which means she lives here without visas or renewal dates and has two children, Eric and Inga, who have made successful businesses in the insurance business in Phuket and Pattaya respectively.

Born and raised in a private school in Stockholm, Ulla as a young woman worked in consultancy and administration for a couple of companies, before meeting and marrying her husband Eric (Senior) after a whirlwind romance A mechanical engineer of the first order, Eric was based in India which is where Ulla lived for most of the 1950s. He transferred to Thailand in 1959 where he worked until his retirement almost 20 years later.

From the earliest days here, Eric and Ulla rented a beach house in Pattaya even though they were based in Bangkok. “Pattaya and Jomtien were so different then,” she recalls. “You didn’t need to lock your front door if going out and the electricity was so spasmodic that you couldn’t use a refrigerator, but had to rely on a huge box crammed with ice which was refilled every day.” She adds that there were no supermarkets or farang options until Spinney’s opened near Soi Post Office in the 1980s.

The happily married couple lived a busy life in Bangkok and Pattaya. “Life in those days wasn’t based on restaurants and bars and you did your entertaining at home,” she recalls. “We built up a large social network but nearly all of them have now passed away,” sighs Ulla. Eric did some consular work for the Swedish embassy whilst Ulla was heavily involved in the international ladies club of those early days.

Her husband died in 1991 and Ulla has been based in Pattaya and Jomtien ever since. She has lived in the same detached house in Jomtien for the past 24 years with her daughter occupying next door. An excellent cook, with a detailed knowledge of Indian and Swedish cuisine, Ulla quickly became the hostess-with-the-mostest although macular degeneration in recent years has curtailed those gourmet evenings.

Ulla learned to play bridge in India and has been an addict ever since. She was delighted in 1994 when the first registered Pattaya bridge club was founded by the present writer. She was a regular attender for many years and still hosts occasional games at her house as well as playing from time to time at a Dutch friend’s residence. She also has a lifelong passion for poodles and currently has two cuddly four-legged chums.

Like all Pattaya survivors, Ulla has her own perspective on Pattaya’s history. “The early years were idyllic,” she remembers, “but the noise and the seediness began with the American servicemen in the late 1960s.” In recent years, the resort has grown so enormous that she can scarcely recognize the old landmarks. “Yes I prefer to recall Pattaya as it used to be,” she remembers, “but I’m lucky still to have a loving family and no trace of dementia.” Asked for the secret of a long life, Ulla says, “Don’t live in the past, look to the future.”