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The Bavarian Thai: Bertold Gams from Dorfen, a globetrotter and at the same time a family man


Dorfen / Chiang Mai - Bertold Gams has his roots in Dorfen, but his second home has been Thailand for more than 20 years, where he lives with his family.

Dorfen / Chiang Mai - Bertold Gams has his roots in Dorfen, but his second home has been Thailand for more than 20 years, where he lives with his family.

Bertold Gams was fascinated by maps and the globe even before he could read.

“My parents always had to read me the capitals of the individual countries, which I soon knew by heart,” recalls the 60-year-old from Dorfen.

He grew up with his sister Elfi, who is three years older than him, in the property of his parents' locksmith's workshop. Father Bertold Gams runs the business as an independent master locksmith, mother Elfriede works in the business. When little Berti started school, it was still run by nuns from the convent. After elementary school, he switched to the Erding grammar school, because there was no higher school in Dorfen at that time. “I was a good student, enjoyed going to school and was encouraged by my parents,” Gams sums up and admits that school sport was not his forte.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the father had to give up the metalworking shop for health reasons, mother Elfriede now devoted herself to painting. “I have fond memories of the locksmith's workshop, because I was often able to try something out,” says Bertold Gams, who can still clearly see how his father was always at the drawing board back then. The high school student delivers good grades until puberty, after which he only does what is absolutely necessary to get through. Other interests come to the fore: The 17-year-old's own moped, with which the 17-year-old rides all the way to northern Spain, parties at the Wörther Weiher. You hang out in the Erdinger Picnic youth center, later in the Hirschwirt, there is a celebration and life into the day. Bertold Gams is active in the youth center in Dorfen, works on the board, organizes concerts, but also works at the counter.

The fact that the students at Erdinger Gymnasium spend many hours in the park café doesn't bother some teachers, as the Dorfener reports with a smile. “Landscape drawing in the park”, was how the young art teacher Michael B. described the art lesson, which was then spent in good company in the park café. The dreaded French teacher Eleonore Weber or the English teacher Wilfried Rotter were stricter. Despite minimal effort, the high school graduate passed the exam with an average of 2.9. His sister, who completed a medical degree after graduating from high school, was much more ambitious. Her brother, who has always been good at mathematics, tries to study computer science, but soon realizes that this subject is not right for him.

He travels, spends several months with a friend in Israel and Egypt, works in the kibbutz in the banana plantations, but also in the kitchen and in the hostel.

His next journey was already in the making since his youth: "My absolute favorite book at the time was 'Six boys tip over to India', I couldn't read that often enough," the globetrotter still enthuses today.

"When I was sick, my grandmas always had to read from it to me," reports Gams.

With the cheapest airline he is flying to India on the trail of his favorite book, traveling there by train and bus through the country and visiting Nepal.


Bertold Gams helps with the rice harvest in Thailand.

© private

His parents put pressure on to go back to university. Berti tries business studies and completes a few semesters, but the real enthusiasm does not arise in this subject either. He'd rather work on the side in the warehouse and save himself the next trip together. Again it goes to Asia, this time all alone to Thailand, Australia and the Philippines. “During the nine months I was traveling, I worked on site again and again,” explains Gams, who also worked as a hot dog seller and in the office in Sydney. On the way, he not only brings back countless memories, a holiday love also follows him later to Dorfen, but the connection breaks after a while. The man from Dorfen is now using his weakness for travel and foreign countries to train as a travel agent.He enjoys working for a flight agency in Munich and offers cheap agent tickets all over the world, as the travel professional reveals. The Dorfener can visit South and Central America, China and Taiwan, and the trip to Yemen with his father Bertold will be a highlight.

Like son Berti, his father had a lot of wanderlust at a young age and even wanted to emigrate to America, but after a few years as a guest worker in Switzerland had to take over his parents' company.

"We really enjoyed the trip to the land of the Queen of Sheba" with the impressive adobe buildings, "reports the son.

A time of change now follows for son Berti.

He becomes more solid, a private breakup follows and he finally quits the travel agency.

Shortly before, his sister Elfi, who last lived in Spain, dies.

Hard time for the family.

Berti supports the parents in handling the formalities.

He sums up the deep pain over the loss of a child that he can only really empathize with today, when he is the father of two children himself.

The time had come for another big trip to Southeast Asia with a friend and the two friends visit Indonesia first, then the Philippines.

There is no more fun there when Berti has his hands full to hand over his psychologically badly damaged comrade to the responsibility of the German embassy.

He himself travels to Thailand via Hong Kong, Vietnam and Myanmar and takes stock: “I was now 35 years old and had had enough of traveling around forever.

I wanted to settle down and start a family, ”recalls the globetrotter.


With sister Elfi in Mardi Gras.

© private

In the north of Thailand, in the big city of Chiang Mai, he met the young Rawan in a bar and noticed after a few minutes that she was not a “bar girl” looking for wealthy customers. She works for an AIDS project in the mountains, where Berti accompanies her. “It was a completely different world,” reports the man from Dorfen, who now enjoys being close to the locals and becoming part of the village community. “As a tourist, despite the many trips, you have hardly any contact with the real life of the local population,” regrets the well-traveled man.

For a moment he panics again, he has not even finished his planned trip. He travels on to Malaysia, but soon returns, because "I missed the Rawan so much that I knew we belonged together," explains Berti Gams with a smile. Berti's mother Elfriede travels from Germany to get to know the prospective daughter-in-law, and the two get along straight away. The marriage takes place in the in-laws' village with a ceremony held by Buddhist monks. Shortly afterwards, his Thai wife becomes pregnant and the couple decide to move to Rawan's home village. The young couple live in a simple house and Rawan is working on her dream of growing organic vegetables. “That was not possible without disputes with her parents, who only knew traditional rice cultivation,” reports Berti Gams.He himself works in the village on the rice fields, uses his moped with a sidecar to transport the vegetables to the market, which he helps to grow, and is soon entrusted with accounting. “My mother-in-law was not very good at arithmetic because she was often ripped off by the other market women beforehand,” says the enthusiastic new farmer.


Together with the parents from Dorfen on vacation in Phuket.

© private

1997 daughter Jasmin is born, her name is derived from the jasmine fragrant rice that the in-laws grow.

The young family's house is now multilingual: “I only spoke German with my daughter, Rawan only Thai, and my wife and I only talked in English,” explains the caring family father, who immediately spoke to himself with books and tapes begins to learn the Thai language.

The simple life in the village was a wonderful time, says the man from Dorfen looking back, although he has sometimes felt homesick for Germany. He also shakes the world view of the villagers, who view all foreigners as filthy rich, filthy lazy and stupid. The busy new citizen, who lends a hand with the low-level field work, doesn't fit the cliché of the “Pattaya foreigner” at all.

Two years after daughter Jasmin, son Marco is born, who is named after Marco Polo, a Venetian traveler to Asia, as the proud father reveals. Several times a year, the grandparents in Dorfen make their way to Thailand. They feel very comfortable in their son's second home and support the young family. As nice as the village is, the educational opportunities there are very limited. That is why the young family moves to the outskirts of the city of Chiang Mai, where there is also a German school abroad. There the Dorfener begins with language lessons for Thais and gives tutoring for students of the German school.

For the time being, however, his children attend a small Thai village school on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Because of their deficits, Bertold Gams begins to teach his children himself; He teaches them to read and write in German. Thanks to the good preparation by their father, his children Jasmin and Marco manage to switch to the German school system without any problems, and both can finish their school careers with the Abitur.

The 24-year-old daughter Jasmin is doing her A-levels in Dorfen and lives with her grandmother, then studies "Media and Arts" in Finland and is now starting her professional life in Berlin. Son Marco is not only a high school student at the German school abroad, but also studies business administration at the Fernuni Hagen. By the time he graduated from high school, he already had a bachelor's degree under his belt. Father Berti is proud of his offspring, who are at home in both countries.

Since March 2020, the man from Dorfen has been back permanently in his old home and supports his now 82-year-old mother during the corona crisis.

His father died in 2008. While mother Elfriede Gams enjoys having her son around at least for a while, the latter spends a lot of time on his laptop to maintain his contacts in Thailand.

"The lessons are still online, that's not a problem," explains the language teacher, who also speaks frequently with his wife Rawan via Skype.


Bertold Gams is now working as a language teacher.

During Corona online from Dorfen.

© private

Recently, however, he got back on the plane to Chiang Mai with many fond memories of his Bavarian homeland.

(Gerda and Peter Gebel)

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Source: merkur

All news articles on 2021-10-22

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