While continuing to find new pieces for our future home, the design of it needed to keep evolving. With each new find another napkin or envelope was required to scratch out these ideas of how it would all work together in the end. Today coming across these scraps it’s always a wonder to see these rudimentary scratchings having come forth as a completed house . Through all this we had to follow the well worn tropical custom of having ‘cocktail hour’ each day to help ease a day of adventuring and decision making, taking time to dream of how it was all going to come together one day.
But I digress, this journey all began in Yangon (Rangoon) on our very first day in Myanmar months earlier when on the spur of a moment we found ourselves having dinner at the Strand Hotel. There are a few classic old colonial era hotels in the world, places like the Oriental in Bangkok and Raffles in Singapore. The Strand is story out of time especially so since it was just coming back from a long period of neglect and so still retained the old charm of days passed. We were first there when it was a period when there were very few tourist, Myanmar still being a very closed country. Having shown interest, the current manager took time to give us a thorough tour of the premises along with some of the more colorful history that occurred within it’s walls. Both of us deeply inspired by all the old wood paneling and pillars leading us into a direction we knew would be our path.
That first trip in India was providential, having arrived in Pondicherry and finding such a rich source of materials to build with. The classic colonial architecture that we had found in Yangon was once again surrounding us here. With everything accomplished we were off to Kodaikanal, a hill town high in the Western Ghats. Arriving by sleeper bus we awoke to high forested mountains blanketed in a thick mist, the fragrance of Eucalyptuses completely perfuming the cool damp air. Kodai as it’s known is an American Missionary town far above the hot plains of southern India. Our friend in Pondichery grew up here and after his many stories we had decided to visit. We’re in India and it’s cold, who knew. Finding a quaint stone guest house with a fireplace we needed to find firewood. Being one of the last places up a steep hill, we had been watching the local woman coming from out of the forest carrying large bundles of wood on their heads. Missing a chance to ask as they had gone by I headed down to the village to buy some. Now I’m a man if they can carry it so can I, but on picking the bundle of wood up there was no way I was going to make it back up that hill. Swallowing my pride in front of those woman, I hired a rickshaw.
What we enjoy most about traveling is never knowing what the day will bring. What new people you’ll meet, what surprises you’ll end up experiencing. Walking a path up into the hills one morning, we came across a lovely home alone in the forest. This cottage was so full of old world charm we now knew how we were going to accomplish building a new house with the same integrity and coziness.
Years later we returned again to Kodaikanal just to find this house that so inspired our home. Times have changed, the town is busier now with the omnipresent horns of India echoing the hills. But up the same trail, walking quietly past the gars (wild buffalo) we found the home unchanged and just as lovely. Getting up courage we walked around where we are surprised to meet a group of Danes sitting out on the porch. Telling them how this house had inspired our own home we learned that the home was built by a Dane who immigrated to India at the out break of WWII and who became one of the largest contractors in India. My Mother was born in Ørbyhage, Denmark with her father being a master builder according to the parish records. Though i’m accused of being a Type A person, I’ve always felt more Type D -Danish. To find that this Dane was a builder as I am and my grandfather before me, it all seemed to come full circle.
So this is the story of how Lydia and I came to be inspired in building our home. It was a long way there and back to find that what we wanted was a simple home with a warm fireplace and plenty of old world hygge; coziness. Now we have a home to come back to from our journeys that’s filled with the history and memories that has been shaped by the world we traveled through, as it has shaped us.