Weekly Local Biography

 Georg Peter Mueller


Georg Peter Mueller is a German, now resident in Chiang Mai and an international documentary filmmaker and journalist. He is in Asia to fulfil a long held ‘need’ and along the way found himself, his career and his philosophy.

Georg was born in Essen in Germany. His father was a medical doctor, as were most of his relatives. The remainder were missionaries, and Georg remembers sitting on the knee of one, listening to marvellous exciting tales of life in primitive Africa.

He did not perform to his true capabilities at school. Post war German youth was suspicious of all authority, be that parents, teachers or government. He regrets that somewhat, saying, “We were anti-authoritarian and we wasted our chances to learn.” One obvious aspect of this revolt was the era of the long hair and the rock bands, and Georg spent his nights on the skins, sweat flying from the long hair.

However, his parents did manage to push him hard enough for him to graduate with high enough grades to make it into university - but there was one slight hitch - the German government wanted him first for National Service. He spent the next 15 months in the navy learning communications. If nothing else he learned to type!

His choice of subjects for his tertiary education were out of the ordinary - anthropology and communications. “When I was 15 years old, I only knew what I didn’t want to be, and anthropological films and Africa sounded interesting!” He still felt the same at university entrance, but continued through in those subjects, graduating with a Masters degree after six years.

His thesis at university was based on Indonesian anthropology, a country he had never seen, so he decided he should see it after graduation, back-packing his way around for 7 months, till he came to Bali. There he had, what he described as a “magic moment. I decided that there was where I wanted to be.” Like so many Europeans, he was succumbing to the charms of Asia.

By now, a true traveller, he was setting off to return to Germany by the Trans-Siberian Railway, when the Chernobyl disaster cancelled the trip, but he did not take that as the hand of fate and returned anyway.

Germany was not looking for anthropologists every day, but there were openings for communicators and he finally ended up in a German private TV company. He began producing radio and TV documentaries, but found himself getting depressed with life in the Fatherland. “I wanted to go back to Asia,” were his thoughts at the time. He took himself back to Indonesia on a holiday and shot a 45 minute documentary on anthropology in Sulawesi, and loved the experience.

Returning to Germany, he asked for a posting to Asia, hoping for Indonesia, but was told he could have Thailand. He took the opportunity. “I arrived on the 7th of February 1989 with two bags and no idea what I was supposed to do as a foreign correspondent.” His company was not much help either, going bankrupt after he had been here two months! “I had just started, but I decided to stay.”

He started writing for newspapers, produced a documentary of deforestation of the Burmese rainforests, and turned his hand to anything that might return a few baht for his words and pictures. “I just barely survived, but I wanted to stay here despite interesting job offers from Germany.”

He became better known and joined a partnership to produce films and offer all services for TV production. He got married to the Thai lady he met in Bangkok 6 weeks after he arrived. He began to do more than just survive.

1997 was a turning point for Georg (as it was for many people in Asia during the economic crash). After 12 months of trying he finally got permission to film the jade mines in Burma. No-one else had been there and his TV documentary sold well overseas. As the baht sank, you could make real money just out of exchange rates, and Georg cashed his overseas earnings as the baht hit bottom. He bought land and a house in Chiang Mai with the proceeds. The fall of the tiger economies helped someone here!

He had come to Chiang Mai with his family as there was a German school here, and he wanted his daughters to be able to speak German. He also knew that you needed less money to live here, compared to Bangkok, and “the quality of life is better,” he said fervently.

In Chiang Mai he has not looked back. He formed his own production company and took on the position as the local ‘man on the ground’ for the German TV station Deutsche Welle. From there it has been into more corporate work, more documentaries and more production services. “In order to survive here you have to do many things. The art is in juggling the jobs to get everything done!”

His philosophy is interesting too. “Just be yourself. Just let things happen. I don’t force things. Leave the things you don’t want alone, and you automatically come to the things you do want.” This is a repeat of what he was thinking when he was 15 years old. He didn’t know what he wanted, but he knew what he didn’t want. A simple philosophy, but one that works for Georg.

These days he has also adopted the Buddhist faith, which fits for him. “I’m happy with my life. I can travel and I’m always learning. There are so many incredible stories out there.” He is also very happy with his family, proudly telling me of the achievements of his three girls.

Georg Mueller is now here, and most likely forever, though he did say, “It’s smart to keep one door open, but I have a strong family in Germany, and I know we’d all help each other.” I don’t think you’ll have to call on that help, Georg!