Once the pandemic subsided, we were keen to move from Pattaya’s Soi Pothole,” says Dave Collier who set up Canterbury Tales with his energetic wife Yao in 2004. Over the years, the second-hand and exchange bookshop has become the city’s principal literary depository as well as a favorite daytime “table of knowledge” – a mainly British expat corner for drinking tea, socializing and keeping abreast of the local news.
But Soi Pothole, officially Soi Chaiyapoon, is an increasingly noisy street with new bars playing loud music reopening as tourism rebounds. Dave and Yao are now open for business in Soi Bongkot (near Soi 6/3) in much larger premises which resemble a library to accommodate tens of thousands of volumes. “It’s about 60 percent non-fiction, but we have a large selection of true crime, biographies, sports, classics and even erotica,” promises Dave as a customer asks if there is a copy of Suetonius’ twelve lives of the Caesars. “Yes, second shelf on the left,” he says. “It’s randy stuff you know.”
Many have pondered why Dave has made a success of a used book business in Pattaya where so many other foreigners have failed. “Hard work really.” he says, “From day one I advertised widely, used the internet and made personal contacts.” He adds that, although Pattaya has changed a lot in the last 10 years, the business has grown and grown. “We ship and receive books all over Thailand, using Kerry Express, thus proving there’s a ready market if you know how to satisfy it.”
The new place doesn’t have rooms to rent as Dave wants less responsibility. Since 2013 he has suffered from a muscle-wasting disease, inclusive body myositis, which keeps him wheelchair-bound. “Shit happens,” he admits philosophically, “but the business is my key interest and I’m very fortunate to have the support of a loving and efficient wife.” In his spare time, Dave is writing a book The Gamekeeper, a fictionalized account of his early life in UK as a gamekeeper (no less) and a voluntary prison visitor linked to his work with the Samaritans.
The name Canterbury Tales does indeed take its cue from Geoffrey Chaucer’s 24 medieval stories about assorted pilgrims on their way from London to Canterbury. Not to mention that Dave himself was born in the cathedral city in the heart of Kent. “One of the delights of Chaucer’s book is to read the many ways in which fourteenth century pilgrims were determined to have a fun time. The similarities with Pattaya are remarkable.” Dave is available on 086 575 4966.