Pattaya’s Canterbury Tales clocks up 20 years

Dave Collier’s life is all about Pattaya’s only-surviving major book exchange and UK social hangout.

The city’s unique book exchange with soft-drinks cafeteria is more popular than ever after being advised it would likely face closure. Canterbury-born Dave Collier, who runs the enterprise with his wife Yao said, “We were told many years ago that the internet and electronic books would doom a business venture like Canterbury Tales. In reality, we have expanded dramatically with more than 60,000 second-hand books being bought, borrowed and traded on a regular basis.” He adds that the shop never closed during the recent covid pandemic and still hosts a traditional gossip shop for UK expats every Monday.

The internet has actually turned out a boon rather than a threat. “We regularly use Facebook to promote the business with regular updates and reviews of new arrivals,” explains Dave, “whilst our new premises in Soi Bongkot are much bigger and quieter than the old premises in Soi Pothole.” Canterbury Tales moved last September away from a bar and club district to a brighter and more reader-friendly district a couple of kilometers away. “We get a lot more foreign ladies and couples dropping in since the move.”

The bookshop stock, which also houses a small selection of classic DVDs, is around 50-50 fiction and non-fiction. Wandering around the aisles and checking the shelves is an evocative delving experience with some rare finds. There are lots of books about Thailand and Pattaya including the very first exposure of the sex industry: Jack Reynolds’ “A Woman of Bangkok” published in 1956 and described as a “brutally frank story that will shock and enthrall.” And where else in Thailand might you find classics such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, or a paperback highlighting the ten most ugly towns and cities in the UK?

There are around 60,000 second-hand books on hand, plus DVDs and magazines galore.

The books are mostly given or traded in by local expats, although Canterbury Tales now receives bulk donations and job lots from the estates of expats who have died. “We also ship orders all over Thailand as we have developed a niche market,” explains Dave. The book sections partially reflect the expat community population in Pattaya. For example, there are lots of volumes on the Vietnam war, recalling the arrival of many American expats during and after that conflict, plus an unexpected influx of medical books which may reflect the preoccupations of ageing expats more generally.

The store is arranged alphabetically, though that’s more of a theory than a guarantee. The real deal is to wander and browse. On your right might be a large choice of horror fiction from Frankenstein to Stephen King and beyond, on your left science fiction and fantasy which go well together. European languages other than English are also represented, especially paperback novels. High on the shelves might be a history of football and a guide to self-improvement in golf, whilst lower down you’ll come across biographies of famous public executioners such as Albert Pierrepoint. Canterbury Tales is open daily 10 am to around 5 pm. Check Dave out on Facebook, or phone 086 575 4966.