The world's biggest floating book fair is back on Bangkok's shores for the third time _ a few years since its last visit in 2009 and over three decades since its inaugural trip in 1980. This time, it's in a new ship: Logos Hope, which is 132m long and 21m wide, making it a slow sailing vessel that will only move quickly when there are pirates, says Captain James Dyer with a wink.
MVLogos Hope will remain at Klong Toey port until Mar 11.
The massive ship carries more than 5,000 English titles for the whole family covering a wide range of topics such as cooking, travel, self-improvement and dictionaries, although the selection is mostly devoted to children. Technically speaking, it's no different from visiting your local bookstore, but the main draw here is that the books are cheaper due to the organisation's non-profit stance and dedication to providing books for the less fortunate.
Many of the books are donations from publishers, which enables the fair to sell them for a fraction of the full cost. Usually older editions, the books are quite dated, but also rare _ you might just find old versions no longer on shelves that will hit the nostalgia button.
College textbooks are up for grabs: you can pick any three for 400 baht, plus you get a free tote bag. They may be out of date, with new case studies and examples coming out every year, but since theories don't change all that often, they can still be relevant reads. The books available are mainly in English, but material in the local language of the port of call is also provided. Since the ship travels all around the world, the price tags are labelled in units, with 100 units equalling 80 baht.
Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana, the guest of honour who officially opened Logos Hope's book fair to the public, said "this ship came at the right time".
"Our people are reading an average of only three to five books a year but this ship will provide not only books, but also a chance to meet international people who they can learn from."
The minister also has fond memories of his own visits to the ship in the past. "English books in Thailand were very expensive back then, and I remember how I had an opportunity to buy English books at affordable prices during my previous visits."
A project by a charitable organisation, GBA Ships, there is a 400-strong crew of volunteers from more than 45 nations.
On top of the book sales, Logos Hope also aids communities.
Managing director Lloyd Nicholas explains, "Sometimes, we go and install water filters for villagers or simply provide dental care in places that don't even have a dentist. We just want to bring help to where help is needed."
With this visit to Thailand, one of the missions will be at Sing Buri.
As one of the provinces that was most affected by the 2011 floods, crew members will assist in rebuilding what is needed to help the community get back on its feet _ whether schools, houses, playgrounds or canteens.
What binds people from all over the world in this project is their shared Christian faith, but visitors of other beliefs need not worry that they will not be welcomed or bombarded with unsolicited teachings. "We don't have any other agenda and we don't [help people to] use it as a means to preach something else," says Nicholas. "We all do it out of sincerity to really help people."
MV Logos Hope will be open to the public at Klong Toey Port, Bangkok, until March 11. The ship is open from 10am to 9.30pm every Tuesday to Saturday, and from 2pm to 9.30pm on Sundays and Mondays. Entry costs 20 baht and is free for children under 12 when accompanied by an adult.
_ Parisa Pichitmarn
For more information, call 088-241-1343, 089-790-9087 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bangkok shoppers browse at the collection on the floating bookshop.