Doulos ‘bookship’ comes to Thailand

Doulos 'bookship comes to Thailand

After three years of waiting, finally, one of the world’s most prominent floating “book” ships, the MV Doulos, is visiting Thailand again. Currently, the ship is docked at Klong Toey Port, welcoming all bookworms until August 23.

The MV Doulos is the world’s oldest active ocean-going passenger vessel, according to Guinness World Records. She was built in 1914, making the ship a close sister of the ill-fated RMS Titanic. Doulos has visited more than 100 countries over the past 30 years, upholding a mission to bring knowledge, help and hope to people around the world.

About half a million copies of books under approximately 8,000 English titles are loaded on board for the public to purchase. The subjects cover a wide range of genres, including books for children, science books, books on languages, novels, a large collection of publications on Christianity, and many other publications. The ship also has a number of selected Thai publications available.

No less interesting than the ship and its books are the crew members. Doulos carries around 330 crew members of various ages from 50 different countries, including young children, teenagers and adults. Among the crew hands, Phichai Opaskiatikul and Siriwan Najeen are the only Thais on board.

Ms Siriwan formerly worked at a bookshop in Bangkok, before she decided to join the crew. A devoted Christian, she says that she wanted to spend her young adult life on this ship to help and give something back to the people and as a Christmas gift for Jesus Christ.

Her mission on the ship is to prepare teams to go out on excursion days, when crew members disperse to build friendship with the locals at each port they visit by learning and sharing their knowledge and culture with the local people.

“I made a lot of friends with people around the world, and gained invaluable experience from working with people of diverse nationalities. I especially learned to become more responsible,” she says, explaining what the 19-month experience on Doulos has bestowed on her. She adds that adapting to the multicultural environment is also essential to work in harmony on the ship.

Travelling with the ship has exposed her to diverse cultures. She has been to 13 countries. “Papua New Guinea is my favourite port,” she says. She adds that she was really overwhelmed by the hospitality of the people there, “They have an exotic, yet interesting, culture and gorgeous natural resources.”

“This ship is not just a bookshop; it is a catalogue of international experiences waiting to be shared with others,” Ms Siriwan says.

Like Ms Siriwan, Mr Phichai came on board six months ago because he wanted to extend a helping hand to other people as well as learn more about other cultures. When he first signed on, he worked in the kitchen. Now, serving as a deckhand, he is primarily responsible for maintenance tasks. Mr Phichai proudly explains that he is occasionally assigned to be a helmsman to steer the ship.

“I am impressed by how the crews on board work as a team on this ship,” Mr Phichai explained. He described that the challenge of cultivating good teamwork on the vessel is understanding and reaching compromises due to differences in opinions and characteristics.

Everyone is welcome to visit the ship, browse through the selections of books, discuss life on board with the crew members, take a tour of the ship, or just come and witness the magnificent vista of the Chao Phraya River from the deck.