วันเสาร์ที่ 3 เมษายน พ.ศ. 2553
In and Chan
Back in Maeklong, from their mission in Vietnam, conjoined twins In and Chan patiently awaited the return of Robert Hunter - despite their thriving duck farm enterprise - as he alone could help them realize their dream of venturing to the West.
In the interim, Robert Hunter had stumbled upon an old associate and former business partner by the name of Abel Coffin, the 37-year-old American captain of the ocean liner Sachem. Siam was a regular port of call on Coffin's business trips; he also enjoyed close ties with the royal court and was granted audiences with King Rama III.
Displaying remarkable entrepreneurial prowess, the American captain, upon learning about In and Chan, came up with the idea of introducing them to America and Britain; an idea which, undoubtedly, would yield huge financial gains.
Subsequently, the two partners paid a visit to the family in Maeklong for a meeting during which the captain began coercing the twins to accept the travel offer, taking care to demonstrate exceptional persuasive¬ness during the negotiations.
Captain Coffin and Robert Hunter began by giving the twins a pep-talk during which it became clear that the twins' interest in seeing the world was more than obvious.
Next, consent had to be secured from Nok the twins' mother. The talking fell to Captain Coffin.
The contract discussed would take the twins to Britain and America for two-and-a-half years. By the time the contract expired, the twins would be celebrating their 2151 birthday party. Coffin promised they would be treated with dignity and be kept free from harm.
But Nok was far from convinced. Quite the reverse, the twins' mother was concerned about their emotional stability were they to be treated badly. She did not want her children to be insensitively exhibited and considered curiosities. Her heart went out to them. More importantly, the duck farm business, the only source of family income, was run solely by her twin sons.
With steadfastness, Captain Coffin and his partner ploughed through the thicket of Nok's misgivings, repeatedly pledging to look after the twins as they would their own children. In return, they offered Nok the sum of $500 which, at the time, must have seemed a princely sum of money. This final gesture won Nok's reluctant consent to let the boys leave with the two aliens.
Despite their successful negotiations in Maeklong, Coffin and Hunter still had to obtain royal consent for the boys to leave their homeland. Eventually, they got their way as royal consent was granted for In and Chan to leave the country for the specified period. So, on March 31, 1829 In and Chan left Maeklong with their mother Nok and buddy Thio.
The next day they boarded the 397-tonne Sachem under the command of Captain Abel Coffin and set sail from Bangkok port down the Chao Phraya river to the Bay of Siam. This was the beginning of a voyage half way round the globe to Boston; a trip that would take 138 days -in all just over four-and-a-half months.
In and Chan had their sights transfixed on the glittering waters ahead as the ocean liner passed by small islets on leaving the Bay of Siam, today known as the Gulf of Thailand. Little did they know that the voyage they had embarked upon on that particular day would mark a milestone in their lives. As they took with them a piece of Maeklong legend from Siam to the world at large it never occurred to them that Siam would, be left behind them for the rest of their lives.
Life on board the Sachem was exciting and full of fun. During the trip, the twins explored on deck and made friends with the American crew.
In fascination, their buddy, Thio, witnessed the twin's daily rituals, including trips to the lavatory to answer the call of nature. This was something Thio found quite amazing as the two managed to perform their essential bodily functions almost simultaneously, certainly within an instant of one another.
Clearly, they seemed to be settling down quite well. They also learnt to speak in faltering French and, using their inherently pleasant dispositions, managed to make people laugh. This friendly approach endeared them to the crew making it possible for them to learn things even faster.
On August 16, 1829, the Sachem docked at Boston. The twins' excitement as they set their foot on American soil for the very first time was beyond words.
A new country, America was only 53 year old and a nation of just 12 million people when In and Chan stepped ashore. Just five months earlier, Andrew Jackson had been sworn in as the country's new president.
The twins' arrival in Boston attracted coverage in the Patriot, the local newspaper. News of their arrival spread like wildfire. According to the Patriot, the Siamese twins were five feet tall, strong and friendly, lively, clever and bright, and would no doubt become the center of attention for those interested in learning more. To the Americans, they were known as Eng and Cheng.
At that time, Boston was an intellectual center frequented by famous personalities such as Britain's Charles Dickens and visiting, heavyweight French businessmen; a fact that did not go unnoticed by the city's popular Lord Mayor Harrison Gray Otis who always had on hand punch ready to serve in beautiful crystal glasses just in case any big names dropped by. Something Boston was never short of because this harbor city attracted a large number of visitors from Europe.
Boston was booming. The opulent Tremont hotel was under construction with completion expected within two month's of the twins' arrival. This 170-room hotel was being billed as America's largest, especially with such lavishness as eight bathrooms, at a time when communal toilets were the norm.
The city also boasted other facilities including bars, small hotels, newsstands, shops selling wine, rum, cigarettes, leather goods, winter wear, dispensaries - all so agreeably decorated that the twins found it quite overwhelming. What they saw in the new land was a far cry from Maeklong, which by then was just a distant memory.
The show to introduce the twins began in earnest during the second week of their arrival in Boston, as Captain Coffin and his assistant James Hale erected a huge
marquee to accommodate up to a thousand spectators. They made a big splash of the occasion through advertising and posters charging 50 cents apiece for the show.
The three-week performance was a sensation; the talk of Boston; anyone missing the show was considered out of touch with trendy reality. But the news had traveled beyond Boston to the rest of the country and as far afield as Europe.
In and Chan were touring almost constantly with little rest, making them the first two Siamese to travel nearly half the world at a time when modern transportation was still a luxury.