Siamese Embassy Lost in Africa, 1686, A: The Odyssey of Ok-Khun Chamnanby Michael Smithies
This long-forgotten tale of the shipwreck off the coasts of Africa of a Siamese embassy to Lisbon in 1686 lay buried in the text of a French book printed three hundred years ago. The author of the text was the intrepid and intriguing Jesuit Tachard, who ·published accounts of his first two journeys to Siam. In his second book, written when he was King Narai's personal envoy to Louis XIV and Pope Innocent XI, Tachard relates the account of the shipwreck as told by one of its survivors, Ok-khun Cham nan Chaichong, who was accompanying Tachard on his return to France.
Ok-khun Chamnan, during his odyssey as part of the aborted embassy to Portugal, spent nearly a year in Goa, where he learnt Portuguese; a month travelling overland from Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, to the Cape of Good Hope; four months at the Dutch settlement at the Cape; six months in Batavia; and several months at sea on this journey. On his return to Siam in 1687 he was ordered to greet the French envoys La Loubere and Oeberet soon after their arrival.
The adventures of this Siamese khunnang did not end with his unsuccessful journey to Lisbon. He went on to Europe in 1688, visited the Riviera and Rome in winter, met the pope, and then in 1689 had an audience with Louis XIV. He converted to Catholicism and returned from Europe in 1690, disembarking at Balassor in Bengal before returning to Ayutthaya overland from Mergui.
This extraordinary account has been translated into English for the first time, and is backed up by three contemporary texts by Choisy, Tachard, and La Loubere describing the Dutch settlement at the Cape.