A blog about writing, reading, travelling and great characters I meet in life. I love these things more than cheese-on-toast times trampolines times monkeys.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Unwind and chat about writing - at the Chiang Mai Writers Club and Wine Bar

‘It grew up around me like a coral reef,’ Bob Tilley says. He is talking about how he and his wife Tong created the Chiang Mai Writers Club.

Bob is a former foreign correspondent for The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.

He has now settled permanently in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s old capital and magnet for creatives.

‘Wherever I travel, I always look for where the media congregate,’ Bob says.

‘You meet people of your own profession with great local knowledge that way. There were places like this in Bangkok and Hong Kong, but nothing in Chiang Mai.’

Inside the Chiang Mai Writers Club, there are high stools around a warm wooden bar, a comfy sofa in the corner, bookshelves and soft side lighting on the walls – it feels like you are stepping into a friend's home.

‘Tong and I wanted to create a place where we felt comfortable, so hopefully our friends would feel comfortable too,’ Bob explains.

‘It’s the dream of so many expats to open a bar but the mistake many of them make is not to put any of their character into the place they open.’

Takis Michas, a journalist for the Wall St Journal and Eleftherotypia paper in Greece, is sitting with us drinking a Singha beer. He is currently choosing between Washington, Copenhagen and Chiang Mai for his next foreign posting.

‘Why do you come to the Chiang Mai Writers Club?’ I ask Takis.

‘Simple,’ he says. ‘You meet very interesting people here – and it’s vital as a journalist to interact with people who share your interests.’

Takis has written books about politics and aims to write a historical novel about 16th century Thailand. I tell Takis that I’m reading Wolf Hall at the moment by Hilary Mantel set in Tudor times – and how wonderful it is when writers recreate history in fiction.

Bob then mentions that he once interviewed Hilary Mantel.

‘I spent a very interesting two hours on a train with Hilary Mantel from Munich to Nuremberg,’ Bob says. ‘I was working for an English language news programme for German television – aimed at Germans who wanted to deepen their knowledge of English culture, language and writing. The British Council in Munich were very active in bringing English writers and other cultural figures on tour to Germany. The interview was a great success because Hilary was a very bubbly person, wonderful for television and unlike a static interview in a hotel room, there was the German countryside rushing by in the background.’

Bob also tells me about interviewing Salman Rushdie after he wrote Midnight’s Children. ‘Salman spoke about his next project but wouldn’t say what it was, just that it would be very controversial – that was The Satanic Verses, of course.’

And this is how the conversation goes, it flows from one writing story to the next.

Julian and Tom join us, both journalists and regulars at Chiang Mai Writers Club and Wine Bar.

‘At the end of the working week, I come here to relax and say thank God it’s Friday,’ Julian says.

I ask Tom what it is about Chiang Mai that works for him as a writer.

‘I’m fortunate to have a freelance position so I can choose where I live. I fly to Bangkok when I need to but I love living in Chiang Mai for the easy access to the mountains and countryside. I can be in Mae Rim in 30 minutes for incredible views and really great coffee.’

By the end of my evening with Bob and Tong and the regulars at the Writers Club, my brain is replete with conversation about writing. And my stomach is satisfied with the blackberry and apple pie with ice cream that Tong brings to me.

I feel like a local already.

To drop in on Bob and Tong at Chiang Mai Writers Club and Wine Bar, go to 141-3 Ratchadamnoen Road, Chiang Mai or visit the Chiang Mai Writers Club online.

Bob has written 3 books, 2 of which are available from Bangkok books:
1)Sticky Rice at the Orchid Cafe - ‘full of touches of P.G. Wodehouse’ according to one reviewer.

2) Boom Boom Baby – ‘one of the funniest and most incisive books on Thai farang (foreigners) relationships you will ever read’ – reviewer at Pattaya Mail;


  1. Great story about the locals at the Writer's Club. I want to get back there before I have to leave Chiang Mai!

  2. The Writers Club is great, interesting people, great food, lots of laughs - I love it.


    Contest for local Chiang Mai Writers

    1st Place Prize - $25.00 USD Gift card to Amazon
    2nd Place Prize - $15.00 USD Gift card to Amazon
    3rd Place Prize - $10.00 USD Gift card to Amazon
    4th Place Prize - $5.00 USD Gift card to Amazon – There will be at least three 4th Place Prizes
    1.Article submission – 400-700 word original fresh article or essay of exceptional quality. New never previously published nor distributed articles or essays in print or online.
    A. What makes Chiang Mai a good choice to visit?
    B. What makes Chiang Mai a good choice to live?
    C. What makes Chiang Mai a good choice to retire?
    2.Submissions remain the property of the author.
    3.Written permission to publish the article or essay by Chiang Mai Choice online must be received by February 15,2013.
    4.Article or essay must be in English.
    5.Article will be judged by the editorial council of Chiang Mai Choice.
    6.No employee or volunteer worker or their immediate family may submit articles or essays.
    7.Article or essay must be positive in content – no negative statements, personal attacks, or negative content will be allowed.
    8.Submission must be made in Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, or Open Office with one inch margins and double spaced. Title page will not be stapled to the submission.
    9.Submission must have a Title page with the title of the article or essay, name of the submission, author's name, date of submission, address, email, and telephone number. Identification number will be assigned to the title page. The same Identification number will be assigned to the article or essay. Thus, the only identification on the submission should be the number. This will help insure that the judges do not know who submitted the material. Thus, impartiality will be mantained.
    10.Submission may be emailed as an attachment to morris@click1.net (1 is the number 1).
    11.Both submission and written permission to print need to be received by February 15, 2013. Send to: Le David Morris, 18 Sanders Road, Suite 201R, Humboldt, TN 38343 USA.
    12.Late submission after February 15, 2013 will not be accepted.