Descendants of Eng and Chang Bunker will gather here for a reunion this summer, and in the meantime a group is now on a trip to the twins’ native Thailand — with both events drawing coverage from CBS-TV.
The visit to Thailand, formerly known as Siam, is coinciding with the birthday of the Bunkers, known as the Original Siamese Twins, 207 years ago on May 11, 1811. Conjoined at the sternum by a band of cartilage and a fused liver, they later settled in Surry County and raised large families that were the forerunners to a legion of descendants now scattered across the country.
Ahead of the annual reunion of Eng and Chang descendants in Mount Airy in late July, a group including Zack Blackmon Jr., a great-great-grandson of Eng, left early Friday for Thailand — a journey of 20 to 24 hours by plane.
Blackmon said everyone on the reunion’s mailing list was notified about the trip, and at last report 14 people had been booked. In addition to Blackmon, they include Alex Sink, a former local resident descended from Chang Bunker who is the former chief financial officer for the state of Florida and has run for governor and a congressional seat there.
After a scheduled arrival in Bangkok Sunday, the visitors will tour key sites in Thailand, including the Royal Grand Palace, the famed Bridge over the River Kwai and a monument honoring Eng and Chang.
Another highlight will be a visit to Samut Songkhram (spellings for which vary), the province where the Siamese Twins lived.
“It’s a 10-day trip,” Blackmon said.
The various activities will involve high-ranking government officials in Thailand as well as the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, which Blackmon says reflects the regard they have for their two native sons.
“This is exciting for me and it’s exciting for 13 other people,” said the local resident, who is making his first trip to Thailand.
Adding further excitement to the journey is a development disclosed Friday by Tanya Jones of Mount Airy, Blackmon’s sister, concerning coverage by CBS.
Jones said she had received confirmation from a producer on the “Sunday Morning” program of the TV network that a camera crew will be accompanying the U.S. visitors for events on May 10-11.
The crew will be gathering material for an upcoming “Sunday Morning” segment.
And that’s not all — CBS also plans to cover the reunion in Mount Airy in July, according to Jones.
“It’s pretty exciting,” she said.
Jones explained that the interest by the TV network is coinciding with a new book entitled “Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History.”
Its author is Yunte Huang, a professor of English at the University of California-Santa Barbara. While numerous books have been written about Eng and Chang Bunker, Huang’s is being hailed for bringing an Asian-American perspective to their story.
Aside from the vast fanfare that continues to surround the Siamese Twins, Jones said there is a simple pride in one’s family that she and others share.
Jones, who has been to Thailand on three occasions, recalled her first visit that included seeing the place where they lived near a river some 200 years ago.
“It was really emotional for me.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.