The 1st of November has rushed towards me like an express train in my diary, and my latest book is finally published today. Being an author is a strange occupation. The months become years as you slowly write and polish your work, then just when you think all the hard work is done you find yourself in a last moment dash of publishing, marketing and PR.
I’ve had a few questions about the book from readers of my other books, so I have shared some of them here.
Why is it called Bang Sue Junction, and who is Sue?
Bang Sue is a district in Bangkok, and it is home to one of the city’s oldest stations. It is now next door to the newly built Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal. If you are looking to find a promiscuous character called Sue, this might not be the book for you.
What’s the book about?
At the back end of the COVID pandemic I decided I needed to escape lockdown and travel to improve my mental health and well-being. Train travel fixes both my mind and my soul. The problem was that the land borders were all closed. My plan was therefore to spend time on a slow adventure on the rails around Thailand visiting its frontiers. What came out of this approach was a much stronger connection to the railway stations and the people I met compared to some of my past whistle stop long-range adventures.
Did it all go according to plan?
Mostly, but I found myself in a few sticky situations along the way. Fortunately, I avoided ending up in prison or a hospital. The latter was a particular risk owing to the prevailing quarantine rules at the time of travel, possibly linked to the profitability of private healthcare.
Do you like Thai trains?
I love Thai trains. They might not always travel on time, but if you are not in a hurry they are safe, fun, and have real character. High speed is coming, but now is a golden time to enjoy slow speed and life at an open window whilst you still can.
Are the railways very old?
Queen Victoria gave a model steam train set to the King of Siam in 1855, possibly providing inspiration to the King and his young son who later became King Rama V. The first private rail line opened in 1893, and a network began to develop rapidly in the early 1900’s. Today there are over 3000 miles of tracks across the kingdom.
Are there any particular themes in this book?
A few. The cult of trainspotting and time travel from the old to the new underpin my rail journeys. Beer was also an ongoing source of joy in the incredible heat at this time of the year (April – June).
Was the food good?
It was epic. I discovered Hat Yai fried chicken and also learned how to cook some wonderful curries in Chiang Mai, where I became addicted to Khao Soi, a coconut based noodle curry.
What was your favourite journey?
It’s the journey up to Nam Tok from Bangkok’s Thonburi Station. Third class only, open windows and wonderful scenery. The history of the line is also something to be very mindful of as it was part of the infamous ‘Death Railway’. You can easily do it in a day, but there are many great places to stay around Kanchanaburi and on the banks of the River Kwai. It costs just 200 baht (£4.50) for the return trip.
Would you recommend Thailand as a place to travel by train?
Without question. The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has a variety of rolling stock that makes travel very interesting. One express train might have four different classes of carriage. The modern sleepers are incredibly comfortable and clean. Travel is also good value. Stations are calm and peaceful, the total opposite of many other countries.
I’m back in Thailand shortly to finish off a few adventures and also to talk about the book. The Asian launch event is at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Bangkok on 22nd November. Tickets are still available on their website.
Where do I buy the book?
It’s on sale over at Amazon as both a paperback (£9.89) and Kindle book (£4.89).
Was there really a Sue?
You will have to read the book to find out!