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Talking Location With … Emily Freud – THAILAND

20th April 2024

Emily Freud#TalkingLocationWith… Emily Freud, author of HER LAST SUMMER set in Thailand.

 In my new book, Her Last Summer, there are two trips taken to Thailand. The story revolves around a cold-case mystery of a teenage couple who went on a backpacking trip around Thailand back in the early noughties. The narrative is told through an interview with the only surviving party – the boyfriend, Luke, who has been held accountable for his girlfriend’s death since he returned home. The second trip is taken by a film crew, who are retracing Luke’s steps to uncover what happened out there in the depths of the jungle.

For a destination thriller, the location is essential. Therefore, I used my own experiences of travelling to Thailand as a teenager in the early 2000s. My trip was much like the young couple in my book. It was my first time travelling long distance, far away from home and parental guidance. It was an experience that was both exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.

I was inspired to write this story while working on a television series in the Amazon jungle. I wanted to create a narrative about a filmmaker who decides to shoot in one of the most difficult places to survive on Earth. However, I stumbled upon some old photos from my time in Thailand, and realized that I should relocate the jungle setting there. I was very familiar with the famous backpacking route and felt that there’s something universally relatable about the first trip one takes abroad as a young person, whether it’s to a nearby destination or much farther away. It’s a rite of passage that offers a lot of room for exploration.

In any story, it’s important to take the readers on a journey with the characters, and I believe that by making them fish-out-of-water and experiencing culture shock while navigating a new world, it will make the story even more engaging.

Emily FreudThailand became a popular destination for Western backpackers in the 1970s, and by the time the characters in the story ventured there, it was already fully established. The country offered affordability, a rich culture, ease of travel, and a vibrant social scene. Its popularity peaked when Alex Garland’s book, The Beach, and the subsequent film featuring Leonardo Di Caprio were released. I remember hearing stories of beach parties and jungle treks from my peers who had visited Thailand a few years before me, and I wanted to experience the same sense of adventure.

My book features three main locations, all of which are popular backpacking destinations in Thailand. The teenagers and the film crew visit each location. To update my knowledge of these locations, I watched YouTube videos made by travelers to understand how they have changed since I was last there.

The Khaosan Road, located in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok, is known as the backpacking hub of Southeast Asia. It is a riot of noise, clutter, neon signs and smells. Stalls sell everything from street food to souvenirs to counterfeit goods. I am from North London and have a soft spot for Camden Market. Once you scratch the surface, the Khaosan Road has that similar feel of bustle and touches of a more sinister underbelly. Travellers from around the world mingle, acquire visas, meet up with friends, and visit the many travel agents on the strip to decide on their next destination to encounter.

Emily Freud

Photo: TripSavvy

Koh Phangan is famous for its Full Moon Party, which attracts ravers worldwide. It takes place on Haad Rin beach every month. The island is in the Gulf of Thailand, and it is reached by night train or “VIP” coach ride, then a short ferry ride away. It has stunning beaches, a luscious jungle, loud banging music and the opportunity to sample the more hedonistic side of what the country offers. There is a real buzz in the place in the run-up to the party, as Luke and Mari experienced: People were arriving in droves. Temporary structures were erected on the beach…Music pumped. Scooters whizzed past with stuff tied to the back like a storm was coming.

Emily FreudThe region of Chiang Mai is in northern Thailand, surrounded by lush countryside and mountains. Jungle treks are offered around the region’s pristine wilderness. My sister almost got lost in the jungle on one of these guided treks with her boyfriend. They’d gone to find a good spot to go to the loo and realised they’d wandered too far from the base. This anecdote stuck with me and got me thinking about Luke and Mari and how they might have got lost on their jungle adventure.

Emily Freud

Catch the author on Twitter @MsEmilyFreud  Instagram @EmilyFreud_

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