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My Favourite Holiday: Frank Hurst loves the chaos and tranquillity of Thailand

Tea plantation terrace in Chiang Mai, Thailand (Getty Images)
Tea plantation terrace in Chiang Mai, Thailand (Getty Images)

LONDONER Frank Hurst is a former drugs intelligence investigator whose work for HM Customs, Scotland Yard and the Foreign Office took him all over the world.

Now he’s put his experience to good use with his Golden Triangle trilogy of books. The second thriller, The Chiang Mai Assignment, is just out.

Frank, 64, divides his time between West Sussex and northern Thailand.

Frank Hurst

MY father was posted to Hong Kong in the 1960s and this started a fascination for the Far East that has lived with me ever since.

I was very lucky that my work took me to Thailand in the mid-80s. We were investigating Howard Marks (Mr Nice) at the time and my office needed someone to see what he was up to in Bangkok.

The juxtaposition of chaotic city, tranquil Buddhist temples, belching exhausts and the wonderful smell of spicy street food was a heady mix.

My investigations took me to Chiang Rai, close to the border with Burma.

Frontier towns have always fascinated me – maybe because of all the time I spent at Dover in the old days.

Chiang Mai province sits in the north west of Thailand, on the edge of the mountainous Golden Triangle jungles which were the source of a lot of heroin in those days.

The area has become much more popular with tourists in the last 20 years who can visit tribal areas that once hid vast tracts of opium fields.

Now the region has largely cleaned up its act, and it’s mostly tea and coffee that the villagers cultivate.

I have travelled back regularly since, most recently to research my books.

Northern Thailand is such a joy and far away from the bustle and bright lights of Bangkok.

More recently I have discovered the north east, around the city of Nong Khai, on the Mekong river with Laos revealed on the opposite bank.

Nong Khai has become a special place to me with its thriving local markets, friendly inhabitants and unique, spicy Isan-style cuisine.

And from there its possible to follow the course of the Mekong, as it wends its way south into Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The river is dangerous in its northern reaches and it’s only possible to use a boat on certain sections. But our two-day trip from Huay Xai in Laos, via Pak Beng to Luang Prabang in a narrow boat was truly memorable.