Lesley & Dennis - August 2005
We are Scott's Aunt and Uncle and we flew out to Thailand five months after his arrest, his Mum and brother had last seen him in May. Having never been to Thailand before we really did not know what to expect and the only information we were given was that Scott's brother had arranged for a man called "Scouse" to meet us at the airport. We would recognise him as he would be wearing a white baseball cap! We had visions of landing in Bangkok and everyone wearing the same white baseball caps but much to our relief we spotted him straight away!
Scouse and his girlfriend explained that they would be taking us to Sa Kaeo, we thanked God for the kindness of this lovely couple whom we had only just met. We expected to be hit by the heat when we got out of the airport but found that it was raining and continued to do so for the entire three and a half hour journey.
We had seen in travel brochures some amazing hotels in Bangkok but found on our arrival in Sa Kaeo that there was only one hotel to choose from and that it was clean and quiet. After 24 hours of travelling we just wanted to sit and have a drink and cigarette whilst we waited for Scott's girlfriend Uria. We soon discovered that the reception area also doubled up as the bar and restaurant but did not find out until the following night that it was a No Smoking area - not a good start!
Uria arrived and we found her to be a lovely girl although it was very hard to understand what she was saying, that was until we realised that she was speaking English with Scott's heavy Lincolnshire accent! Once we had figured that out we were fine and she soon appeared to be at ease with these strange people from England! Dinner was a bit of a hit and miss affair as the menu was in Thai. Mandy had told us that we could not go wrong with a dish pronounced "Cow Pat Guy" which we found to be nice but we think that she had the pronounciation a little wrong.
Finally to bed only for Dennis not to sleep a wink, something which continued for our week there, we think it was a combination of Jet Lag and a brain on overdrive and the only advantage we could find from it was that it made our week feel like a fortnight! In the morning we said goodbye to Scouse and his lovely girlfriend and hope that we did not offend them by paying their hotel bill - it was the very least we could do to thank them for the trouble they had gone to to make our journey so easy.
We had come to Thailand loaded down with things for Scott so set about sorting it all out ready for our visits and cheered Uria up with some presents from England before setting of for the prison for the first time. We set off in the hotel taxi for the five mile journey in plenty of time for visiting but we were kept waiting for ages. We had never seen such a variety of people and spent most of our time trying to figure out who was male and who was female, we soon realised that it was by the size of their feet! We also found out what "farang" meant - foreigner! We were eventually allowed to see Scott and he was very angry and upset that we had been made to wait, we soon calmed him down and it was good to finally see him even though it was distressing to see that he was covered in sores and blisters. We immediately realised that our first stop on leaving the prison was going to have to be a chemist! All too soon our visit was called to an end and we left with a list of things that he needed.
We then had a crash course on how to use the Tut-Tuts to travel around in and found a chemist, market and a few shops for all of Scott's needs. We had never before seen rats the size of those in the market! When we got back to the hotel we decided that we would write to the prison Governor, we had nothing to loose, but were unable to find any writing paper anywhere so wrote to him on a hotel paper napkin explaining that we had travelled a long way to visit Scott but were having problems getting a full visit due to language problems and our lack of knowledge of the prison system. We explained that we would really appreciate some one on one time with Scott so that we would be able to put his Mum's mind to rest as to how he was coping with his situation. Uria took us back to where she was living which came as quite a shock to us, she was in one room with a matress on the floor and that was it! The afternoon was then spent trying to find a TV and a few home comforts for her. The Chinese shop owner couldn't believe his ears when Les started haggling over the prices! We got the best deal ever and she told him that we would pay when everything had been installed and left working at Uria's! It was worth it for the look on her face and it meant a lot to Scott that her living conditions had been made a little better after all she had sacrificed to be near him.
Our letter to the governor seemed to have been worthwhile and we soon found that our visits to Scott went a lot smoother. We were able to sort out exactly what Scott's needs were and how best his family could support him. We also met Scott's "Chicken Friend", he had a BBQ selling hot food outside the prison, Uria would buy hot chicken every day to take in for Scott and on the odd occasions when she was unable to visit he would ensure that Scott's chicken still got to him. We also met an Australian gentleman who lived in the area who had heard that there was an English prisoner in the prison and had been kind enough to visit him to talk and see if he needed anything. Again we were struck by the kindness of strangers! We arranged to meet him for dinner but were a little concerned as we had not seen a restaurant apart from in the hotel, we soon found out that it was not far from the hotel! We had a lovely meal with him and his wife and left not only knowing where there was a good restaurant but also a much better understanding of Thai ways and customs.
The following day there was another mix up at the prison when we arrived for our visit before we found out that we had been granted a "Contact Visit" - that afternoon! We could not beleive it when we were told that we would be going inside the prison, we wondered whether we would be allowed out! There was even more disbelief when we entered and were escorted to a tented area with a BBQ and picnic tables and chairs all set out - it was all very surreal! We found out that it was the Queen of Thailand's Birthday and on this occasion the whole country joins in with the celebrations. When Scott joined us his face was a picture, it was unheard of for someone who was still waiting to be sentenced being allowed to attend anything like this! It was also the first time since his arrest that he had been able to hold Uria so we quickly averted our eyes whilst they had a quick kiss & cuddle! It was an unbelievable experience, the rest of the people attending were prison guards and foreign prisoners with their families.
Our last day was very busy opening up a bank account for Uria so that money could be transferred to her from England to enable her to provide for both herself and Scott. We also stocked her up at the shops so that she had plenty of supplies to take into him before making sure that Scott's "Chicken Friend" was well compensated for looking out for him as he had. Uria had been making the daily journey to the prison by hitching lifts. Scott did not feel that she was safe in doing this so we made arrangements for a member of staff at the hotel to give her a lift which not only put our minds at rest but Scott's as well. We had been very well looked after at the hotel, who were not used to Western visitors, and at the begining of our stay we were delighted to find that it had a lovely swimming pool. Les and Uria went for a dip most afternoons much to the delight of the hotel gardener who's plant watering duties soon started to coincide with their time in the pool!
We said our goodbyes and set off on the long journey back to Bangkok with heavy hearts. We returned in a taxi driven by Mr Dha, a Bangkok taxi driver who had looked after Mandy and Lee on their visit and continues to look after other family members whilst they are in Bangkok. We had one night in Bangkok before flying back to England and were booked into The Oriental Hotel - what a culture shock we got when we arrived, we couldn't believe our eyes and finally managed to get a nights sleep.
To top our visit off we boarded our British Airways flight home to discover that they were experiencing industrial action and that we were lucky to have been able to get home - we did not feel that lucky on a 13 hour flight with no food or drink on board - not even a bottle of water!!
Copyright Scott Hurford 2007 - All Rights Reserved