When my brother Scott first asked me if I would share my experience of visiting him the first thing that came to mind was that I could write a whole book from just the few days I had been there.....
Dad, Joanne, Rachel and myself flew from Heathrow into Bangkok arriving in the afternoon. We had been told that we would be arriving in the 'wet season' so I didn't expect it to be too hot or humid - how wrong was I! It wasn't always beaming sunshine but was very humid, Dad & I were pouring with sweat straight away - it was like being in a sauna all of the time. We were met by Tony, a travel rep. who escorted us in the taxi to Bangkok and for the next half an hour told us about Bangkok and Thailand in general. On the way to the hotel I was surprised to see how some of the Thai people live with just huts and a tin roof over the top. The 'houses' all looked dark and close so there was probably no electric. That was the first of many eye openers.
We arrived on a Friday but were not able to see Scott until Monday as there is no visiting at weekends. We wanted to make plans for things to do until Monday and the staff at the hotel were very helpful with maps and were also able to arrange for taxis to take us anywhere we wanted to go. The first night though was more about settling in and getting a meal but we still had a look around the area we were staying, it was on Sukhumvit Road which was close to the Nana area. We stayed in Soi 5, Soi means street and most taxi or tuk-tuk drivers understand you better if you tell them which Soi you want to go to. After our meal we wandered through the street stalls selling clothes, DVD's, ornaments and food. Dad had told us about the tuk-tuks which had terrified him when he last visited Scott and I was desperate to have a try. We flagged one down and only just managed to get all four of us in the back. They are like a moped with a carriage on the back. The young driver pulled off nice and slowly to start with before revving it up like crazy pulling wheelies much to mine and Rachel's delight although Dad and Jo were not too keen. With it speeding off and cutting up the traffic we managed to get to the hotel in one piece. I loved it and after dropping the others off I jumped straight back on - I wasn't ready to call it a night and went to look for a few bars!
The following day we went to the main shopping area of Bangkok called Siam City. I hadn't packed too many clothes as I had been told me that I would be able to get them cheaper in Thailand. When we arrived in Siam City though I soon realised that this was not the place for buying cheap clothes so I was starting to panic. I had hardly bought anything with me! As we were leaving the Centre a man approached us who said that he worked for the Government but it was his day off, he guessed that we were looking for clothes and said that he knew where we needed to be. He looked OK and we didn't have any reason to doubt him so when he flagged down a tuk-tuk for us we jumped in. When we arrived at the factory shop it was selling tacky jewellery and clothes more suited to older men - definately not what I wanted! We left pretty sharpish and went to get back in a tuk-tuk, this time though they would not let all four of us get in the same one. Dad & Jo got into one and me & Rachel into another. we didn't really know what area we were in and were not feeling too comfortable so asked to be taken back to Siam City. After about two minutes the drivers pulled over and said that we were to have a look inside the factory shop which we were now in front of, we were getting suspicious that the drivers were on some sort of commission from the factory. We said that we did not want to go inside but they were getting pretty insistant, they said to go in and just have a look. As soon as we entered we were surrounded by about ten men all trying to get us to buy things so we turned around and left straight away, the drivers were not happy with us and eventually dropped us off at a different shopping centre called MBK which fortunately was a lot better and we were able to buy what we needed - we ended up spending most of the afternoon there!
On Sunday we went to the King's Palace and had a look at some of the Temples learning about their history - this was alright for a while but at my age before long they all start to look the same, it was begining to feel as though once you had seen one you had seen them all! It was interesting though and the day soon passed. Instead of getting a taxi back to the hotel we decided to get the boat back to Nana, it was a laugh watching Dad and Jo trying to get aboard before it pulled off! We saw how the people live on the riverside, it's not pretty and makes you feel lucky. It's a good experience though and was another eye opener.
Finally Monday arrived and we were able to see Scott. We were not sure of exactly what time to visit but had a rough idea that it was between 8.30 & 2.00. We were up early and got a taxi to Bangkwang thinking that it would take about an hour to get there. It only took half an hour and we were there by 8am. The visitor's office was not yet open so instead of just sitting around me and Dad went and got Scott some breakfast from a stall across the road as we couldn't buy from the prison shop until after we had visited and they would then send it in to Scott. We then found out that the visiting times were 9.30 till 11.30 in the morning or you could go in the afternoon - we always went in the morning as it was a longer visit. We had our passport copies checked and handed in our belongings to be put into lockers, had the food we had taken checked and were body searched. We then walked through and saw all these sections with glass seperating us from the inmates who were having visits. After being told where to go we waited for about five minutes then Scott came - he walked through smiling and looking like we had just gone to see him in Spalding. At first I was worried that I would get upset but when he came through with a smile I felt a lot better. We picked up the phone and had a chat, he gave me tips on the nightlife and places to go to. During the two hour visit we took turns in talking to him on the phone, when I wasn't speaking to him I just looked at how well and healthy he looked with his cracking tan and new slimmer build. He told me that he has two Burmese guys who do his cooking for him and in return they share the food, he said that he was getting on alright. After our two hours were up we said 'cheerio' until Wednesday, Tuesday was going to be a Bank Holiday so there would be no visiting. I left feeling so relieved and happy to see him that I could not wait until Wednesday. We went to the prison shop and ordered the things he needed to be sent to him. The prison itself was daunting at first - it suddenly hits you that Scott is really there, it's hard to explain. Instead of getting the taxi back into Bangkok we found out where the boat left from and went back that way, it took about an hour and it was abit confusing knowing where to get off but we managed.
As I have said on Tuesday we were not able to see Scott so we played at being tourists again for the day. Me and Rachel were not too keen on going to another market so we went to a Water Theme Park which had plenty of rides. It was on the outskirts of Bangkok and we were the only Western people there so stuck out like sore thumbs, it was a good laugh but not the place to be if you suffer from paranoia! Dad and Jo went to a market and when we met them back at the hotel told us all about the many bargains but I bet they were still ripped off (joke).
We went to see Scott again on Wednesday and he told us that Uria, his girlfriend, would also be visiting and would meet us the following day. He gave us her phone number and we arranged to meet her. On Thursday Uria was a little late and we didn't want to miss out on more time to visit Scott so we went in hoping that she would realise what we had done and join us when she arrived. Scott was a bit dissappointed to see that she was not with us when we arrived but he was soon smiling when she turned up. It was good to see him smiling again. The visit was good, as they all were, and we left with Uria coming back to Bangkok with us.
Me, Rachel, Uria, Jo & Dad
When we got back we got to know Uria more and she was funny having jokes with dad - Papa as she called him. She joined us for dinner and we had a good time with her. I had a picture taken with her in the back of the tul-tuk and me in the driving seat - the owner would not let me drive it for real though even when I offered to pay him. I had to settle for a pose.
Me "driving" Uria in Tuk-Tuk
When eating at night it took some getting used to the fact that an elephant would come along the road and we were able to feed it. Every night no matter where we were, in the street an elephant and it's keepers would roll up beside you - it was crazy! Uria wasn't able to stay in our hotel but we managed to get her a room in one just around the corner. After our night out I made sure that she got back there safely and arranged to meet her in the morning to visit Scott again.
Just me, Dad and Uria went on the last day, normally Uria gets to see Scott every two to three weeks so it was good for her to see him two days running. During the visit we were given some flags that Scott had made by some of the Thai inmates, they were really good quality with various football slogans on them. This batch were for some Hartlepool fans showing Hartlepool Utd at the Bangkok Hilton so when you see them on Sky or at a football game you'll know where they came from The visit was gradually coming to an end which was the part that I had been dreading all week if I am honest and I knew that this was going to be it for another six months or possibly a year. I said my short goodbye and wished Scott well before letting Uria have the last bit of the visiting time. When it was time to leave I gave him the thumbs up and we left.
It was hard on the way back but all of the visits to Scott had been good and we had been able to have a laugh at times. We took Uria back to Bang Na where she then had to catch a bus back to Rayong where she lives. On one of my first visits to Scott he gave me the e-mail address of Gav, a friend he had made who originates from the UK but who now lives in Pattaya and sends Scott newspapers, magazines and food as well as writing to him. I thought it would be good to meet up with him. I contacted him and arranged to meet him the following morning on the sea front in Pattaya. It took me about two hours to get there and as soon as I arrived I found a room for the night and met up with Gav. My brothers had both told me about the night life in Pattaya before I went to Thailand so I had an idea that it would be good but honestly - it's amazing - that's all I'm saying!!
I had to be back in Bangkok the following morning as we were leaving on Monday, a shame because I could have easily stayed a few more days in Pattaya. I preferred it to Bangkok as there is a beach and it's not as smoggy or hectic. Having said that though Bangkok is still good and I will definately not have a problem returning there. We packed up ready for home and thanked the hotel staff before our last night in Thailand.
I was gutted to be going home and would have loved to have stayed longer. I have already made my mind up that next year I will be there for more than a week.
If anyone is thinking about going to see Scott all I can say is that it is definately worthwhile and you are able to have a good holiday at the same time
Copyright Scott Hurford 2007 - All Rights Reserved