We just got out of prison and can’t wait to get back in!
We have all heard about the atrocious conditions of the Bangkok Hilton (Bang Kwang Central Prison in Bangkok), so it was a very pleasant surprise to see another side of the Thai penal system, especially when it’s close to our home.
[UPDATED – 01-01-19]
Just outside Trat is a large lake called Khao Ra Kam. It’s a beautiful part of the local Thai countryside and it’s quite roads are popular with cyclists.
Set in 1,100 rai of land (approximately 440 acres) on the bank line of the lake is an open prison AKA The Department of Correction.
The correction facility houses 208 convicts, most of which are there for minor drug charges who are guest of the government for on average, one year. A large part of their rehabilitation is working on growing food inspired by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Sufficiency Economy.
There are a number of 1 rai plots that are grown to inspire others to be self-sufficient on a small plot of land. This includes growing fruit and vegetables, mushrooms, and keeping live-stock; pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, bees, frogs and fish.
There is also an elevated restaurant and coffee shop called Inspire run by the inmates that serves delicious noodles and steaks with spectacular views across the lake and countryside all the ways to the Cardamom mountain range that separates Thailand from Cambodia.
The organic produce grown on site can be purchased to take home and is grown with permaculture principles. We were very impressed with their malabar spinach (Basella alba) and they kindly gave us a plant and a bag full of cuttings to grow our own. We promised to return and give them some cocoa trees to grow and add to their collection of plants.
The inmates unfortunately don’t get to live on a healthy diet produced from their labor, but visitors are allowed to gift them food. I guess prison food and Mama instant noodles soon loose their appeal!
Who’s up for a Prison Break?
It’s a very safe facility to walk around and the inmates are very kind, obliging and knowledgeable about growing food for self sufficiency. There’s no place like home but if you have to do ‘time’ and had the choice between a 6 x 8 foot cell or this correction facility, I’m sure you’d chose the later every time. In fact, one of the inmates told me they may be building some rooms for a ‘Homestay’ experience. A prison break, now there is a novel way to spend some time in Thailand.
We returned to Trat’s Department of Correction on New Years Eve and gifted them with 19 cocoa saplings so they can also start to grow and possible make their own bean to bar chocolate in the future.
The Department of Correction Facility near Trat is open daily. It’s best to visit on a week day as the restaurant can get very busy at the weekend. Early ‘jail’ birds also get the pick of the fresh organic produce!