Basic requirement before entering ??
- International passport/border pass (a no-brainer)
- Fill up an arrival form at the checkpoint, but pay RM2/person. The kind lady seated at the counter will perform her magically-rapid-fast hands trick and fill up one by one.
- Exchanging your Ringgit to Thai Baht is NOT necessary, as most, if not all, shops accept payment in RM, for a RM1=10Baht rate. Except 7-11, where RM5=45Baht.
- A crash course in Thai language is deemed UNnecessary as most vendors/hawkers/restaurant owners speak Malay, English or Chinese. No language barrier at all. Phew ....
5. If you're driving into the town (yup, you can drive to your heart's content, bearing in mind you bring your driving licence along), photostat your car grant and get it certified by an officer at Air Panas police station in Pengkalan Hulu, OR if you're not the owner of your vehicle, get a written attestation from the owner (ie. dad, mum, whoever) permitting you to drive over the border. Just don't drive a stolen car, that's all. :)The roads in Betong
Once you're through, drive to your heart's content, and head straight for the town area. A straight path nonetheless, no twists and turns.The famous clock tower of Betong town Betong Merlin Hotel -5 Stars they ain't, but it's certainly one of the better ones in town Delicate folding of a basic amenity ... a touch of hospitality?
We stayed at Betong Merlin Hotel, situated on 33, Chayachaowalit Road. Turn right once you reach a 4-way traffic lights intersection with Sri Betong on your right. Then go straight, and take the 2nd left turn. Once you see Betong Merlin Plaza on your right, turn right into the small path right after the plaza. The hotel is the tall white building right behind the plaza.Mandarin Betong Hotel - A touch of class, but at slightly premium rate of 1380 Baht/night. OK, not THAT expensive, but be prudent at times like this.
Our room has a queen-sized bed, attached bathroom with bathtub, TV, and basic amenities. Rate per night is 875 Baht/room for two. Reasonable, as we managed to squeeze 4 pax/room and still slept comfortably. =) Oh, and parking's at the basement is FOC too.Betong Mongkollit Tunnel
The Betong Mongkollit tunnel is situated in town area, a pretty short tunnel connecting to the south. The temple behind is an abandoned building named Hilltop Yala Shrine (correct me if I'm wrong, anyone?).Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? ... A closer view of the hilltop shrine, with locals performing morning dance routine Somehow, the passengers are hanging on for dear life ... haha ...
Funnily enough, not many public transportation can be seen roaming, with the exception of the small trucks (pic above) not unlike Chiang Mai's Songthaew, or Bangkok's Tuk-Tuk. No buses was in sight, nor taxis.The majestic clock tower at night ... OK, so my HP camera sucks. Sue me! =P A corner shop at a backlane selling sweet desserts (tong sui)
Enough about the town, let's see some food ya? Hmm, let's start with what I had for tea time ALONE on the first day, as KYT, LaughingGal, and TallGal were fast asleep in the middle of the day. Hmmm .... Guess the drive took its toll? Or they probably learnt a tips or two from the Lyrical one when it comes to travelling and sleeping. LOL.
Oh, Chinese style tong sui (sweet soup)in Betong? Not surprising, given the demographic distribution of Chinese citizens in Betong. This auntie speaks good Mandarin, fortunately. But UN-fortunately, mine sucks. Big time. But still, conveying my views and opinions on food works on any platform, be it English, Chinese or even Thai language. =PSweet banana desserts, a Thai specialty Weird combination of ginkgo nuts, quail's eggs, and chicken (or duck?) eggs tong sui My bowl of Bubur Cha-Cha (RM1/10Baht) - Dirt cheap?
The bubur cha-cha with lots of sago, red beans, sweet potatoes and yam cubes was satisfying. Served warm in a porcelain bowl, the flavour reminded me of Malaysia's version, with the exception of red beans added for good measure. Slightly sweet, and salty at the same time, this bowl of sweet delight is reasonably tagged at 10Baht ONLY.
I was curious about the ginkgo tong sui with eggs, therefore that very night we raided the same shop and I got my fix of the mysterious concoction. Pleasantly surprised that the combination works wonders, resembling the addition of quail's egg into Lin Chee Kang (a popular Chinese sweet soup). The abundance of quail's eggs and chicken egg provided much of a scare for health freak, as the cholesterol content of that bowl may exceed your average daily intake! At RM3/30 Baht per bowl, no less.Auntie Yoong frying her crunchy bits ...
That same evening, on the way back to my room, I passed by a stall and got a whiff of deep-fried bananas. For RM1/10 Baht, you get a whole load of deep-fried bananas sprinkled with sesame seeds, fried yams, and sweet potato balls. Coincidentally, Auntie Yoong has connection to Malaysia, as her parents are from Penang, while her husband's are from Ipoh!!! Yeah! She assisted a lot in providing directions, and recommendations, and made our stay a tad more pleasant that it already was.
A million THANKS, to Auntie Yoong and her husband. Her shop's on Sukkayang Road, a road branching north from the clock tower in Betong town.
Wanna know in what way she helped us? Stay tuned for later instalments ... ;)
Updated (31/7/2009) - Part 6 - Krua Samui Authentic Thai Restaurant