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Motormouth From Ipoh

Monday, July 14, 2008

BETONG - The Town Over The Border (Part 1)

Typical rules & regulations before entering the country
Not many realize that Perak has a Thai border, with the neighbouring town being Betong. Located a mere 10 minutes drive from Pengkalan Hulu (Perak's northern most town), many Malaysians cross over on a daily basis, and vice versa.

The queue at the Immigration Checkpoint is bearable on a weekday, but not on weekends and public holidays

Basic requirement before entering ??

  1. International passport/border pass (a no-brainer)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 ....

In order to get your vehicle CLEARED, first you have to DE-CLEAR your car ... =P

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.

Nifty hands at work, scooping bowls after bowls of tong sui

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. =P

Sweet 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 ... ;)

Read also Part 2 - The Dimsum Affair, Part 3 - The Largest Mailbox, Part 4 - Piyamit Tunnel & Hot Spring, and Part 5 - The Temple and The Curry Meal.

Updated (31/7/2009) - Part 6 - Krua Samui Authentic Thai Restaurant


~Christine~Leng said...

the price for the hotel is reasonable! :)
and the gingko tong sui with eggs... sunny side eggs? look new to me as I'll normally have it with beaten eggs ;P

Anonymous said...

Your HP camera takes so nice pics, I am surprised. My Iphone (not 3G) camera doesnt seemed to support me so I use Sony camera but I am surpise your pics are so clear.

Frankly I was on commenting to a friend on the drop water eggs that I was looking for and bingo your tong shui egg is close tho sweet I bet but it looks so appetising. No we dont see this in Singapore at all and I think neither Malaysia.

Ciki said...

my gosh! what a neat place.. how come the name of the town is betong.. still msian sounding then, but all the roads are thai sounding.. real quaint! also the ginkgo nuts, quail's eggs, and chicken eggs tong sui looks like my kinda tong sui... should start up a business in kl with that as the Pièce de résistance.. ya think?!

Anonymous said...

How informative! I loved reading this piece. The tong sui is fascinating, but I'm not sure I would have tried it. Hehe. (Thanks for pointing out that I sleep a lot :-P )

sc said...

why is Everbody going to thailand? going to BKK end of this month too..woot!

New Kid on the Blog said...

the egg tong shui looks weird to me. have not come across such tong shui.

Precious Pea said...

I have never heard of Betong. Interesting! Looking forward to more post on this place.

J2Kfm said...

christine : yup, the rate is pretty reasonable at RM87.50 per night. of course there are other cheapier but "sleazier" options.It's not entirely an innocent town, btw.

jencooks : oh, you're using Iphone?it's not even legally available in Msia I think.

cumi & ciki : Betong is supposedly bamboo, in Malay. Probably the heavy Malay and Chinese influence somehow balance out the Thai influence of the town.

lyrical lemongrass : hehe, you're most welcomed. sleeping during holidays is most acceptable!

sc : BKK's one of my fav city too. hope u have fun!

NKOTB : agreed. it looks intimidating at 1st, but somehow not bad. the abundance of ginkgo nuts helped.

precious pea : Malaysians cross over for either food, fun, or "FUN", the sleazy nature.

JeromeFo 令狐冲 said...

Omgz.Now i only know got such places -_- I was like "WTF" when looking at those pics...
Wondering why got Thai and Malay language at the same time.

frequentflya said...

hi nice blog. how long can a malaysian car remain in thailand? hows road conditions up to Surathani?

frequentflya said...

also... how bad are car jams and human traffic at betong border between xmas and new year? Would you suggest going via golok or changlun instead?

J2Kfm said...

hi jsl, welcome. I forgot how long can a car remain in thailand. but if it's a short vacation, shouldnt be a problem.

the jams didntexist the wkend we went, but the human traffic did, esp on weekends. but not really bad, compared to haadyai etc.

Betong can be accessed easily thru Pengkalan Hulu in Northern Perak.

Anonymous said...

is there any public transport such as taxi to go to betong town if i dont want to drive my car pass the border??

J2Kfm said...

hi Anonymous, to answer your question, it's a YES. if you dont intend to drive, save the hassle, take a taxi instead.

but not sure of the price. I know you can take a taxi from Pengkalan Hulu, the north most Perak town, bordering Thailand.

Anonymous said...

Also, is there any car park at the customs? Say i wanted to park there for few days? i think this CNY Betong's Hotel will be fully booked and very expensive ...

J2Kfm said...

at Thai's customs or at ours? I dun think there's any parking lot over at Thai's customs.

at ours also the parking lot is for staff only, but I cant be sure, sorry.