Sunday, April 22, 2012

Greetings From Betong, Thailand

It was a hectic two days trip to Betong, Southern Thailand. We (my friend, Chin Aik and two other gentlemen) left Subang Jaya at about 6.30am yesterday. The traffic was very smooth for North bound traffic on the North South Highway (NSH). We exited at the Tanjung Malim interchange and headed straight into town. Went a to small cafe and had our breakfast before continuing our journey on the  old road to Bidor. We resume joining NSH at Bidor and continued heading North until we reached the Kuala Kangsar interchange. After we exited the interchanged, we drove straight for Gerik. We did not stop halfway at Leggong town along the Gerik highway but instead proceeded to Pengkalan Hulu, the border town for a coffee stop and also to top up fuel. We decided to drive all the way into Thailand.

After we crossed the Malaysian Immigration, we then realised we forgot to refuel and reminded each other to top up in Betong itself. The Thailand Immigration Office spots a new building, otherwise nothing has changed much in terms of procedures. It's really easy to drive into Thailand. For the Malaysian side, you just need to bring the car registration card. At the Thai side, we just fill up a simple form and that's it. There are no requirements to buy additional Thai Insurance nor having to make a car registration number written in Thai script. After reaching the town, we proceeded straight for lunch. I had a simple rice noodle soup while the rest of the gang had Chicken rice. After scouting for a suitable hotel, we decided to stay at the Grand Mandarin Hotel. It's quite a new hotel with better facilities. At BTH1,380 per night, twin sharing, we thought not too bad, plus complementary breakfast. The room is clean which is very important to me but I can't stand the foul smell of the cigarettes! Chin Aik who speaks a little Thai made a complaint to Housekeeping and wondered if we could change room. But after checking other rooms, they are all smelly. So we had the cleaners open the windows of the room to let out the foul smell and freshen the room up while we went out for a tour of some the local sites.

We headed out for the former communist camp and we had a stop at the Betong  Hot Spring en-route. The place is in bad state of repairs, with algae growing all over the pond. The smell of sulfur was strong. We left after just spending 5 minutes there. While continuing the journey, we chatted happily and suddenly the driver noticed a flash of reserve petrol indicator. Oh Oh. We were running out of petrol. We decided to turn back and at about 4km to the town, we ran out of fuel. Here are four elderly gentlemen with 130 years of driving experience between them running out of fuel in a foreign country in outskirts of town! The Thai people are really friendly. Another friend who speaks some Thai managed to flag down a motorcyclist who offered to help us buy petrol. The picture on your left is the manual style of pumping petrol. We wasted over two hours all in and decided not to proceed with the tour to the former communist camp. As were were all tired and went for a massage instead. I had a foot massage while  my friend decided to give it a miss. The other two friends chose the Thai ancient oil massage. As my massage was short, Chin Aik and I left the massage center for the temples.

The first temple we visited was Wat Puttthathiwat formerly Wat Betong, founded in 1917. This temple is big and nice. There is a golden stupa at the rear end of the temple. That's me spotting a new hair style. On the ground floor of the stupa complex houses a mausoleum which has strong echos. I proceeded to recite by paying Homage to the Buddha and then to the Three Jewels in Pali. Because of the echos, it felt like there are many of us chanting and I felt serene during chanting. After that we went to look for the resident monk for water blessing.


We then proceeded to the Goddess of Mercy temple founded in 1965 where I offered some prayers and lighted oil lamps. We decided to drive around town since this is the first time we are driving there and thought we could get to see more of the local surroundings. For the first time, I managed to see a Caucasian, a rare sight in Betong. I think about 30% of the cars in town belong to Malaysians, especially on weekends. I think it's fair to say 90% of the tourists are Malaysians.

I was tired and we had a simple Thai dinner. After dinner, I went back to hotel to rest while the gang visited the pubs for a drink. I was feeling really cold in the room and switched off the air-condition before proceeding to sleep at about half past nine. I heard the door opening much later but did not wake up to talk to Chin Aik and just continued my sleep.

This morning, we woke up about past 8am and after our morning bath we went for breakfast. The food offerings were reasonable. Then we checked out and went for another temple visit as two the other friends did not get to visit the temples yesterday. After the temple visit, we left for home. Passing through the immigrations of both countries was a breeze at noon. Reached home just past 5.30pm. Only one lunch stop at Leggong where we had the famous fish balls. I must admit I have not been at this place for a very long time and how the size of the fish balls have shrunk.

Some more photos.

The lobby of the Grand Mandarin hotel.













A view of part of Betong town from my hotel room. Noticed the beautiful rolling hills in the background.












Some photos of Wat Puttthathiwat

































The place we found ourselves running out of fuel. 4km to the town.
















Betong Hot Spring. It's a shame that they didn't build bathing facilities. Bathing in the hot spring water has a relaxing and refreshing effect. In the hot spring water, although the curative effect of the hot springs varies, it's therapeutic.









One unexpected sight while taking a tour of the town in front of the Betong market.
















The place where we had lunch today. The restaurant the serves the fish balls. We had fried fish balls, steam fish in soy sauce, stir fried wild ferns in garlic sauce and bitter-gourd with fried eggs. I had my bowl of rice noodle vegetables soup.

5 comments:

  1. Dear CT, i am glad you enjoyed yourself with this trip. I also noticed that you slept well and not once talked about pain.That positive thinking whilst on this trip should be the way to go always.You are truly an inspiration for all with your strength and courage. Keep it up. Best regards AL MAL.

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  2. AGREED, it is very relaxed to read this blog of yours, you too shd relax, Chang

    best regards fr KokPiew

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  3. Nice to learn you enjoyed the trip. So when will be the Penang trip to somone's mansion? Haha!!

    Gary

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  4. So we had the cleaners open the windows of the room to let out the foul smell and freshen the room up while we went out for a tour of some the local sites. Life on Chiang Mai

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