Since early of 2015, I am planning to drive to Betong, Thailand (not Betong in Sawarak ya) to experience the Songkran festival. Yes, I have made it to Songkran 2015 (Thailand New Year Celebration , 泼水节) @ Betong, Thailand with my gf. In addition, I have explored to Belum Rainforest and the little Thai Village in Pengkalan Hulu and here our story begins...
Day 1 (12 April 2015) Sunday
Alarm set at 2.00am as we plan to depart at 3.00am and arrive the Pengkalan Hulu (Border of MY-TH) by 8.00am as I read in few blogs said the immigration operates at 8.00am in Thai. (9.00am in Mas time). As plan, we depart from Subang Jaya and head to North by PLUS Highway. Before exit to Kuala Kangsar exit (just right after Ipoh exit), We have a refill at Sungai Perak R&R (*** This is an essential stop from those from South, as there is really no petrol station operates in the midnight from Kuala Kangsar-Pengkalan Hulu)
You will see the signboard once exit at Kuala Kangsar, just follow to Gerik
From Kuala Kangsar-Lenggong-Gerik, the route is straight, no wild animals, only a few cars like us head to Betong perhaps. From Gerik-Pengkalan Hulu, there route is getting curvy as toward the Pengkala Hulu. At one up hill route, it is so cool and full of fog and the visibility is extremely low (less than 50m perhaps). After passing the hill route, the Pengkalan Hulu town is just right in front of it. We make the 2nd stop at Petronas Petrol Station at the left (beside the round about). Get it full tank again as you know the petrol price in TH is more than RM3.00 (RM1.95 in MY)
Petronas @ Pengkalan Hulu, last stop before entering Betong~
The whole journey from Subang to Betong Checkpoint around 4 hours, 373km. From PLUS Highway Subang - Kuala Kangsar, pass Lenggong, Gerik, Pengkalan Hulu.
Here is the process when I drive into Betong.
1. 1st will pass thru MY immigration (something like drive thru), just pass all the passport to the officer. You can see a lot of people queuing at the left, after asking the officer, the people are queuing to buy car insurance. I didn't buy it as it is not required while driving up to Betong, TH.
3. After the gate will pass free duty shop (The Zone) which is at the left, go straight on and will reach TH immigration~ There follow process is simple yet a bit 'weird'
At TH immigration
4. Park you car at road side go get a white card. Here you have 2 options : pay RM1, get the card and fill yourselves ; pay RM2 to the counter and the officer will fill for you. Beware there are some hanky-panky hanging around who provide service to provide white card and fill for you. I meet 1 of them when I am asking what to do next and he offers me "come, the queue is so long, i can help'. Immediately, I sense something and I proceed to the queue and there many regular visitors are kind to guide you.
5. After filling the white card, proceed to the TH immigration counter for stamping your passport (*** please standby RM2, if the TH immigration officer asks for it then only you give them, it depends on the integrity of the respective officer). The officer does request RM 2 by showing a victory hand sign to me while holding my password. What a shame to the Betong TH immigration. Although only RM2, there are more than 200 people are queuing at that time! You can estimate how 'fat' there are~
6. Once get stamped on the passport and white card, proceed to the counter around 20m away at the left from the passport checking counter. Bring along car registration card and pay RM3 to get my car registered.
Long queue due to Songkran festival~
1 hour time different between MY-TH
Counter to register the vehicle, fee RM3
Finally, we are ready to roll out. Due to the Songkran festival, there are a huge crowd enter to Betong. I arrive 7.30am in MY (6.30am in TH) and the Betong TH immigration operates as early as 6.00am. We spend around 2 hours for the whole process (queuing for passport check, car registration). According to the regular visitor, he says that it takes less than 30 mins on normal weekdays. Cost implication RM2/card (white card) + RM2/person (passport stamping) + RM3/car.
To my surprise, around 10 mins drive from Betong Immigration and we reach Betong town. Actually we meet a guy at the Petronas Pengkalan Hulu at 6.45am, I start a conversation with him and he guides me along the way and we just tag along and follow him from Petronas Pengkalan Hulu, Immigration and Betong Town. It very helpful if you willing to chat with people around~
Ha, the wires are familiar when we visited Phuket. Welcome to Betong~
We take our breakfast, just opposite the Holiday Hill Hotel (a popular hotel and being boom blasted on July 2014, read the news here ). Due to the tourist mainly are Malaysia, RM is accepted in Betong EVERYWHERE. Changing to Thai Baht is NOT necessary if you are a Malaysian. We did change some Thai Baht and we regret as pay in RM is much more worth it. Example, for breakfast, it cost RM 10 or 100 Baht. Nowadays RM has dropped a lot, RM1 not longer 10 Baht. Rate on April 2015, RM1 = 9 Baht. In the end, we keep the Baht and use RM which is saver.
Kueh Tiaw Sup, RM5. Not bad.
Steamed Chicken Rice, RM5. Not bad too.
Mak Gor (the guy we met in Pengkala Hulu) get in my car and travel with us due to his car overheat. And our trip in Betong begins~
i) He brings us to a temple. According to him, this temple is effective for career wishes and blessing.
Wat Ki Lo Si? Sounds like Ket Lok Si in Penang~
By rubbing it, it will creates a huge resonant sound. But we both fail..hehe.
iii) Next drive about 20 mins, very curvy and hilly, we visit the MUST VISIT tourist spot in Betong - Piyamit Tunnel. Entrance fee RM5.5 / 50 Baht. Ha, this time we pay in Baht. This place consist a lot of story and history about Malaya Communist Party (Parti Komunis Malaya - PKM) and the reason why Betong residents mostly Malay and Chinese Ethnic.
Entrance fee RM5.50/50Baht
There is a more than 10 thousand years-age tree.I mpressive
A memorable statue for the PKM ; Sneaky girl at sneaky tunnnel.
Memorable statue (Our face were being blessed~)
iv) Another drive around 20 mins, along the road are the rubber and durian plantation, we reach hot spring. I would give it a thumb up for free entrance and well maintenance. *** The main and huge hot spring is not allowed a for any usage/activity! There is a designed area for tourists to put their legs and feel the warm hot spring.
Nice hot spring, FOC ; Accommodation is available also.
v) Is lunch time~ We try some local mix rice dishes. After lunch, we have a tour in a city, The formal date for Songkran is 13-15 April annually. Yet, the festival starts on mid day of 12 April after 10.00am ! Our faces being blessed and 'powdered' and at Piyamit Tunnel there.
Songkran Promotion Sign Board
Water war starts as early as at 10am, 12 April. The official date is 13-15 April every year~
My car was a victim. OMG, is color water!
vi) Wow, most of the hotel are fully booked. We are searching around and ask few hotel which all fully booked. Finally, we found and checked into Modern Thai Hotel and cost only RM89 per night excluding breakfast. The room is quite comfortable. The location of the hotel is BEST, it is right in the middle of the Betong town. The only draw back is no parking there, yet, the hotel staff guide me the park at farther location and send me to the hotel with his motorbike FOC. We take a long nap as we woke up at 2.00am and almost exhausted.
Modern Thai Hotel, cheaper room at RM69 is fullly booked, we took RM89 ; There is free wifi, thumb up.
After napping for 3 hours, we have an evening sight seeing~
Hakka Association in Betong!
vii) We take our dinner at 1 of the restaurant. Next time will come with more people and can try more dishes. It costs 500 Baht. The restaurant just a few units away from Holiday Inn.
The restaurant is getting crowrded ; The food is so so ya..hehe..
viii) We drive and visit the simple market.
ix) The Biggest Mailbox just beside our hotel and the clock tower. The swifts (cute and small bird) are hanging and fully occupying the electricity lines in Betong !
Thousands of swifts resting at the wires~Shit Hazard!
Youngster seems like quite enjoying 'yamcha' also~ ; The Clock Tower
So-called biggest mail box? ; PA system being 'wrapped' for the Songkran Festival
Roti canai stall
x) We end our day 1 journey with a foot massage. It costs 250 Baht / hour. The service is just so so~
Famous 7-Eleven store, you may find the TH specialty
We wake up around 7.30am and take breakfast at restaurant. The food is not bad and it is Chinese-Thai style.
We en-cloth ourselves to face the WATER! It rocks!
We prepare ourselves in jersy and swimming suit ; Not bad the breakfast
Blue sky and where are the swifts?
Water container for 're-fill' purpose?
Fire engine to..make it merrier?
Malay tradition music instrument
Blessing station ; The backstage view, quite professional ya?
Walkabout at the street
Water gun with water tank, so cute ; Going to wet market now.
My favorite fruits!
More than 10 Chinese Traditional Herb Stores in town.
An example of harmony and understanding society :>
Max 6 persons, the smallest lift I ever see.
After checking out, we visit a couchsurf friend, Pooltai Lawakorn. As a Chinese Thai, he speaks Mandarin and Cantonese as well. He is very friendly and willing to provides free accommodation for foreigner and we just need to help conduct/share 1 hour English class. He is enthusiasm in promoting English and he runs and owns a English Speaking Club. He provides free classes to the community as well.
Pooltai and his wife
His English Speaking Club provides free accommodation for couchsurfer~
His English class schdule ; The center environment
His wife treat us nice coffee and toasts. He shares me many story about Betong and Thai history/politic. Very interesting he shares about, during Songkran, Malaysian comes to Betong and Thai goes to Kampung Tasek, Pengkalan Hulu.
Newly built, the bigger biggest mail box ; Black strip means can park while Red strip cannot park.
Yea, we are back to Betong Check Points
Without further ado, after saying good bye to him, we drive to the Thai village in Pengkalan Hulu to find out the truth. According to Pooltai, there are around 400 Siamese household. During Songkran, we may visit each households for blessing from the elderly and every households are providing f&b as well.
Kampung Tasek signboard spotted ! ; Many visitor ya~
Songkran festival at Kampung Tasek, Pengkalan Hulu
People here are 'wet'
Wow, it is true, we found the so-called Thai Village (Kampung Tasek). Just in time, the Songkran festival is going on! We manage to witness the festival's celebration. The well decorated cars, crowds, water guns and the garbage are everywhere.
After Kampung Tasek, we head to Belum Rainforest for the next! We drop by Gerik for a late lunch around 5pm. From Gerik to Belum, it takes around 40 mins and the road is curvy and hilly as well and there trucks and lorry, have to drive safe.
We check in Banding Lake Side Inn, costs RM 250 nett including breakfast, Jungle Trekking, Bamboo Rafting for 2 pax. The most expensive Belum Rainforest Hotel is just opposite from our lake-view room~ The facility of the hotel is lousy - No gym/sauna, only has TV Chanel - TV1, 2, Astro Awani (perhaps is the strategy to let us enjoy the best Belum Rainforest view).
Hotel room with lake view
There is a public jetty that you can hire a boat for 1 hour lake round trip only RM150, instead of being charged by hotel for RM450.
The most expensive resort at Belum Rainforrest.
Floating room can be hired here too.
Our simple dinner~ Try guess where we bought it?
Day 3 (14 April 2015), Tuesday
Breakfast is ala-carte style not not buffet style, perhaps not many people during weekdays. We only can see less than 5 cars at that time. After the breakfast, we go for Jungle Trekking and Bamboo Rafting. Phoebe is enjoying a lot for bamboo rafting~
Our guide today. Mr Sebastian from Kuching.
Doraemon Take-copter ~ ; Found the legendary... Tongkat Ali!
Sebastian said the hole dug by wild elephant ; Pokok Sabun (Soap Tree)?
Cicada ? All around the floor in the morning
Enjoy the bamboo rafting while enjoying the scenery~
We check out around 12.00pm and rush to Lenggong. Recommendation from a blog and make us to have a try the Loh Dee Wanton Mee (a kind of noodle) there. Well it taste good yet the over coloring of the Char Siu slightly depress us. After a cup of nice coffee, we proceed our way back to Subang and end for our BB trip~ :>
Loh Dee Wanton Mee so far so good, yet the coffee is good. It keeps me awake along way back to Subang
Well, the coloring is too much (画蛇添足~)
Yes, we made it! An adventurous and fruitful journey~ Next drive, perhaps to Krabi~ hehe