Friday, November 1, 2019

[Travel/ Food Guide] Itinerary to Betong, Thailand (勿洞,泰国) 2019

While Hatyai remains as a popular choice for Malaysians' self-drive tours, the border town of Thailand-Malaysia that is closest to Malaysia is in fact Betong. A short 1.5 hour-drive from Penang island and you will find yourself at Pengkalan Hulu, the northern tip of Malaysia... right next to Thailand's sleepy town- Betong (mere 10 minute-drive after the Thai-border). Betong may not be as vibrant and exciting as compared to Hatyai, the town is still equipped with the Thai-charm where you will find plenty of delicious Thai food as well as dangerously addictive snacks around. Not so much on sight-seeing but more for a relaxed, slow-paced food-hunting trip with family members. A day-trip works but a 2 Day 1 Night trip works better for first-time visitors.

[Fun Fact] Betong is a town surrounded by mountains, temperature is often optimal with day time hitting a maximum of 32'C and night time as low as 21'C. It can be quite chilly and comfortable for an evening stroll at Betong.

[Crossing The Border] Crossing the Thailand-Malaysia border may be a little different as compared to Hatyai's. Malaysian cars need not to purchase Thailand car insurance should the distance is lesser than 50 KM from Malaysia. But it is always advisable to purchase however, do note that the Thailand car insurance only covers Third Party Liability and Property Damage up to a certain limit. You may request your existing Malaysian insurer to extend coverage to Thai-Kingdom (additional premium applies). At the border, there will be a counter assisting visitors to fill in the immigration card (TM6 Form) as well as drivers bringing their car to enter Thailand (TM2 Form) at RM 2 and RM 10 (depending on head count) respectively. Once down, head over the immigration counter to get the passport stamped before proceeding to handover the vehicle declaration form (another RM 4) and original JPJ card must be shown (non-car owners must present authorization letter and owner's copy of NRIC). Once they acknowledge receipt on the form, you are good to go.

1) Ta Yern Restaurant 大人飯店 
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Address: 23, Sukyang Road, Betong District, Yala, 95110, Thailand.
Business Hours: 8 am to 10 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +66 73 230 461

Betong Chicken (190 THB)

Braised Pork Belly with Yam (210 THB)

Seafood Tom Yum Soup (250 THB)

Stir Fried Paku-Pakis (50 THB)

Steamed Fish with Ginger and Spring Onions (320 THB)

Speaking of the most popular restaurant in Betong, it has to be Ta Yern Restaurant 大人飯店. Found right smack in Betong town, it's impossible to miss the place. Occupying 2 shop lots, the restaurant has a huge entrance and often very crowded (due to tour buses/ group travelers). Communication is not a problem at all; all the servers speak fluent Malay or Mandarin at this place. Malaysian Ringgit is also acceptable at this restaurant. The place has a big menu but well-translated in English and Mandarin so placing order is a smooth process. It's a must to try the local Betong Chicken... a famous breed known for its tenderness and rich meaty-flavor. Most would serve them with Soy Sauce and crunchy sliced Cucumbers. While we did agree on the tenderness, we did not think the Chicken was mind-blowingly delicious. We have had better ones or perhaps, this particular one at Ta Yern was just decent. The Seafood Tom Yum Soup was a disappointment though, it struck us with a sharp acidity and we thought it was quite flat... no seafood sweetness and lacked of fragrance. Oddly, Betong is not famous for the Seafood but we found the Steamed Fish with Ginger and Spring Onions was quite good. The meat was surprisingly fresh and we loved how thick the cut was; the Soy Sauce could have done more justice to the fish but it was overall, quite good. There were some hits and misses but generally speaking, we thought the food at Ta Yern was standard-average... like any Chinese restaurant we can find elsewhere... more for convenience sake and the strategic location.

2) Betong Central Market
Address: Thet Chinda Road, Betong District, Yala, 95110, Thailand.
Business Hours: 6 am to 6 pm. Opens Daily.

If shopping for dried food is on one of your to-do lists when visiting Thailand, then you should not miss the Betong Central Market. The ground floor sells wet food- fresh Seafood, green Vegetables etc but the upper floor carries dried goods like Dried Meats, Seafood and various traditional snacks. Whatever you are looking for in Hatyai, most of them can be found here. As for the Nuts and Dried Cuttlefish, they can be found right outside the market... the shop lots across the street from the central market. 

3) Baan Kun Chay Thai Restaurant
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Address: 27, Thet Chinda Road, Betong District, Yala, 95110, Thailand.
Business Hours: 10:30 am to 8:30 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +66 84 692 8074
Baan Kun Chay Facebook Page

Stir Fried Petai with Shrimps (150 THB)

Squid Salad (180 THB)

Green Curry Chicken (150 THB)

Salad with Home-made Sambal Dip (150 THB)

Baan Kun Chay Thai Restaurant is definitely our favorite restaurant at Betong... a short 5-minute drive away from Betong town, the Thai restaurant can be found at a dark, quiet road but the place gets busy during peak hours where group diners will be spotted. They have a fairly large Thai menu but not all of the servers speak Mandarin/ English... so ordering can pose a challenge. The good thing is there are pictures on the menu so you may just point at the pictures and order. The home-styled restaurant churns out delicious Thai home-cooked meals. Must haves include Stir Fried Petai with Shrimp (for the uninitiated, Betong is known for producing Petai) and Salad with home-made Sambal Dip. While we found the 2 aforementioned dishes exceptionally delicious, none of the remaining dishes disappoint. They were expertly cooked with a great in-depth of flavors. You may find yourself in sweat after the meal but you know... the exact experience that you are looking for when eating out at a legit Thai restaurant. All dishes are reasonably priced as well.

4) BM Super Center Betong
Address: Rattanakit Road, Betong District, Yala, 95110, Thailand.
Business Hours: 7 am to 8 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +66 93 581 7074
BM Super Center Betong Facebook Page

Looking forward to stock up your food supplies? BM Super Center Betong is probably one of the few options available at Betong. There is no huge supermarkets or big brands like Big C or Tesco Lotus around Betong area but this particular warehouse-like supermarket is not shabby at all. Though the selection may not be comparable to those big brands but the prices are definitely very competitive and budget-friendly. The downside is the location is slightly off Betong town but a little less than 10 minute-drive away. Since there is not much to do after dinner, you may slot in this place as part of your shopping itinerary.

5) Man Fatt Confectionery 万发饼家
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Address: 203, Amornrit Road, Betong District, Yala, 95110, Thailand.
Business Hours: 8 am to 8 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: N/A

Probably the only confectionery in town, Man Fatt Confectionery can be found at a stone's throw distance away from the Betong town roundabout. Do not expect a lot of trendy pastries here but an array of old-school, classic Chinese puff pastries with some uncommon treats like Deep Fried Bread (with Curry Chicken filling, Cream Corn filling etc) and Doughnuts. Expect to find some playful flavors like Matcha Mung Bean Paste puff pastry or Yam puff pastry. Not exactly a must visit but if you happen to be in the vicinity, do drop by and check out the pastries.

6) Seng Dim Sum 星点心
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Address: 264, Sukyang Road, Betong District, Yala, 95110, Thailand.
Business Hours: 6 am to 12 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +66 84 312 2699

Fish Maw Soup (180 THB)

Bak Kut Teh (150 THB)

Betong Chicken (120 THB)

Dim Sum (25 THB per basket)

It's a common to have Dim Sum as breakfast at Betong or Hatyai but options can be very limited at a small town like Betong. There are 2 established Dim Sum restaurants in Betong town- Tai Xee Hee Dim Sum near the The Tunnel and Seng Dim Sum, right opposite to the largest 7-Eleven at Betong town. The former choice has a bigger crowd but lesser option; while Seng Dim Sum offers a better variety as compared to its competitor. Since we haven't tried both, we decided to try our luck with Seng Dim Sum. Dim Sum is not the only food offering at Seng Dim Sum, in fact, you get to try the local Betong Chicken here as well as a bowl of piping hot Bak Kut Teh and Fish Maw Soup. Both Fish Maw Soup and Bak Kut Teh were great, with the former option outshined the latter one. The Bak Kut Teh broth can be richer but more than good enough for early breakfast.

Like most Thai Dim Sum restaurants, diners are to choose and pick the Dim Sum dishes at the counter and the servers will steam/cook them for you on the spot. Not exactly the place for a mandatory visit but more of a stereotypical itinerary to follow (for having Dim Sum breakfast).

7) Betong Grass Jelly 勿洞四碑凉粉店
Service Charge: No
Government Tax: No
Address: Tano Maero, Betong District, Yala, 95110, Thailand.
Business Hours: 8 am to 2 pm. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: +66 73 230 413

Betong Grass Jelly (10 THB)

Bowl Pudding/ Put Chai Ko (6 THB)

Mention Betong Grass Jelly and many would recommend this place. Slightly off the beaten track, this particular place can be found at the junction/ entrance to the Betong Hot Spring area. The proprietor has been serving home-made Grass Jelly for a few decades and the place is known for superior quality ones. No extra frills on the Grass Jelly... merely some Syrup and served with plenty of shaved Ice. The texture is bouncier than those we can find in Malaysia; a refreshing start for those visiting the Hot Spring. While you are there, try the Put Chai Ko as well. No additional toppings but always fun to taste the tangy, spicy Thai Chili sauce with Fried Onion Oil... extremely affordable at 6 THB.

More Betong Street Views:

Have Fun Exploring Betong!

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