First-time Visit to Thailand: 5 Tips To Keep You Safe

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Last year, I couldn’t believe it when the Moomikins randomly decided that we were going to take a family trip across the border to Thailand. Of course, I love travelling more than anything else in the world (except maybe pizza), so I was pretty excited. Couldn’t believe that we could simply drive from Malaysia to Thailand in just a few hours… but we did!

Thailand immediately stole my heart and allowed me to explore everything from temples to street food, but I soon realised that there are some things about Thailand that first-time travellers have to think about. So, if you are planning your first visit, here are 5 tips to keep you safe:

1) Be wary of the Tuk Tuk

When you travel to Venice, you have to take a ride on a Gondola – and when you travel to Thailand, you just have to travel in a Tuk Tuk. It’s just the way it works! However, Tuk Tuks aren’t the safest vehicles in the world. Some Tuk Tuk drivers take part in scams and crimes that involve taking you to different stores, where they will pressure you to buy things you do not want. To avoid this, be incredibly wary of Tuk Tuk drivers. If you feel unsafe or uneasy with any driver or vehicle, opt for a train – which is the safest way to travel around Thailand.

2) Do as the Thai people do

One of the easiest ways to keep safe during your first-time visit to Thailand is to blend in with their eclectic culture. Many companies and business owners will try to exploit those who stand out as tourists. By dressing appropriately and wearing traditional clothing, you will be able to show that you respect their culture and their social norms, and it will make you seem as if you know the destination inside and out. If you can, also try to learn simple Thai phrases or perfect the traditional wai – a prayer-like gesture that they use as a greeting, a thank you, or even an apology.

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3) Keep your money and passport safe

Thievery is a real problem in Thailand, but that shouldn’t stop you from having an awesome first trip to the country. However, this does mean you have to be more wary about where you keep your money and passport. Before you leave for your Thailand adventure, it is best to take a photocopy of your passport that you can both print off and send to yourself via email. This way, you will always have a copy on you, which means you can leave your passport in the safe in your hotel room. It’s also a good idea to make a note of the address, phone number, and email of your foreign embassy in Thailand, if you ever need their advice.

4) Protect yourself from Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever is a hugely prominent viral disease in Thailand and is spread by those annoying mosquitoes that just love the taste of your blood. While the disease will not cause serious side effects, it may ruin your first-time visit and limit the time you have to explore – so you need to protect yourself. Mosquitoes that carry Dengue Fever are normally attracted to people who wear strong-smelling deodorant or perfume, as well as those who wear darker colours. So, wear light and loose fitting clothing that covers exposed skin, and cover yourself with insect repellent!

5) Never trust a stranger

Although we all like to think that every single person on this planet is as nice and friendly as we are, it’s just not the case. Most people in Thailand do simply want to be your friend, but there are others who have ulterior motives. It’s important to never fully trust a stranger. If you can, always travel with a buddy, don’t follow someone you don’t know who is offering discounted attraction tickets, and don’t take your eyes off your drink.

It’s best to stay safe during your first-time visit to Thailand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.

Do you have any more tips to keep travellers safe in Thailand? Share them with me below!

Cheap Produce and Petai for 200 Baht! @ Betong Central Market, Thailand

Time to bid adieu to Betong! Our weekend excursion to this Thai border town was well spent and exceeded my expectations.

Before leaving, make sure to stop by Betong Central Market for some souvenirs and cheap produce. The town has a large and well-maintained market, divided into wet (veggies, fish, meat, etc.) and dry (snacks, dried goods, clothes) areas.

What’s good: A popular local product is petai (stinkbeans), which you will find being sold in bunches (above), or nicely sealed in 1kg packets for 200baht (Rm26). That’s a lot of petai! (Cooked them at home, they were really nice and big. Although the whole house stank to high heaven afterwards)

Woven rattan baskets in various colours.

Walked around the neighbourhood, observing the locals go about their daily routines. Freshly steamed pau cooked right on the pavement sounds like a great way to kickstart the morning!

How most typical shops look like in Betong. Like Malaysia, there is also a ‘five-foot walkway’ at the front.

Interesting name.

Toy seller rearranging his toys on a motorised cart.

Betong has been a fun trip, although I was initially (very) skeptical of going. For those of you who are like me before, wondering what there is to do in a small border town, I suggest a visit to see for yourself.

Review: Mom’s House, Betong Thailand

*edit 2/2/18 : The owner of this establishment has reached out to me and apologised for the slow service the fam and I experienced that night, which goes to show that this is a indeed a small town-cafe run with a lot of heart. I have to give credit where credit is due – their food is tasty, it was just unfortunate about the miscommunication/service. That being said, I’d give them another chance if I visited Betong again.. just please, no more 1.5 hours. 😛 

 

We mostly had Chinese/Thai food during our stay in Betong. By the third day, ‘dai chow‘ was becoming boring, so we decided to look for a cafe. As I’ve mentioned before, Betong is pretty small so I was quite surprised to find several search results on the Internet. One of them was this place called Mom’s House. The pictures of the food/place looked nice so we went for it. 

Quaint little establishment in a quieter side of town. The decor was Japanese inspired and features lots of anime/cutesy dolls and characters like Doraemon/Rilakumma. Customers take their shoes off before entering the cafe, which seats about 15 at most.

There was some miscommunication as the staff couldn’t speak English/Malay/Chinese, and we couldn’t speak Thai. After much pointing and hand gesturing, we got our orders down.

I like the decor, but boy oh boy was I not expecting the long wait. It took them an hour and a half. The only reason we hadn’t left was because it was getting late and we didn’t know what else to eat. (Arrived at 6.30PM, food came out close to 8PM).

The food finally arrived. It looked pretty good, especially Pop’s seafood tom yum rice which was chock full of squid/shrimp. A nice egg glistened in the middle, topped over a bed of fluffy rice. The tom yum sauce was a tad sweet but we were so hungry everything tasted pretty good lol.

My spaghetti with chicken chop was decent. The chop was large but breaded coating > chicken meat. The pasta was done al-dente, which I liked, although the sauce was, again, quite sweet (a sort of brown sauce with lots of onions).

Bro’s tom yum fried rice. It was wetter than the version we are used to in Malaysia.

For a cafe, the meals are quite affordably priced. Also something different than the usual fare you get around Betong. Also, read edit above.

Mom’s House Cafe & Restaurant

47 Amphoe Betong, Betong, Yala 95110, Thailand

Opening hours: 1130AM – 10PM

A Betong Specialty – Braised Fish Maw Soup

Rise and shine, folks! Three days is all you really need to explore Betong in south Thailand, and before we knew it, it was time to head home. Before leaving though, we had to try another local favourite: fish maw broth. I’m not exactly sure what they call it but it’s basically a broth made with fish maw, along with ingredients such as mushrooms and quail eggs.

Where you can find it: the ‘stall’, which operates only in the morning, is in front of a bak kut teh shop across the road from the Betong Market. Vendors sell it from a giant vat, and they scoop it up into bowls to be served at your table (or you can also have it standing on the pavement). Once the broth is sold up they will close shop so get there early to avoid disappointment!

Shop name. Cannot reach Chinese/Thai so sadly the mystery shop shall remain a mystery.

Seating is in the bak kut teh shop. Although I’d recommend ordering some noodles/bak kut teh since they give you the shit face if you sit inside and don’t order anything.

Four bowls of fish maw broth coming up! They sure weren’t stingy with the ingredients – got at least two/three large pieces of springy fish maw. For those who haven’t had it before, it has a slightly fishy aftertaste and the texture of a sponge. I love it but I guess it’s not for everyone’s palate.

Also in the bowl: sliced shiitake mushrooms, quail egg and pig’s blood. The blood cubes has an iron aftertaste but it was clean and didn’t overwhelm the dish.

  

I like how restaurants serve you mineral water bottles.

Saw this fluffy kitty with the sweetest most adowable face ever. Wanted to kidnap it was sho fluffeh.

Famous Food in Betong, Thailand – Bird’s Nest Soup @ Inter Bird Nest Shop

There are a few ‘must-try’ local specialties while visiting Betong in the Southern province of Yala in Thailand. One of these is birds nest soup. The quality is said to be superior and also much, much cheaper than you’d get them for in Malaysia. Not surprising that they do a lot of tourist business. After some hunting, we arrived at Inter Bird Nest Shop. The establishment itself is hard to locate since its nondescript on the outside, sandwiched between grocery stores/car workshops, but Waze the name (or ‘bird’s nest Betong) and it should bring you to the place.

The front of the shop has a couple of tables, but there’s a lot more space at the back. Aside from bird’s nest, they also sell fish maw, another local delicacy.

Nicely packed for you to take home/buy as souvenirs.

We ordered a bowl of bird’s nest at 200 baht (RM26) each. It came in a hefty portion enough for two, boiled in rock sugar to give it a sweet taste (the nest itself is tasteless). Loved the silky strands slipping down my throat like a warm embrace! It’s not often that I get to indulge in such luxury 😀 10/10 would go back to Betong and have this.

 

*Sorry no address. 😦 Waze ‘Inter Bird Nest’ or ‘Betong birds nest’ and it should pick up the place. The shop is located along a row of two-storey shophouses.

 

 

Attractions in Betong, Thailand – Wat Phuttathiwat Buddhist Temple + Largest Mailbox in the World (?)

For a town with a relatively modest population, Betong’s Buddhist temple – Wat Phuttathiwat – is quite impressive. Sitting on a hill top overlooking the valley, the temple features unique architecture, with several golden spires rising into the sky.

Done in a modern Srivijaya style and measuring 40m at its peak, the temple’s most distinctive feature is its gold colour, which is also the colour of royalty in Thailand. Fitting, seeing as how the temple was built to commemorate the birthday of the reigning Queen in that era. Construction was completed in 1953, making the temple well over half a century old. It is still very well maintained though. The building is divided into several levels, and both the inside and outside has marble tiled flooring.

I’d imagine the temple would look gorgeous when the sun rays reflect off the shiny spires, but too bad it was a rainy day 😦

Typical Thai architecture: very detailed and elaborate.

The inside felt quite bare after the opulence of its exterior. In the centre was a raised golden tomb of some kind, but since there were no caretakers/monks around, we had nobody to ask.

Several tapestries hung from the walls, featuring Buddhist monks and people in traditional Thai costumes. The paintings had a raised motif so it gave off a 3D effect.

Very different from Chinese-Buddhist temples, since the paintings here reflect the local culture and beliefs.

The next level had a Buddha statue in the middle, an altar and a prayer mat. What was interesting though, was the corners of the hall…

I’ve never seen stained glass designs in a temple before! Instead of saints, they had flower/geometric/animal imagery.

More traditional elements.

Although it’s literally down the road from the town centre, the temple is a quiet little sanctuary for meditation and reflection should you need to escape the stresses of daily life.

WAT PHUTTATHIWAT (WAT BETONG) 

Moo 1, Tambon Betong, Amphoe Betong, Yala, 95110, Thailand

Before returning to the hotel, we braved the drizzle to make a quick pitstop to another tourist attraction in front of the Betong Town Hall: the supposed largest mailbox in the world (not really sure about this though, coz Guinness certifies the record to one in Illinois) !

It is very impressive, towering up at approximately 2.5 stories high. I wonder where the slot for the box is. Didn’t go near coz it was raining so we only took pix from the stairs.

Review: Thai / Chinese Cuisine @ Krua Samui, Betong Thailand

When we were crossing the border from Malaysia into Thailand, Pops decided it was a good idea to make small talk (my worst nightmare) with the immigration officer while he stamped our passports. Thankfully the guy was in a good mood and we didn’t get banned… he also suggested this restaurant in town for some good Thai food. So after some sightseeing on Day 2, we headed to a place called Krua Samui. 

A nice, spacious establishment with an outdoor and indoor dining area, complete with gazebos surrounded by plants for atmosphere. Since it looked like it was about to rain, we opted to sit inside.

I’m guessing the resto is run by a Chinese-Thai family, since they have an altar dedicated to Chinese deities.

There were quite a lot of dishes on the menu. We opted for the classic Thai basil chicken. The chicken was nice, juicy and tender, as befitting of Betong’s famous chickens, while the basil and onions added an aromatic fragrance. I was a bit confused with the deep fried century eggs coz it seemed out of place and rubbery – otherwise a good dish.

(Right) Fluffy fried omelette with chilli dip. The egg was very pouffy, and the texture was light and airy without being too greasy.

My favourite dish (and the house special) was the deep fried soft shell crab. Crispy and crunchy on the outside with a somewhat mushier texture on the inside, the crab can be eaten whole and was great when dipped into the tangy (and extremely spicy) chilli lime sauce.

After the crab, the shrimp cakes (they ran out of fish cakes) seemed a tad too dry.

Can’t remember the exact price but I think the meal was about 1,000 baht for the four of us.

Started raining cats and dogs when we wanted to leave, and since we parked a bit further away we couldn’t get to it. The resto guy came out with this huge-ass umbrella (the kind you put out on the beach/for stalls) and offered to walk my dad to the car. Talk about service! ❤

KRUA SAMUI 

Pratana Road 3,, Betong, Betong District, Yala, Thailand

Opening hours: 10AM – 10PM (Daily)

Phone number: +66 73 232 157

Attractions in Betong, Thailand – Betong Hot Springs

Aside from the Piyamit Communist Tunnels and the Winter Flower Garden , another popular attraction while visiting the southern Thai border town of Betong its its natural Hot Springs. Hold the bikinis though – the springs are not meant for soaking the body, since it’s a big public pool and doesn’t seem that hygienic. ._.” Entry is free.

A nice park built around the springs, perfect for a morning stroll. Some really cute statues of Betong’s famous chickens, ridden by a colourful costumed character (?)

We arrived there around noon so it was pretty hot, but there were several kids taking a full-body soak. Everyone else sat around the edges and dipped their legs into the water. The weather + hot water had us sweating in seconds, lol. Unfortunately I don’t think the springs are open at night so it’s best to come in the morning.

Drumsticks lol.

There was another pool adjacent to the one we were soaking our feet in but that was not open to the public since the temperatures are extremely hot. There was also a small well where you could cook eggs (!), which are sold by a local vendor.

As the springs are located within a village, there are also lots of souvenir/snack shops/cafes around the area.

BETONG HOT SPRINGS 

Ban Charo Parai Village, Tano Maero, Betong, Yala, Thailand

Opening hours: 9AM – 5PM