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Malaysian Neighbourhood: A Photo Series

I’m back!

I know, I haven’t updated for close to a month now. Being cooped up at home is getting stressful, even for shut-ins like me who can go for long periods of time without human interaction lol. Even embroidering (hobby I picked up earlier this year) has lost its spark.

For some reason, I can’t seem to get out of this state of languishment. I dread having to submit work these days, despite having the luxury of working from home. Also I had a COVID scare a couple of weeks ago; tested negative and recovered from the flu, but ever since then I’ve been having trouble breathing / a feeling of tightness in the chest. The doc says it could be GERD, but it could also be anxiety.

I feel slightly better this past week, so I’ve been going for walks around the neighbourhood, just to get out of the house and get some fresh air. It’s funny how being deprived of the basic freedom of going out without worry, changes the way you see things. Every leaf seemes greener, and I notice tiny details, on shrubs and flowers and on the ground, that I would never have paid attention to before. It’s true what they say about not knowing what you have until it’s gone.

Here are some photos from my walkabouts. Enjoy!

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The park near my home is small but pretty. It hasn’t been well kept so there are a lot of leaves and branches strewn around, but it’s still a good place to go jogging. But if you’re a mosquito magnet like me, don’t go in the evenings. Alternatively slather on some repellent.
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It’s mango season. I never noticed how many houses in my neighbourhood have mango trees.
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Also papayas

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Bougainvilleas are also called ‘paper flowers’ (bunga kertas) in Malay because of their thin petals.
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There’s a house a street away from where I live that has this beautiful garden in front, and it’s always bursting with blooms.
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Ixora, known locally as bunga jenjarum (needle flower). When we were kids, my brother and I often chained the flowers together to make garlands.
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Yellow alamanda

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A neighbourhood tuxedo meow in the grass. Despite its grumpy look, it was actually very friendly and allowed me pats.
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My parents have been into gardening these days.

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Notices prohibiting people from going to the adjacent neighbourhood.

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The Malaysian national flower, Bunga Raya (hibiscus).

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Hope you enjoyed this photo series!

2021 is coming to a close; I feel like I haven’t even processed 2020 yet lol.

Hope you’re all doing okay, wherever you are.

Hamarikyu Gardens @ Chuo, Tokyo – A Green Respite From The Tokugawa Shogunate

Despite being an ultra-modern metropolis, Tokyo has beautiful green spaces – like the Hamarikyu Gardens in Chuo-ku, just a stone’s throw away from Ginza. Like an oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle, these tranquil gardens once served as the hunting grounds and imperial R&R spot for the Tokugawa clan, in Edo-era Tokyo.

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I was only able to visit at 4PM – leaving me an hour to explore the place. There had been a typhoon the night before, so some sections of the park were closed for repairs, but there was still plenty to see – like the majestic 300-year-old pine tree greeting visitors at the entrance. Typical of Japanese parks, many of the trees and rocks felt carefully composed and structured, with wide gravel paths and immaculately manicured lawns.

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Each season offers a different view – in the hazy summer heat, tiny yellow cosmos peppered the field. In spring, visitors will be privy to blooming plum and cherry blossoms, while fall brings with it autumn foliage on maple and gingko trees.

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Ignoring the shadow of the buildings surrounding the park, it’s easy to imagine how the royals would use the park as a tranquil retreat, hunting ducks from behind blinds or enjoying tea by the pond.

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Reconstruction of traditional buildings

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The park is built around a man-made lake, which draws its water from the Bay of Tokyo.

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Drop by for a spot of tea at the park’s traditional tea house, which is built on a platform at the edge of the lake, giving it the appearance that it’s floating. Visiting is free, or you can order a matcha for a fee.

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The Hamarikyu Gardens is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Tokyo for a couple of hours, and it’s also less crowded than some other parks in the city, such as the Imperial Palace East Garden or Kiyosumi Teien – so you’re almost always guaranteed of having the vast grounds to yourself (or close enough to it). It’s also very accessible, being a 5-minute walk from Shiodome Station or a 15-minute walk from Shimbashi Station. Entrance is 300 yen (RM 11 / USD 2.64).

 

 

 

 

Royal Floria Putrajaya 2019 @ Taman Botani Putrajaya

The Royal Floria Putrajaya – Malaysia’s premiere flower and garden show – has been held annually for over 10 years now. First conceived in 2008, the idea was to have the nation’s very own version of famous horticulture shows such as the RHS Chelsea, Hampton Court and the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.

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Last year’s Floria was a pretty well organised affair, so I was surprised (and quite disappointed) by the quality of 2019’s event, which has significantly dropped. I think the organisers know this too, as the entry price is much cheaper (RM5 for Malaysians, RM10 for nons). They’ve also moved the venue from Anjung Floria (near the lakeside), to Taman Botani Putrajaya. It’s not convenient for a couple of reasons:

  • Lack of parking spaces. You’ll have to park at the edge of the Putrajaya roundabout, and it can be a really long walk to the entrance. Not to be mention dangerous when crossing the road.
  • The garden is MASSIVE (like 3 acres). Not friendly for old folks and children. They do have intermittent buggy services, but it takes a long time to walk from exhibit to exhibit, and they’re all scattered across the park with no proper directions.

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We went at night because it was cooler. While you’re here, check out the cool-looking Astana Morocco, or the Moroccan Pavilion, which was built with the assistance of the Moroccan government and artisans. The Moorish architecture, reminiscent of places like Cordoba and Granada in Spain, features walls, pillars and archways covered in exquisite detailing. Geometric motifs abound on tiled floors, and water flows from beautiful basins. It’s no wonder the place is popular for wedding photoshoots.

 

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To be frank, the exhibits were not as impressive as the previous edition, and they were so scattered across the park that we had a hard time walking around (pretty sure we missed out on a few due to poor directions and just the general layout of the place, with its undulating hills. Good workout though!)

Another point that they could improve on is lighting. I understand it’s hard to light up an entire park that is meant to be visited in the day, but there were exhibits sitting in the middle of nowhere and paths that were poorly lit. Almost fell flat on my face a couple of times after tripping over branches/holes in the ground and whatnot.

That isn’t to say that there weren’t a few interesting displays, however. Here are some highlights:

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This avenue of trees by the lakeside, draped over with colourful fairy lights.

 

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By far the most impressive showcase was by Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur. Beautifully landscaped with various plants and flowers,  great use of lighting, and they even had actors playing fairies to take photos with visitors.

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Kudos to Mr Fairy. I was sweating in a T-shirt and shorts, and he had make up on + what looked like a heavy costume and headdress.

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A display representing the state of Terengganu, including a replica of the famous Batu Bersurat, a 700-year-old granite slab inscribed with verses in Jawi (Classical Malay script) surrounded by water ways and flowers.

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I dub this the Onion Disco, because they’re shaped like onions and they had disco lights inside.

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Antiques and vintage paraphernalia inside a replica of a traditional Johor-style kampung (village) home on stilts.

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A Japanese garden, complete with a bamboo water feature and a small flowing stream.

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Another interesting exhibit – the Johor Chateau featuring wires strung together to form archways and a building.

Royal Floria Putrajaya will be running until September 8, so there’s still time to catch it this weekend at Taman Botani Putrajaya, Precinct 1, Putrajaya. It is open from 10AM – 10PM.

 

Travelogue: One Night In Singapore

Where would you go if you only had a couple of hours in Singapore? 

Some might make a beeline for Clark Quay and its vibrant bar and club scene, or maybe Orchard Road & Bugis for a spot of late night shopping – but being the nerd that I am, I wanted to go see the Super Trees @ Gardens by the Bay. LOL.

9.00PM

C and I set out from our hotel at Shangri-La, where we took a Grab to the nearest MRT (Somerset – red) and traveled to Dhoby Ghaut. There, we changed to the yellow line heading to Promenade. Gardens by the Bay is literally at the station’s doorstep.

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Spanning over 100 hectares, Gardens by the Bay is one of Singapore’s most visited attractions, with beautifully landscaped gardens, conservatories and groves – a literal green oasis in the middle of the city. Walking through the nicely manicured lawns and neat pavements, one can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity behind its design and architecture, as well as the massive effort it must take to upkeep the place.

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The highlight of the Gardens is the Supertree Grove – towering structures of light and steel made to resemble – you guessed it – trees. I think they’ve become even more iconic since the Crazy Rich Asian film: think Singapore, think Supertree Grove.

Theyre’ not only there to look pretty: the trees are essentially ‘vertical’ gardens, with complex technologies such as photovoltaic cells that help it to harness solar energy for the plants, a rainwater collection system for irrigation, as well as air intake and exhaust functions for the conversatories’ cooling systems.

There are light and sound shows twice daily at 7.45 and 8.45PM. Too bad we missed it by the time we arrived. There’s also a restaurant up in one of the trees, and a pedestrian bridge ( you need to pay for that though) if you want to get upclose to the structures.

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A great spot for photos is this illuminated bridge that connects different parts of the vast park, as you’ll be able to see some of the super trees as well as the Singapore Flyer in the distance.

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Also close to the Promenade side of the Gardens is the iconic Marina Bay Sands building,  designed to resemble a ship at the top. There is a convenient pedestrian bridge linking the two, so we made a quick detour to see the sights before returning to the MRT station.

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Tree-lined pedestrian avenue.

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The grand interior of one of the buildings.

10.30 PM

From Promenade, we rode the MRT one stop to Nicoll Highway – C’s usual haunt for food back when she was still working in Singapore. We hadn’t had dinner and our stomachs were rumbling by the time we got to the Golden Mile Complex, which C described as ‘shady but they have good food’ lol. Anything for good food!

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Built in 1973, Golden Mile is an old but clean (is there anywhere dirty in Singapore even?) shopping complex that reminded me strongly of KL’s Ampang Park. Like how Lucky Plaza is a hub for the Filipino community in Singapore, Golden Mile plays host to many Thai businesses, including numerous mookata (grill and steamboat) buffet joints, karaoke spots, mobile phone shops, bars, clubs and the like.

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We popped into a random one that was packed despite the late hour and got a set for two, which was chicken and seafood. Did not realise that it came with liver or would have skipped this, but the rest of the items were good, especially the chicken meat which had been marinated in a flavourful garlicky concoction. Shrimps were large and meaty, but I do wish they had given us a bit more squid.

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For those of you who have never tried mookata, all I can say is that you’re really missing out! It’s extremely popular in Thailand, where it is known as mu kratha, and features a uniquely designed pot with deep edges for boiling, and an elevated centre for grilling. They give you a few slabs of lard to ‘oil’ the grill with, so the meat comes out tasting extra fragrant.

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Of course, no meal would be complete without the quintessential Thai milk tea. The version served here was humongous; almost as tall as my head.

Our meal came up to SGD  25 per pax (screaming at self not to convert it into ringgit) which was reasonable given the portions.

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The last train back to Somerset ran until 12.30AM, and it took us another hour to book a Grab because there were problems with C’s SIM – but all in all, a good couple of hours spent taking in a slice of Singapore. Hope this helps if you’re ever in town for a super short stay. 🙂

 

5 Attractions In Cameron Highlands For People Who Don’t Like Crowds

Once a pristine mountain retreat, Cameron Highlands is a far cry from how it used to be 20 or 30 years ago. Vast swathes of forest have been cleared to make way for hotels, farms and tourist attractions. It isn’t even cold anymore in the daytime, and god forbid you go on a weekend, what with the hordes of tourist buses unloading at the flower farms and strawberry plantations. If I wanted to push and shove among a crowd, I’d go to a mall in KL – at least those are air conditioned. 😦

Depressing points aside, there are a couple of spots in CH still worth visiting, and where you are less likely to get trampled in case of a stampede.

LATA ISKANDAR 

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If you’re travelling up from the Tapah-CH side, you can’t miss the Lata Iskandar waterfall, located just by the side of the road. Comprised of several tiers, the water cascades down into pools where one can bathe and cool down from the intense heat. Despite being a public recreational area, it’s surprisingly clean, and the waterfalls are flanked on each side with lush greenery. More seasoned hikers might want to go on the trail to see unique flora and fauna in the area. There are also some shops selling local handicrafts from the Orang Asli, jungle produce and souvenirs.

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CAMERON VALLEY TEA PLANTATION 

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CH has a couple of big tea plantations, including the Boh and Bharat plantations. Cameron Valley belongs to the latter, founded by migrants from Uttar Pradesh.

Boh is popular for their jam and scones, which is served at a picturesque little cafe overlooking the valley. As such, the place can be slightly more crowded. CV also has a lookout point, but you can opt to walk down to the plantation to take pictures, or take a buggy down to a spot where they have a bridge and a small garden. PS: Entry is RM10 per pax, which is overpriced imo.

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Sam Poh Temple at Brinchang is a Buddhist temple dating back to the 1970s and is well worth a visit if you’re into culture and architecture. While not very large, the temple has intricate decor, a grand prayer hall housing various Buddha statues, and is well maintained and upkept.

CACTUS POINT

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Perhaps it is due to its location which is a few kilometres away from Brinchang, but Cactus Point is less crowded than other nearby attractions, and the spacious layout makes it easier to navigate and browse through as well. As the name suggests, the place is dedicated to various species of cacti both large and small. In fact, we were surprised by the variety of different types they have on display, from tiny ones that could fit into the palm of one’s hand, to giant ones that tower as high as an adult. They also carry a smaller selection of garden plants and flowers, and you can even buy them to take home.

BUTTERFLY FARM

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One of CH’s oldest tourist attractions, the Butterfly Farm is home to hundreds of butterflies within its enclosed gardens. It also has enclosures for live insects, reptiles, scorpions, small mammals and an aviary. The place is in need of an upgrade, as the interiors are old and dated, but since most tourists will prefer going to shiny new attractions, it means you get the whole place all to yourself! 🙂 Despite its age, the gardens are still well maintained and you can get up close to the butterflies (they have a large collection of Rajah Brooke Butterflies) while taking a leisurely stroll and admiring the garden’s pretty blooms.

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Visiting Kenroku-En: One of Japan’s Three Most Beautiful Landscaped Gardens

Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture is relatively unknown among foreign tourists – perhaps due to it being off the beaten path of the Shinkansen (bullet train) – but the place is a popular destination for domestic travelers, and for good reason. If you’re looking for well-preserved examples of art, culture and history from Japan’s feudal era, Kanazawa has, perhaps, one of the best you’ll find in Japan.

Departing from Nagoya in the early morning, we arrive at the modern-looking JR Kanazawa Station an hour later. It was a rainy day – not surprising, since the city is known as the ‘Seattle of Japan’.

Part modern metropolis, part ancient capital, the city is an interesting blend of old and new, as seen from the giant wooden archway at the station’s entrance that stands in stark contrast to the place’s squeaky clean tiled floors, glass and steel railings and concrete facade. Known as a cultural and artistic hub, the city has a rich history that dates back hundreds of years, and was lucky enough to escape bombings during World War II. This makes Kanazawa the best place to see Edo-era buildings in their original form.

After dropping our items off at the hotel, our first stop for the day was Kanazawa Castle. 

* Since it was raining I had to keep my DSLR in the bag most of the time. The photos I took with my phone weren’t too good so here are some from the Japan National Tourism Organisation. Photos watermarked are my own. 

credit: Japan National Tourism Organisation

Kanazawa Castle was built in the 16th century as the homebase of Maeda Toshiie, a local daimyo (ruling warlord of a district). Japan’s feudal era was characterised by war and military insecurity, so it was natural for Toshiie to construct a castle town with which he could defend himself. As a result, nobles and samurais flocked to the place, as did the merchants, blacksmiths, carpenters, entertainers and geishas. Wars and several fires ravished the castle, resulting in its destruction in the 19th century, but the building has since been restored to some measure of its former glory.

A unique feature of the building’s architecture is its white-tiled roofs, said to be made from lead which could be melted down in times of war to make bullets.

Credit: Japan National Tourism Organisation

We skipped a tour of the castle and proceeded to the adjoining park instead, which is almost as old as the original castle itself. Kenroku-en, or the ‘Garden of Six Attributes’, is widely considered as one of the most beautiful landscaped gardens in Japan, so called because it combines the six qualities that make up a perfect garden: spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views.

Spanning over 11.4 hectares, the garden is home to over 8,000 trees from 183 species of plants, with artificial ponds and streams found throughout the grounds. Look out for the unique two-legged lantern called a Kotojitoro (above, right) which has become a symbol of the gardens.

credit: Japan National Tourism Organisation

Since I was visiting in summer, the trees and plants were a bright, verdant green, bursting with colour and life. It is said that a visit to the Kenroku-en throughout the seasons offers a different experience each time: in spring, cherry blossoms abound, in autumn the leaves turn to vivid gold, red and yellow, while winter sees the trees tied down with long wooden contraptions to keep their shape and protect them from heavy snow.

The gentle patter of rain subsided halfway through our park tour, although the sky remained grey and overcast – a pity, since the place would have otherwise made great photos. Still beautiful though. I can imagine the lords and ladies of old in their fancy kimonos strolling through the bridges and walkways before settling down to a nice warm tea whilst taking in the views.

Some not so nice photos from my phone.

We spotted the ‘oldest fountain in Japan’!  It’s not that impressive at only 3.5m high, but considering that people in the olden days did not have the technology we have today, this was quite a feat. The spurting water was achieved by applying natural water pressure.

One of my favourite spots, which had an ‘island’ in the centre of a pond. I thought it looked rather like a turtle in the water with trees sprouting from its back.

One can easily spend the whole morning walking through the place. Not sure on good days when its sunny, but we almost had the whole garden to ourselves! It was serene and quiet.

Lunch was at a restaurant called Miyoshian, replete with low dining tables, tatami mats and sliding partitions for privacy. Ordered soba noodles again (but hot this time) with chicken in a creamy sauce on top. It also came served with a boiled prawn, sweet egg roll (tamago) and condiments.

GETTING TO KENROKUEN/KANAZAWA CASTLE PARK 

Board the tourist oriented Kanazawa Loop Bus and stop at numbers LL9 and RL8. The Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus stops at number S8. It costs approximately 200yen and takes 20 minutes. Alternatively, there are Hokutetsu buses that run between Kanazawa Station and Kenrokuen, which takes 15 minutes and 200 yen one way.

Entrance fee to Kenrokuen: 300 yen (RM11)

Opening hours:

  • 7AM-6PM (March to October 15)
  • 8AM – 5PM (October 16 – February)

 

Attractions in Betong, Thailand : Beautiful Blooms @ Betong Winter Flower Garden

Living in a city in the tropics, it’s rare to be able to see temperate-weather flowers, unless one drives several hours up into the mountains. In Betong, Thailand, though, you can find a nicely landscaped garden full of beautiful blooms just 30 minutes outside the city. Surrounded by lush green hills, the Betong Winter Flower Gardens is a tourist attraction-cum-resort that offers a tranquil retreat up in the hills.

  

The gardens cover a huge area, replete with a lake stocked with fish and a cafe overlooking the water. You can buy food to feed the fish and watch them swarm over the pellets/pieces of bread. Visitors can take a stroll or rest under gazebos on a raised platform next to the lake.

Chalets for rent. There isn’t much to do around here other than walk through the gardens or visit the nearby communist tunnels. I wouldn’t pick this as a place to stay, unless you really want some R&R.

The main garden area is nicely landscaped and great for photos. It was rather sunny though so we quickly escaped into the shade of the nursery.

Proof of a city girl who cannot name more than a few types of flowers/plants. I christened this the bulu ayam because it resembles chicken feathers lol.

Chicken comb? Velvet brain?

 

This five-fingered fruit which was extremely adorable. It had tiny bumps on it that looked like spread-out fingers.

I realise that people have much dirtier minds than I do because apparently this fruit also goes by the name of Nipple Fruit, Lady Nipples (??), Macaw Bush (???), Titty Fruit (wtf?), Apple of Sodom (okay…) and Nipple Nightshade. That’s a lot of naughty. lol.

The gardens are not that big and can be explored within an hour, but you can spend more time just chillin’ and relaxing while enjoying the beautiful sights. There is also a restaurant for when you need a bite or two.

BETONG WINTER FLOWER GARDEN

Moo 2 Tanoamaeroa SubdistrictBetong 95110, Thailand

Phone number for Bookings:  +66878991153

Opening hours: I can’t seem to be able to find an official page or the listed opening hours, but we went there during the day around 2PM. Probably opens at 10AM and closes by 5 since it gets dark at 6PM.

Travel Guide: Top Things to do in Betong – Attractions, Famous Food, and more

Think Thailand, think popular spots like Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Krabi… you get the drift.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that those places, as vibrant as they are, make up only a small fraction of a country that is half a million square kilometres in size, with a population of 69 million. There are many other less traveled spots with hidden gems, and I discovered one of these on a weekend trip – to the border town of Betong. It is about five hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, accessible via the North-South highway heading to Grik and Pengkalan Hulu.

Sitting between the Malaysian state of Perak and southern Thailand, Betong (from Malay ‘betung‘, which means bamboo) is home to an estimated 20-30,000 residents, mainly Thais, Chinese and Malays. This also means that most people speak a mix of Thai, Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin or other Chinese dialects.

For a small town, Betong has good facilities: there is a post office, hospital, school, market, municipal council, places of worship and many stores offering different services and goods. Due to its close proximity to Malaysia, many Malaysian tourists visit over the weekend, and there is a flourishing tourist trade, with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. If you’re here on a 3D2N stay, there’s more than enough to see (and eat!), with time to spare for chillin’ in a relaxing, small-town-like setting, away from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

BETONG ATTRACTIONS 

1 ) Explore a (former) communist hideout @ the Piyamit Tunnels 

High up in the hills, about half an hour’s drive away from Betong town is the Piyamit Tunnels, once used by members of the Communist Party to evade the Malayan-Thai authorities. The 1960s was a time of unrest for both Malaya (now Malaysia) and Thailand due to the communist insurgency, and Betong was where many Malayan communists fled to and made base camp. Life was difficult in the jungle for the 50-60 people living here. They couldn’t have open fires for cooking or to dry their clothes. Sanitation was a problem. To act as bomb shelters, they dug tunnels (which stretch 1km long and have 9 exit points) out of the earth, sometimes with their bare hands. Be prepared to hike a little as the museum/attraction sites are far in. You’ll pass by quaint little streams and lush vegetation during your journey.

2 ) Stroll through the Winter Flower Garden

Located just a few kilometres away from the Piyamit Tunnels, the Winter Flower Garden is a well kept attraction that offers great opportunities for pretty pictures. The spacious garden is home to temperate-climate flowers and trees, such as roses and pines. The place is quiet and relaxing, with a pond stocked with fat koi fish. If you’re looking for a pure getaway from all the city distractions, there are also chalets to rent for stay, a cafe and restaurant.

3) Let the minerals heal your body at the Betong Hot Springs 

On your way to the Piyamit Tunnels/Winter Flower Garden, you’ll pass by the Betong Hot Springs, a natural lake rich with minerals. The pools are surrounded by nicely landscaped gardens, eateries and shops. Entrance is free. However as it was a really hot day, we opted to just soak our legs instead.

4) Pay homage to Buddha at Wat Phuttathiwat

Back in town, stop by at the golden Wat Phuttathiwat and admire the building’s unique architecture. Situated on a hilltop, the Thai Buddhist temple has sharp spires typical of Thai architecture. Step inside to cool marble floors, beautiful traditional motifs and tapestries depicting scenes from Buddha’s life, and oddly enough, stained glass windows similar to those you find in a church. The balcony on the shrine’s third floor is the highest vantage point in town, where you’ll be able to see the whole of Betong.

5) Explore the town – Clocktower

Explore the streets and go shopping! 🙂 During the day there are shops selling cheap cookware (pots, pans, etc.), clothing, Chinese herbs, groceries and more, while at night, street stalls make their presence known in alleyways. Nightlife is not as vibrant as it is in Bangkok or Phuket, but there are still bars you can frequent (they look seedy as hell though). Massage parlours offer cheap promos. Not sure if there would be happy endings; heard that there is prostitution here.

The town has a neat block-by-block layout, so navigating the place is easy.  If you’re lost, just remember the main landmark which is the roundabout/clocktower

6) Take a selfie with the largest mailbox in the world

Well, what do you know – Betong is home to the largest mailbox in the world! Measuring 9 metres tall, the structure sits in front of the City Convention Hall. I’m not actually sure if this is for show or if people actually put letters in it, haha. There is also another smaller 3m mailbox at the town’s clocktower, which was built in 1924.

6) People watch

One of my favourite activities to do (not creepy at all): Watch the locals go about their daily lives. The pace is much slower here than it is in a major city, so you’ll often find people just hanging around doing nothing, or enjoying a smoke (and a hot bun) by the road. (Above) A soft toy peddler rearranges his wares on a motorized cart.

7) Buy fresh and cheap produce at the Central Market

Betong’s Market is surprisingly large for such a small town. Spanning several floors, there are wet and dry sections, which is further divided into category (ie vegetables, meat, seafood, etc.). The Thai /Chinese sellers have separate stalls from the Muslim ones. Petai is particularly popular in Betong; you can get peeled ones for 200baht (RM26) per kg.

8) Bonus: Blue Mosque

img credit: Betong Immigration Checkpoint blog

For Muslim visitors, Betong is home to the Ahmadi Mosque, or the ‘blue mosque’ owing to the blue colour on its dome. We didn’t stop by but the building looks pretty at night as it is lit up with different coloured lights.

FAMOUS FOOD IN BETONG 

Attractions aren’t the only thing you can experience in Betong – there’s also an array of mouthwatering dishes to try! Since it’s so close to Malaysia, textures and tastes are not too different so I don’t think it’ll be a problem for even the more delicate palates.

1 ) Bird’s nest

Where to get it: Inter Bird’s Nest Soup (Waze) 

Birds nest is a Betong specialty, and you can get huge warm bowls of it cooked either in ginseng or rock sugar at Inter Birds Nest, near the centre of town for 200baht per bowl. If you’re thinking of taking some home, they also sell them in dried form.

2 ) Betong Chicken

Where to get it: Ta Yern Chinese Restaurant

Betong’s chickens are said to be more tender, with a smoother texture. To bring out the best flavours, the chicken is usually prepared poached, drizzled over with soy sauce.

3 ) Cheapo dimsum

Where to get it: Seng Dimsum

Located just across the road near the clocktower, Seng Dimsum does brisk business with its super affordable dimsum plates at 20baht each. Granted the portions are small, but they stack up really fast! Aside from your typical siewmai/fishball varieties, they also have some not-so-traditional ones too.

4 ) Braised fish maw soup

Where to get it: unnamed shop, across the road from the market

This is something I rarely see in Malaysia except at banquets, because fish maw is so expensive. You can find the ‘stall’ in front of a bak kut teh shop across the road from the market (you can sit inside, but remember to order something from the bak kut teh or they’ll give you the stinkface…since the space belongs to them).

The fish maw sellers scoop up bowls of the warm broth from two giant vats. Each bowl costs 80baht and comes chock full of ingredients – at least four to five largish pieces of fish maw which were soft and spongy like tofu, quail’s egg, pork blood cubes (done well, no overwhelming iron smell) and mushrooms.

5) Thai dishes – fried soft shell crab, shrimp cakes

Where to get it: Krua Samui

We are in Thailand after all! Popular among locals and tourists alike, Krua Samui has a selection of local dishes such as fish/shrimp cakes, tomyum, fried omelette, pad thai, and more. The setting is nice and cosy with an indoor and outdoor dining area, patio and ‘huts’ for more privacy.

Stay tuned for more detailed updates of each of these places! 🙂