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.
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
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.
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
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.
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! 🙂
My last trip to Lost World of Tambun Hot Springs and Spa was earlier this year. H & I were invited to experience their newly opened pools as part of a media trip. It was a blast, since they closed it off to the public and we had the whole place to ourselves.
This time around, I came with my fam over the weekend. It was a far cry from ‘relaxing’ – the place was so crowded we barely had space to move around, let alone enjoy anything..
Since it was Halloween month, fun and spooky decos peppered the theme park – from paper cut outs of clowns and zombies to a Carnival-esque atmosphere and props.
We went straight for the hot spring pools after putting our stuff in the locker. I didn’t want to get my phone wet, so if you want to see more photos of how the hot spring pools look like, you can read my previous review here.
….Let’s just say I prefer coming here when it’s quieter. With so many people the pools got dirty and there really isn’t much relaxation to be had when you’re crowded into a small space with like 20 other half naked people. .__.
Don’t leave after soaking though – walk a little further and you’ll come to the Petting Zoo, which is also open for visitors at night.
Greeted by the sight of a couple of fat raccoons running around in their enclosures and up on the branches which are very close to the walkways – visitors can reach out and touch them but be careful since these are not fully domesticated animals: they might bite !
The fish in the little stream seemed to glow in the dark, thanks to the lighting.
Fluffy guinea pigs in an enclosure. There were also hamsters running around in a very large hamster cage with dozens of ‘rest stops’ and play spaces.
Wee little wabbits. One came close enough to the side for me to touch. So soft and warm I wanted to take it home. .__.
These…. can’t be touched
Iguanas keeping warm under the lights.
A fluffy cockatoo. Didn’t touch it because that beak looks painful.
Tortoises hardly move and they live for a really long time.
That’s a lesson for all of us, innit?
Out of nowhere, a chicken.
Over at the reptile area were some really huge snakes, such as the reticulated python which is the second largest snake in the world after the green anaconda.
I know some people who can’t even look at snakes out of fear, but I think they have very pretty skin. They also feel nice to touch.
What does the Tapir sound like? Ever wondered?
We found out first hand when this guy started screaming at us for no apparent reason. Maybe we looked at him/her wrong. It sounded very screechy, a cross between a trumpet and someone trying to clear their sinuses.
Did you know that tapirs are wonderfully well-endowed? Don’t google it, you will be traumatized.
The Zoo also has Fennec foxes, which are very rare in the wild and also very very pretty. Mum says they look ‘haughty’ and I agree. I mean, if you’re this beautiful, why shouldn’t you be a little haughty, right?
We walked over a bridge across the crocodile enclosure, which was home to a number of smallish crocs and a big ass labi-labi (softshell turtle).
Although the hot spring was crowded, we still had a lot of fun exploring the mini zoo – but I would recommend visitors to come on weekday nights instead to avoid the throng of visitors. All in all, the facilities are well maintained and it’s very value for money. Great place to take the kids.
LOST WORLD OF TAMBUN HOT SPRINGS AND SPA/THEME PARK
No.1, Persiaran Lagun Sunway 1, Sunway City Ipoh,
31150 Ipoh, Perak Darul Ridzuan,
Operating hours: 6pm – 11pm (closed on Tuesdays)
Theme park tel: +605 542 8888 Hotel tel: +605- 540 8888 Email: email@example.com
Nothing beats a nice soak in a hot spring, especially after you’ve been walking around a lot! After our visit to Tangkuban Perahu Volcano, our guide drove us downhill to Sari Ater Hot Springs Resort in Ciater district.Sitting in the middle of a tea estate, the spacious retreat has dozens of natural mineral springs fed by heat from surrounding volcanoes. The water contains iodium and sulfur, which is good for people with skin problems and rheumatism.
Since we came on a Friday, we almost had the whole place to ourselves. The park was well maintained and clean, while the railings had just had a fresh coat of paint. There were facilities like camping grounds, swimming pools, restaurants and tennis courts
One of the main springs in the area is built around a small waterfall called Curug Jodo. The water was crystal clear and looked so inviting! Too bad we didn’t bring a change of clothes because the trip here was kinda impromptu ;__;
There are massage therapists stationed all around the park. They’ll be in the water massaging your feet, for a small fee.
Seems to just wash your aches away… 🙂
A parent was trying to get his kid in the water, but he was adamant about not touching any. His screams were as if he was being led to slaughter, lol.
Pops and the Moomikins.
That sounds like a cool name for a band.
There were creepy statues of frogs, Komodo dragons and scaly rhinos all around the park, for some reason.
Entrance fees depend on which pools you plan on visiting, but I think we paid 20,000 IDR.
Again, since it might be hard to get public transport here, I suggest hiring a private driver or a cab. 🙂 The charges are about 500,000 IDR (Rm150 – USD35+) a day.
My parents hail from the state of Perak in Malaysia, which is famous for its beautiful limestone hills. Every year while driving back, I’d marvel at the sight of these majestic wonders, shaped over millions and millions of years. Some of the oldest are around 400mil years old (!!!).
But while my trips to Perak have always been to visit relatives, I’ve rarely gone on a holiday there: simply because not much has been done to promote its tourism until recently. Recently on a media tour, I got to experience one of these hidden gems – The Lost World of Tambun, a 10-minute drive from Perak’s administrative/city center, Ipoh.
A theme park cum night spa/hot spring by night, Lost World is surrounded by ancient hills and lush greenery. Done to resemble ruins of an old temple, the place was officially opened in 2004 and is the only theme park in Southeast Asia that also has hot springs.
Our visit this time was to cover the launching of new additions to the lineup: the second phase of their hot spring and spa facilities.
A 2 1/2 hour ride from Kuala Lumpur later, we checked in to our hotel. The room (Exotic) was spacious, with two fluffy beds and basic amenities such as Wifi, coffee and tea making facilities, TV, desk, dryer, safe, etc. The TV only had like five channels, but I don’t think anyone would wanna stay in the room when there’s a whole lot of fun to be had at the theme park, right? The shower’s heater wasn’t working, but since we had already settled in we didn’t want to change rooms.
After a quick rest, we walked across from our hotel to the theme park. Guests were given special wristbands for entry.
An invited Indonesian band serenaded visitors with chill tunes, amidst a backdrop of the hills and the park’s manmade beach. A pretty picture, to say the least.
Just next to the entrance is ‘Ipoh Street’, a row of food stalls done to look like Ipoh’s colonial shophouses. Ipoh was a former mining town which grew into a city, and is now the hub of Perak state. During British occupation of Malaya in the 1800s to 1900s, many Chinese immigrants settled here and took up jobs tin mining, opening up businesses and rubber tapping. This culture and history is reflected in the Ipoh of today.
We were given free reign to grab food at the stalls, since the place had been closed for invited guests only. Yay!
We found a seat under a gazebo in a shallow pool. It felt like a pool bar. Interesting experience, to eat while soaking your feet 😛
Dinner – chicken siewmai (dumplings), which was freshly steamed and super yummy, but we kept having to go back to the stall coz the lady refused to give us more than two each time >->. Also had rojak, a mixed fruit and vege salad in thick shrimp paste, and curry mee. There was a long line for noodles as that was the only ‘main’ meal, all the others were snacks. Malaysians being Malaysians, we have to get our carbs in.
My favourite was the mutton soup, which was peppery and filled with chunks of fatty mutton.
The launch gambit included a fire breathing show by the resident theme park performers, Flaming Percussions. To the beat of tribal drums, the two fire breathers had us gasping in awe as they sprayed fire from their lips and even swallowed flaming sticks!
And then it was on to try out the hot springs! 😀 Both H and I were happy kids.
With a total of 15 attractions (13 pools, three private huts and a Crystal Spa), the place generates a whopping 3.3mil litres of natural geothermal water everyday. The springs are scattered across the area and some are hidden so be sure to check them all out (we missed a few :(…)
(Above) Saphira’s Lair is a family-friendly, shallow spring with beautiful coloured lights, giving it an appearance of a disco-esque pool. The effect was lovely. Temperature here was about 40, which was just right to soak, while all around the pool were high powered jets of water for a massaging effect.
The last time I was at a hot springs was when I was a kid, and I didn’t even get to go in.. so I guess this was my ‘first time’. Easing myself into the hot water and feeling it wash over my body, I could literally FEEL my tired muscles un-knotting themselves. Wow. Should really go for a soak more often!
The new phase of the hot springs was unveiled to be a 25ft waterfall which seemed to cascade from the mountains itself. At the foot of this fall were smaller Jacuzzi pools with gemstone names like Amethyst and Sapphire. Lights changed colour, lighting up the pools from below to create a relaxing glow.
Caution: The water here is friggin hot. Like, cook-an-egg kinda hot. The highest was 45C and both H&I only succeeded in getting it up to our knees.. and we saw this Auntie just plunge into it like nothing .__.”
The Emerald Lagoon area was my favourite. The water temperature is similar to what you get in a hot bath – not scorching, but very soothing/relaxing. The tiles were teal blue, creating a beautiful visual as different coloured lights sparkled around the place. There were private huts surrounding the pool, which you can rent for a fee. I think we soaked in this for well over 40mins!
We also tried Saphira’s Twister, a slide which goes right into a pool of cool water surrounded by a hot spring. Other attractions include a foot reflexology pool, Crystal Pool, Infinity Pool, and more. We missed the Crystal Spa D: where guests can enjoy aromatherapy and traditional massages. Maybe next time.
All in all, I enjoyed my visit to the Hot Springs and Spa tremendously. The springs are beautiful and clean, everything is well kept and maintained, and there’s nothing more relaxing than soaking in a hot jacuzzi after a long day travelling.
Entry is RM22.08, available walk-in and online.
More details at: http://sunwaylostworldoftambun.com/product/lost-world-hot-springs-spa-by-night/
Operating hours: 6pm – 11pm (closedo on Tuesdays)
LOST WORLD OF TAMBUN HOT SPRINGS AND SPA BY NIGHT
No.1, Persiaran Lagun Sunway 1, Sunway City Ipoh,
31150 Ipoh, Perak Darul Ridzuan,
Theme park tel: +605 542 8888 Hotel tel: +605- 540 8888 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org