Travel Guide: How to Cross the Malaysian-Thai Border at Betong Immigration Checkpoint

A couple of months ago, the Moomikins hatched an ambitious plan for our family trip: to drive from Malaysia to Thailand. Her colleagues had told her about Betong, a Thai border town where bird’s nest and petai (stink beans) aplenty, and it was apparently accessible by car from Pengkalan Hulu in Perak – about a five hour drive from Kuala Lumpur.

Cue me arguing in disbelief: “You sure or not? No way Perak borders Thailand! Isn’t it only Kelantan, Kedah and Perlis?”

Mum: 

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/mapsonline/base-maps/malaysia-thailand-border
Credit: College of Asia and the Pacific

….. okay, I rest my case.

Took the necessarily leaves, booked hotels, bundled into the car early morning on a Friday, and off we went!

CHECKLIST: Documents To Bring if Driving through the Malaysian-Thailand Border 

  • Original vehicle registration card. If you’re bringing a photocopy,  ensure it has been verified by a Malaysian police station. If you are not the owner, prepare a letter from the owner authorising you to use the vehicle.
  • Passport. Same as when you’re traveling by plane, needs to be valid for at least 6 months.
  • Driving license. If you’re Malaysian, there is no need to register for an international license (btw Thailand’s driver seat is also on the right)
  • Insurance. If you’re just traveling around Betong there is no need but to go beyond (like to Hatyai, etc) you will need Thai car insurance. This can be bought before or after crossing immigration. More on this later.

MALAYSIAN BORDER 

From Ipoh, follow the North-South highway in the direction of Taiping-Gerik-Pengkalan Hulu. Once at PH, proceed to the immigration checkpoint in your car and get your passports ready. You don’t have to get down from the car – just drive through the window. The officer stamped our passports and we were through in less than 10 minutes. Further along was a police checkpoint, where the police also checked our passports. Once through, we headed for the Betong Immigration Checkpoint.

THAI BORDER 

Unlike the Malaysian checkpoint, you can’t just drive straight through the Betong one, so park your car at the compound and get down. On the right is a counter where you can get the country’s Arrival/Departure forms: Name, passport number, etc. (like the ones they usually give out when you’re on the airplane) You can either fill that in yourself, or have the counter staff do so for RM2. 

Once that’s done, bring it inside this building. The immigration officer will check your passport and clip the earlier form inside the passport. Don’t lose the form! You’ll need it when you’re coming back to Malaysia.

Here they asked for RM3. Idk what that is, processing fee maybe?

Once that’s done, visitors can take one of the tuktuks (they look like Filipino jeepneys, not the small ones you see in Bangkok) into Betong, or if you’re driving like us, then walk down to the drive through point, where there is another counter. Here is where you’ll get the ‘import’ form to bring your car in. This is very important so don’t lose it ! Otherwise your car will be left in Thailand when you come back 😛

The form was an additional RM16, but I think this varies because there were many blogposts with different prices.

Once that has been stamped and signed, walk back to your car and now you can drive through. Welcome to Thailand!

The whole process took less than an hour. But then again it was a Friday and not peak season. Heard it’s crazy on festivals like Songkran.

Since we didn’t buy insurance before the border, we stopped at some shops by the road. There are many signboards with ‘insurance’ on them so you won’t miss it.

Can’t remember the exact price of the insurance, but I think it was around RM20 (?) Not that expensive. They have free drinks for travelers at the shop. 🙂

Finally arrived in Betong town! Feels almost like a small Malaysian town, except for the the tangled-looking electrical wires. The town is about 10 minutes drive from the checkpoint.

Extra notes:

Internet

Most hotels will probably have Wifi, but if you’re driving and need to use Waze to find spots, I’d recommend getting a data plan. Digi was supposed to have the Roaming Pass for Thailand but I couldn’t activate it for some reason. 😦 Ended up buying Simcards in town for 150 baht (about Rm20)

Language

No need to learn Thai just yet. There are many ethnic Malays and Chinese living in Betong, so most of them speak either Malay or some Chinese dialects, like Mandarin or Cantonese.

Getting Around 

You can hire tuktuks to take you to tourist spots, if not driving. We didn’t see any conventional taxis.

Accommodation 

The highest starred hotel in town is 3 stars. They do business with (mostly) Malaysian tourists.  Even so, most places are well equipped with facilities and there’s the usual Wifi, coffee making facilities, etc.

Places to Eat 

The three main ethnic groups in Betong are Thai, Malay and Chinese so food is a reflection of these three. You can get really cheap dimsum in town for 20baht per plate, and the 7-11 has lots of cheap and convenient meals to go. Halal options are available from the Malay shops. Chinese restaurants are similar to the dai chows you find in KL, but prices are about average/on par with Malaysia. There are also street food stalls at night.

More of Betong to come soon. Happy travels! 🙂

Best Paris Airport Transfers for Taxi and Shuttle – Which to Choose? A Comparison

You’ve done it. You’ve booked a flight to Paris. The trip of a lifetime is finally coming true. Now you’re faced with that daunting task everyone hates, but has to do – research. Proper research before any trip is essential to avoid hassle, especially if you’re going with family or a group of friends, and have lots of luggage to carry. If you’re not part of a tour group, a big part of your travel will involve shuttling back and forth: from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to the attractions, and vice versa.

Those on a budget can opt for cheaper choices like the train or bus, but these tend to take up more time and will be difficult to navigate if you have luggage + small kids in tow, or seniors. Personally, I’d pay a little extra for a taxi/shuttle, since I’ll be chauffeured to the doorstep of my destination in comfort, worry-free. I wouldn’t want to spend my first day on a holiday stressing out about the commute. Sometimes it might even be better to pick a taxi: bus ride for one can cost up to 12€, while 4pax by taxi averages about 60€.

OVERVIEW OF PARIS AIRPORT TRANSFERS 

There are three airports in and around Paris, namely the Roissy-Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) that serves international flights, the Orly Airport in the south that serves domestic and European flights, as well as the northwest Beauvais Airport for mainly European flights, about 90 minutes drive from central Paris. There are numerous taxi and shuttle services available, so here I’ve narrowed them down to three choices, with comparisons, to help you make the best decision. 🙂

Piyo Cab 

image credit: http://www.piyocab.com/blog

Piyo Cab is a private budget/low-cost taxi and shuttle provider that services all three airports to places such as Disneyland Paris and its hotels, railway stations, the major business district of La Defense, Park Asterix, and more. All cars are air-conditioned and non-smoking, with professional drivers who know the ins-and-outs of Paris, to ensure a safe and comfortable journey. Upon arrival, a driver will be waiting with your name board, and they will also monitor flight schedules in case of delays, so a driver may be despatched at the right time. Drivers will wait up to 1 hour for free, but beyond the hour between 9PM to 6AM, a 15% surcharge of the booking amount is applicable.

As they are a private taxi/shuttle service, you’ll never have to worry about sharing the ride with others. Larger vehicles can seat up to eight passengers. For groups, you might even get discounts !

Bookings can be made online or via smartphone. If changes need to be made or you need to cancel the reservation, simply do so 24 hours before by emailing or calling them at the 24-hour hotline provided.

Traveling with the little ones? Request for a baby seat in the order form and they’ll happily accommodate! 🙂 Payment is by cash when you get to your destination.

Pros: air conditioned and non smoking private cabs/shuttles that cater up to 8 passengers, online booking available, 24 hour hotline and customer service, baby seat, free delayed arrival waiting for up to one hour.

Cons: Payment via cash only; some passengers might prefer using their cards/online payment. So get some cash ready if you’re booking their service.

Top Paris Transfer 

image credit: topparistransfers.com

One of the older taxi/shuttle services on this list, Top Paris Transfer has been in the industry for over 15 years and are accredited by the French Transport Ministry. Like Piyo Cab, they service all three airports and adopt a non-sharing policy. Bookings can be done up to 24 hours before your trip by filling up a reservation form online, or through the phone via 24-hour hotline.

Upon arrival at the airport, a chauffeur will be waiting with your name card and if the flight gets delayed, they have a one-hour waiting period free of charge, with an additional 15% surcharge for anything beyond the time limit.

The company goes the extra mile by not only chauffeuring you to the destination, but also offering packages for trips around Paris during your stay, be it to the Versailles or a Giverny Garden Tour. Another major plus? They offer services to areas beyond Paris: so you can go on that day trip to Normandy to enjoy the local cuisine, or walk in the gardens of the Loire Valley Chateaux.

Pros: air-conditioned and non-smoking vehicles up to 8 passengers, booking online or through phone, 24 hour hotline, baby seat, free delayed waiting for an hour, services available for travel beyond Paris, tour packages

Cons: Cash payment only (might be a hassle for those who prefer cashless methods or travelers cheques), extra charge for night services between 9PM – 6.30AM

T2 Transfer 

I’ve spoken a bit about T2 Transfer in my previous post on attractions in Paris and the different transport options available, but here’s another breakdown.

The company provides private taxi and shuttle transfers to and from Paris and any of the three airports. They service attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Disneyland, the city centre and more. They have air conditioned vehicles that can fit up to eight people, as well as smaller taxis that fit three (additional charge for fourth rider). Taxi or shuttles have to be booked 48 hours before arrival either online or via phone call to their 24 hour hotline. This is a longer period than the earlier two services mentioned, but the plus point is that they allow payment online via credit cards so you don’t have to handle any cash! For those who want to, there is the option of paying the driver after you’ve arrived at the destination.

The follow real-time flight changes to adjust for delayed flights, and drivers will be waiting at arrivals with a namecard. One thing to mention is that they claim to have drivers who can communicate in English, so that might be something to consider for English-speaking travelers.

Pros: air conditioned rides, online booking and payment with option for cash on delivery, 24 hour hotline, English-speaking drivers, baby seat available on request

Cons: booking must be done 48 hours prior.

PRICES

All three have competitive prices and rates are pretty standard. Here are the rates:

Piyo Cab: RATES 

Top Paris Transfer: RATES 

T2 Transfer: RATES 

 

I hope this guide has been useful in helping you to pick the best Paris airport transfers available, and Happy travels!

New Attractions in Kuala Lumpur: The Blue Pool / River of Life @ Masjid Jamek

Kuala Lumpur has a pretty quirky name. In Malay, Kuala refers to the spot where two rivers meet, and Lumpur means mud, so KL literally means ‘muddy confluence’. Not exactly classy, if you compare it to places like San Francisco (Spanish for Saint Francis) or Singapore (Lion City in Sanskrit). No matter though – KL remains my beloved city. I grew up on its fringes, and going to the city always evokes a sense of adventure and excitement. There’s so much to see and do (and eat!) here.

The heart of the city is where the two rivers – the Gombak River and the Klang River – meet. From a bird’s eye view, the point is a clear Y shape that comes together near Masjid Jamek, the 100-year-old mosque at the very centre of KL. It was said that in the old days, coconut and mango trees lined the banks, and the faithful would go down to the river to get water for ablution. A far cry from what it is in modern times: concrete, glass, steel, dammed on the sides to make a monsoon drain (although this was a necessary evil to prevent flooding, which was very frequent in KL before). With modernisation came unscrupulousness; it seemed that ‘progress’ only made people take a step back from civility. One finds all sorts of contaminants and garbage in the river’s polluted waters: plastic bags, bicycles, dead bodies… 

Image: Wikipedia Commons, Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams, 2006

A couple of years ago, the city hall came up with an ambitious plan to implement a billion-dollar project called the River of Life. The idea was that rivers are the ‘nadi’, or the pulse, of a place, and a national heritage that should be taken care of. The beautification project, dubbed River of Life and Blue Pool, was unveiled in late August 2017, to cover the stretch from Masjid Jamek to Daya Bumi. The idea was not just to clean up the river, but to make it a tourist attraction. Lights and wind machines were installed all along the banks, and new pedestrian walkways/bridges were set up so that visitors can stroll at a leisurely pace while enjoying the beautiful sights.

After the project was launched, S and I took the LRT downtown to check it out for ourselves. We alighted at the Masjid Jamek station, which is just a 2 minute walk from the riverbanks. The mosque was lit up for prayers during our visit and the overall picture was a pretty sight, with the building illuminated in blue lights. Water spurted out from little inlets throughout the sides of the riverbank.

The stretch covered about one kilometre. We walked from one end to the other, passing by the back portion of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. The best place to take pix would probably be from this point on the bridge (pictured).  You can see both sides of the bank, the Y shape of the confluence and the mosque in the centre. 

They also built a bridge crossing from the area near the Panggung DBKL over to the mosque, so you don’t have to walk all the way to the bend. The place was actually much prettier than the shitty photos I took on my camera, so I suggest a visit if you’re in the area. Be prepared though because the river still has an odd smell. Guess it takes years to really clean it up. I hope people can be more civic minded when it comes to caring for our rivers !

PS: I lost my Touch N Go card while walking around. Cries.

Getting There 

Parking is limited, so it’s best to take the LRT (Kelana Jaya line) and alight at Masjid Jamek. There are adequate signs pointing you to Masjid Jamek, just follow the path and you’ll come to this area in no time. 

Taiwan : First Impressions / FengJia Night Market

Growing up, I listened to Taiwanese music from Energy/F4/Jay Chou/ F.I.R and watched Dao Ming Si on Meteor Garden like everyone else – but I’ve never thought of setting foot in Taiwan. Partly, it’s the language barrier, since I speak elementary Chinese and it’d be difficult to get around. So when my cousin suggested that we go for a fam trip there (and that he’d be planning the itinerary!), I thought it’d be a good idea to see what the island nation had to offer.

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We departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport on a four hour Cathay Pacific flight to HK, where we’d then switch to Taipei. Seats were cosy and spacious, with lots of inflight entertainment. Alternated between watching Dr Strange and falling asleep. Also a nice brunch of egg omelette, beef sausage and tomatoes, fruit, bread and yoghurt.

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Rushing to make the connecting flight at HKIA. The place is huge, we literally ran past dozens of boarding gates.

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1.5 hours later, our plane touched down in Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei. The airport had impressive, uniform designs that were simple yet elegant. Since it was end-winter, weather was cold, hovering just below the 20s.

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Coming from Malaysia where we get alot of different races, it was a little weird coz everywhere I turned were Asian faces, be they Chinese/Taiwanese/South Koreans/Japanese/Malaysian-Chinese or Singaporeans.

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Had to wait for our coach to Taichung (which would take another two hours) so I popped into a convenience store for some snacks. I like how their 7-11s and minimarts have a section for hot food, featuring various snacks on skewers (fish cakes, fish balls, meat balls, sausages) as well as the mandatory herbal eggs.

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Our bus ride to Taichung, a bustling city in the middle of Taiwan, was uneventful. Upon arrival, we hopped into a cab and made our way to our hostel, located right smack in the middle of Taichung’s biggest night market – Feng Jia Night Market. ‘Busy’ is an understatement. The place was packed with people looking for supper – and boy oh boy, were they spoilt for choice. Steamed and fried dumplings, stinky tofu, grilled meats, boba tea, fried ‘popcorn’ chicken.. the market was a snack lover’s wet dream. It’s actually quite similar to the Malaysian pasar malam. 

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Large, colourful banners advertising each stall’s specialty hung overhead, fluttering slightly in the wind. The smells of food wafted into the cold winter air. We had to keep an eye on each other in the group so we wouldn’t get lost, as the interconnected streets were quite confusing. There weren’t too many street signs in English and the Taiwanese aren’t good at speaking it either, so if you don’t know Chinese you’re screwed lol.

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Apparently Taiwan gets a significant number of Malaysian-Chinese tourists. We were tickled to find a Teh Tarik (Malaysian pulled tea) stall all the way here.

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Assortment of grilled and braised meats. Taiwanese cuisine is often grilled, braised or fried.

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Freshly grilled scallops.

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Food stalls weren’t the only thing on sale. There were also lots of shops selling phone and camera accessories at overinflated prices – as is common with tourist spots.

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One of the storefronts had two large vats with fishballs swimming in them, and the smell was super appetising so we stopped there for dinner. 🙂

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Glutinous rice dumpling, which was quite similar to the bakchang we have in Malaysia. Its usually steamed with goodies inside; salted egg yolk, mushrooms and pork/chicken.

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Mention Taiwanese food and chances are ‘Oyster Mee Sua’ would pop up. Meesua is a thin, silky noodle and the version here is cooked in a starchy broth with juicy oysters, then drizzled over with vinegar. A warm bowl of this just warms you up in cold weather! Also had a platter of braised pork intestines – chewy, salty goodness. Yes, I’m aware of the cholesterol levels, but one has to live to eat.

More of Taiwan to come soon!

Taiwan !

Hey, guys! I’ve actually been so busy with work/travel that I forgot to tell you.. I’m going to Taiwan! 😀 It’s gonna be a week-long fam trip to the capital city, Taipei, as well as Taichung. This is going to be my first time there, and we’re getting around without a guide, so I hope everything goes smoothly. But you know what that means right?

More. Blog. Fodder. 

In the meantime, I’ve scheduled some posts on what’s been happening these last couple of weeks, so stay tuned to this space and wait for my Taiwan adventures. 😛

Sunset over Taipei
Image: Ludovic Lubeigt