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 : 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.

Review: Betong Chicken @ Ta Yern Chinese Restaurant, Betong, Thailand

The sun sets early in Betong, a quaint border town straddling the edge of the Malaysian state of Perak and Thailand’s southernmost province, Yala. By 6PM, the sky goes completely dark, shutters close, and the lights come on for night businesses – bright, white fluorescent ones for the streetfood stalls, seedy red ones for some massage parlours and bars. It was too late to do any sightseeing after checking in to our hotel at 4PM, so we just went out to town for dinner.

After Googling for recommendations, we went for Chinese food at a place called Ta Yern at the town centre, close to the clocktower landmark. I was tickled when I looked up at the electrical lines…

So many birds! There must have been hundreds of them roosting on the power lines. Be careful when walking underneath lest you get a ‘surprise’ bomb lol.

It was full-house at the resto on a Friday night, comprising mostly Chinese and Thai families. The setting was typical of a Chinese resto in Malaysia: red plastic chairs, big round tables. Service was pretty efficient, seeing as how they didn’t have that many staff and the resto was packed. The Chinese-speaking Thai lady gave us some recommendations, including the house special, Betong chicken. 

Thailand has one of the largest overseas Chinese diaspora in the world, and they brought with them the Hainanese Chicken Rice. Chickens from Betong are said to be the best for prepping this dish, as they are free range and farm bred in a natural environment, which supposedly gives the chicken an unrivalled tenderness and flavour.

The version at Ta Yern lived up to expectations. The chicken was tender but firm (as befitting chickens that run free range), not too fatty and smooth. The soy sauce was not overpowering but enhanced the flavour of the meat. Deep fried shallots added fragrance. Usually I take out the chicken skin coz it feels fat and yucky, but the one here was done so well it actually complimented the flesh. Really good!

Stir fried veggies were okay – cauliflower, baby corn, mushrooms, pork slices, squid.

(Right) A hot bowl of tom yum soup to warm the belly. One of the better versions out there ! It was spicy but had us coming back for more, fanning our tongues out as it burned oh-so-good. Chock full of ingredients and herbs, the soup gave us a much needed kick to balance out the milder dishes we ordered. Also great with rice.

Last but not least, we ordered a fried chilli grouper. The fish was humongous. Betong is landlocked, so the seafood can be quite expensive, but since seafood is a staple of Thai cuisine, we thought it’d make a nice addition to the meal. The fish was fresh and fleshy, while the sauce’s spiciness had a creaminess to it as opposed to the tom yum soup.

The meal came up to 800baht for the four of us, which is approximately RM100. Can’t say it’s super cheap, but then again we did order a fish which can be quite pricey in this area.

TA YERN RESTAURANT BETONG 

23 Sukyang Road, Betong Thailand

Open for lunch and dinner.