Daily Archives: September 19, 2005

Betong – Town of Swallows

Betong is a small town located in a valley surrounded by forests and rubber plantations. From September onwards, the weather gets rainy and cool during night time.

Betong is also known as “ town of swallows” . In the evening from September to end of the year, visitors will be amazed with flocks of swallows flying around the clock tower, which is the city landmark and the city center. It has become one of the remarkable symbols of Betong.

Look at the picture carefully, the dark shadows in the sky are the flocks of swallows flying around.

Like other birds, the swallows migrate to the warmer South during winter. Hundreds of thousands of swallows from Siberia migrate here every year to perch on the city’s rooftops and weigh down the electricity cables. Years ago, Japanese bird specialists were stationed here for several consecutive years to do research on the swallows. They confirmed that the swallows were coming from as far away as Siberia.

I didn’t quite like the migratory birds initially in Betong because I had had a few “shit” experiences. Later as I found out from the books about the birds, I started to admire and tolerate with them.

According to a study, some of the Europe’s swallows head for southern Africa to escape the harsh winters of the northern hemisphere, covering about 11,000 km. The journey is particularly dangerous because they have to cross the vast Sahara Desert to reach their destination. The chances of both the members of a pair getting there and coming back safely are only about 20 per cent. By desert crossing these birds become so highly exhausted that they do not even try to fly away when anybody picks them up.

The swallows in Betong too have gone through a lot of hardship to arrive here. Just like myself, who crossed over the ocean and national boundary to pursue my life ambitions here too… :)!

Every morning, there will be lots of shits on the ground around the tower roundabout, and those parking spaces under the electricity cables, which are in fact very unhygienic. However, thanks to the municipality for washing the roads every day!

For the Malaysian tourists who come here to enjoy night life and women, the next morning when they go to get their cars parked under the electricity cables, it is not surprising to hear “oh shits” here and “oh shits” there! :)!

Swallows perching on the electricity cables.

The swallow nests.

99 Things Not to Miss in Thailand – Part V

Erawan Waterfall in Kanchanaburi

Hello folks. My apology for the long absense. I’ve been battling an eye inflammatory all week (looong story-see my personal blog), and my brand new video card has just arrived yesterday.

So, without further adieu, here’s the final installment of the 99 Things Not to Miss in Thailand List from Thai Airways’ Sawasdee Magazine.

[ Part I ] [ Part II ] [ Part III ] [ Part IV ]

81. Dusk at the Temple of Dawn :: Ironically, the best visul for Wat Arun, as known by Thais, isn’t at dawn but at dusk, as the sun sets behind the temple if you’re looking at it from Chao Phraya river. The temple was built in 1767 by King Taksin when he moved the capital from Ayutthaya down to Thonburi.

82. Skytrain and Subway :: The best way to get around the Big Mango and enjoy the view. The subway is possibly the best way to get you to Jatujak market (#59) from the middle of the city.

83. Southern Fried Chicken :: HFC = Hat Yai Fried Chicken. On the streets of the southern town of Hat Yai, Muslim-style crispy deliciousness is served up with crisp-fried shallots and sticky rice.

84. Secret Beaches :: Sawaddee Magazine wasn’t about to “out” the hidden gems, but it did drop some hints. Rent a car and head to Pranburi, south of Hua Hin, and keep heading south along the eastern coastline of Prachuap Khiri Khan until you get to Chumphon. Recommended stop is at Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park which is only busy on the weekend.

85. Bangkok International Film Festival :: One of Oliver Stone’s favorite festivals–I guess, he’s ALWAYS here for it, isn’t he? February 17-27, 2006.

86. Scuba Diving :: Day trip, schmay trip! You’re in Thailand! Take a dive cruise on a dive boat where you can wake up and dive, have lunch and dive, and dive before you go to bed.

87. Thai Puppets :: The Joe Louis Theater is the world’s only example of Hun Lakorn Lek, traditional Thai puppets.

88. Nigh markets :: From food to souvenirs. Block after block for Hua Hin’s market, and the lively Lumpini Park night market in Bangkok is pretty kickin’ too.

89. Preah Vihear Temple :: The best Khmer site outside of Angkor Wat perches atop a cliff straddling Thai-Cambodia border, accessible only from the north. From the Thai side, a hike up steep stone stairways leads up to the temple originally built as a Hindu temple during the 11th-13th centuries.

90. South seas :: I don’t even have to explain, do I?

91. Pad Thai : Sawasdee Magazine recommends a hunt for the best Pad Thai every town you visit!

92. National Parks :: Elephants, tigers, waterfalls, mosquitoes the size of chicken, oh my! Nearest and dearest to Bangkokians, Khao Yai. Caving in Khao Sam Roi Yot. Hanging out at the lake at Khao Sok. ThaiParks123.com will get you there.

93. Soi Thonglor (Sukumvit 55) :: Restaurants and bars come in and out of business, and what’s hip today may not be next month! Cruise down this trend setting street to see what’s hot.

94. Thai Massage :: Snap. Crackle. Pop. Ahhhh. There are many places in the city where you can get this millennia-old art of traditional massage. But for a very traditional feel, I’d recommend the massage school at Wat Pho. The line usually isn’t that long, and even if it is you can go walk around and check out the temple. And epeaking from experience here, make sure you have a second appointment with your Thai massage therapist 2 days after your first one. Thai massage is a combination of stretches and pressure points. Although you’d feel relaxed and refreshed right after, the next day you may be a little sore, almost like you’ve been working out. So, get your therapist back to knead out those kinks and you’ll feel like a million bucks for the rest of your trip!

95. Pak Klong Talaat – Flower Market :: The floral market of Bangkok blooms from dusk till dawn. Also, around the corner from the flower market, there’s a night bazaar/flea market for bargain hunters—secondhand clothing, works of art and fashion design students, and other funky offbeat items. We drove by the area one evening on accident as my dad took a wrong turn, showing us the King’s Birthday city lights.

96. Waterfalls of Karnchanaburi :: In Thailand’s wild west, day-trippers enjoy at least a dozen waterfalls along the highway leading to the outpost Thong Pha Phoom. To name a few, the legendary Sai Yok waterfalls, small wonder of Krung Kavia, or the rocky Thung Nang Kruan.

97. Ayutthaya by Boat :: Many different packages to visit the marvelous ancient city from an affordable taxi up and down the river, to 3-day cruise on a luxuriously converted rice barge. I believe my mom said that the Oriental has a day-trip package of bussing up and boating back on a dinner boat. Brandon and I wanted to do that last year, but we ended up getting driven up with an Aunty instead. Still, a lot of adventures.

98. Hotel Buffets :: Thais. Love. To eat. And the hotels know that. Sawasdee Magazine talks about the Sunday brunches. Sunday mornings, many hotels offer international buffets that starts off with breakfast and ends with lunch. From cereal to build-your-own-eggs and build-your-own-boil rice stations, to oysters on half-shells to whatever noodles soup you’d like to carved roast beef. Hit up the Four Seasons for foie gras and vodka cocktails, or the Sheraton Grande for jazz. Of course, for the budget travelers, smaller hotels do offer more affordable pricing but still with a great menu. I’d also like to add the fact that the buffets usually are available any day for any meal.

99. Different time. Different trip :: As you are leaving the kingdom, you KNOW it’ll be a whole different trip when you come back next time!

That’s all from this series, folks! Thank you for your input and comments.

For my next trick, I’m going to recount my travelogues from my last few visits home. A few years ago, it was just me going home to visit. The trip was a lot different that when I took Brandon with me last year. So, it’s all things local v.s. all things tourist. I may be absent for a while to let my eyes completely healed (as I am now blind as a bat again as medication runs out of steam). But do not fear, the OakMonster shall return soon!