Author Archives: Stilee


Abundant yield

Almost everyday there are news of killings and bombings in the South. Though Betong is considered a green area, to be precautious, I tried not leaving too far from town if not necessary. This weekend, I decided to drive to the suburb with a friend to temporarily escape from the heaviness in the air.

As I had never drove a 4-weel drive, I was very excited when my friend allowed me to drive the rather new Fortuna 3000cc 4-WD. I reckoned I could handle it confidently, as it is auto-geared.

As usual, we passed by the rubber plantations, the orchards, the houses and other greenery and finally stopped by the factory in a very large Shogun orange orchard.

The orchards

Shogun orange or tangerine is a widely known and popular fruit in Thailand. Betong is popular for its quality tangerine. The different sized orchards cover a total area of more than 8, 000 rai of land. It is said that Betong produces more tasteful and sweeter tangerine because of its weather and natural water. In Betong, the quality tangerines are sold between 60 Baht to 80 baht per kilogram depending on the grading or season. However, it can fetch up to 120 baht per kg in other parts of Thailand.

Though Betong is famous for its tangerine, I only bought as a gift and received as a gift. I have never bought tangerine for self-consumption as it is known that tangerine are sprayed with a lot of chemical fertilizers. We were always advised to wash the fruits before peeling with hands. Today, after looking at the tangerine processing, it eased some of my worry. The whole process involves cleaning, drying, sizing and packing in plastic containers for delivery to other parts of Thailand.


Sizing/Ready to be delivered

Due to the geographical nature of Betong, most of the tangerines here are planted in hilly areas. After the factory visit, my friend and I started our orchard exploring adventure. The orchard is very big and the one way road is very bumpy. We stopped occasionally to enjoy the scenery and to take pictures.

As I drove higher and higher up the hill I was getting uneasy. I missed the place for turning around my car and I could only drive higher and further. When we finally reach a place where I could reverse the car, I had to ask my friend to take over, as I was too nervous and panicky because of the height. However, my friend kept saying there was plenty of space and encouraged me to try on my own…The encouragement and comfort was in vain, unbelievably I couldn’t even move my leg. I was just too scared and finally burst into tears…

The way uphill, it’s truly high 😛

That ended my virgin 4-wd tour and the experience became the source of much laughter for my friends!


Every year there are many exhibitions, conventions, fairs and trade shows held in the metropolitan of Bangkok and all these events draw a lot of visitors, both local and international. One of the very popular exhibition held in Bangkok is the annual ARCHITECT EXPO.

Each year, ARCHITECT EXPO draws a lot of trade visitors as well as the public. The exhibition is one that people literally build houses, gardens, swimming pools and other structures and constructions in the hall, in a very creative and attractive way. It is also the annual event whereby the big gun companies showed their products and power, by their size of booth, presentation of products and their girls!

I have been to many different exhibitions in many different countries, and have never seen any shows having so many “fair” ladies –the promotion girls or models. Some of the international trade shows in Bangkok are really open and interesting. Sometimes, they are more like carnivals whereby the exhibitors went all out to attract attention by having clowns, games, band, ladies, musical performance etc.

This year is the third consecutive year that I went to ARCHITECT. This year ARCHITECT’07 (The 21st International Construction & Decoration Technology, Equipments and Materials Exposition and Conference) is having a lot more girls than the previous two. Besides my routine visiting job, I was having fun with my own lot of watching and taking pictures of the surprising number of various promotional ladies – sexy, cute, elegant, wild and all kinds! The ladies of course, would welcome people taking pictures with smiles and poses.

Last year, one of the highlight was a sexy model walking around a big swimming pool, taking off clothes piece by piece slowly, left with bikini…wet herself in the pool.. walked up gracefully….and drawing crazy crowds. This year, while I looked at the setting, I know the company would have similar tricks! I even cast aside my feminine personality :), squeezed my delicate and exquisite body in the crazy crowd and finally climbed up to a higher position whereby I could have a good view…

Despite of some negative remarks of the exhibition culture being unhealthy, the girls were nevertheless pleasing to eyes and therefore as the Chinese says “dance still on, horse still run” !

Amazing Thailand, even in such an exhibition they can treat your eyes with ice-cream! (Chinese saying :))


After all the roaring, crying, protests of the Southerners, the government seems incapable of controlling the restive situation which is getting worse. The violence has been escalating and the effects and threats are spreading. On and off there are cases of road blocks, not only causing inconvenience to the daily life and business operations, but also causing people to be in a constant state of anxiety.

Being located in the southern tip of Thailand, the only access route from other parts of the country to Betong is through the 410 Highway. Therefore, Betong is unavoidably affected should there be any incidents on the highway. Road blockage means cutting off the supplies of food and other goods to Betong.

Since Thursday evening, hundreds of Muslim women and children blocked the highway, demanding release of arrested suspects and withdrawal of paramilitary rangers. Hundreds of Buddhists also took to the streets, demanding the Muslims end the blockage, protesting the government policy of reconciliation and demanding the rangers to stay. Today is the third consecutive day and while I am writing (5 May 2007 23;30) the road block still continues.

Due to the of transportation break down, Betong is currently short of fresh vegetables, seafood, fuel, construction materials etc. Today, a lot of people are rushing to the petrol stations in Betong to fill their tanks. There are three petrol stations in Betong town, two were closed temporarily due to fuel sold out in the afternoon while one closed in the evening. One of the owners told me that normally the oil truck will come three times a week and the last time was on Wednesday. People are rushing to the petrol stations in case the road block continues….

Most southerners are disappointed and dissatisfied with the government reconciliation policy; especially amnesty to be given to those who pleaded guilty.

I miss the weekends where I could drive along the countryside. …I miss the peacefulness…I am tired and sleepy now and I am going to bed. When I wake up, I hope it will be a bright day. I pray and hope…


Rest and relaxed in a nice environment
The mixed-cultural design guardhouse

In Malaysia, I rarely see soldiers, let alone chatting with them. In Thailand, especially in Southern Thailand, the soldiers are commonly seen. Today, after my shooting lesson, I walked across the road with a friend to chat with the soldiers. The weather was cool and they were relaxed.

I asked a few questions like about their clothing and their daily life in Betong. They were very friendly and answered me patiently. According to the soldiers, they are off duty for 15 days for each 45 working days. Many of them will go home during their off days and of course, they bear their own traveling expenses.

According to the army officer, conscripts are entitled to two sets of uniforms per year while regular cadres have to purchase their own uniforms. The material for the uniforms are bought from a government owned textile factory. I found the material of good quality, soft and comfortable, different to those fake uniforms sold in the market which are hard and hot to wear.

The friendly soldiers

The armies carry M16 rifles and each riffle carries 30 bullets. The bullet proof jackets they wear seem bulky and heavy. I was shown the basic stuff they carried: 4 packs of extra bullets, walkie talkie and a flashlight.

Under Thai constitution, all Thai males are required to register when they reach 18 years old but are not liable for compulsory service until they reach twenty-one. At 21 those who have not undergone reserve training are subject to a draft. Volunteers are subject to six to eighteen months service depending on their education while those chosen at random are subject to twenty-four months full-time service. Students are allowed deferments until they have graduated.

Tu, 23, (middle in the above picture) was chosen by conscription and had another 6 months to go. According to Tu, should he opt to reenlist, he can continue his service if permitted, on a yearly contractual basis up to 5 years. If he opts not to reenlist, he will be released and placed on unassigned reserve status for an additional twenty-three years. During this period of reserve service he is subject to recall whenever a need arises. However, he said he had no intention to continue as he prefers to work elsewhere.

Currently there are about 200 army personnel stationed in Amphur Betong, under the leadership of the Commander of the Fourth Army Area. Soldiers don’t come to Southern Thailand alone; they brought with them a lot of stories….

Some locals complain that many inductees are so ignorant. While they are stationed in Southern Thailand, they bought pork which was not properly wrapped and walked around, not considering local custom and the feeling of locals.

The soldiers also had some romantic encounters which resulted in unpleasant situations. They are tall and handsome and attracted local girl students… Some of them also being taken care of by the affordable and lonely women, which may be a lot older than them…

Trip to Khok Chang

Khokchang township surrounding by hills

Unexpectedly, I had to take the Betong-Yala highway to visit a new friend Ju, Mayor of Khok Chang, a small township 60 km away from Betong, half way to Yala.

Just after I got into the car, I was told that there were two gun shootings in a place in the same district, Than To. My other three friends in the car were equipped with either bullet proof jacket or a gun and I had only an umbrella! Did I feel the tension?! Well, thanks to the road condition which is very winding for almost in its entire stretch, I could only feel car sick.

Ju is beautiful and gentle, a little younger and smaller than me. The others address her as “Than” but she said I could call her by her nickname. I was a little shocked when I was first told that she was a Mayor. She seemed so young, gentle and friendly. Ju finished her tertiary education in Hadyai and was helping in her family’s grocery store before running for election. She still helps in the grocery store after work and during weekends if not on duty.

I was even surprised when she told me that her municipality had 16 councilors, but only 1500 voters and about 2000 population, almost all are Thai Buddhist. In fact, Khok Chang is a Thesaban tambon, the lowest municipality level. To qualify as a village municipality, an area needs a gross income of at least 5 million baht, a population of 5000, a population density of 1,500 per km², and the consensus of themajority of the population of the area. However, Khokchang is among those many places which were converted into township municipalities in May 1999, even though they did actually not meet the above qualifications.

The shops/Right most: The mayor

After a sumptuous lunch treat in a hut restaurant, which is the best in the town, Ju brought us to visit the township, made up of only a few rows of shop houses. In the past, I have passed this town several times but never knew that there was also a beautiful waterfall surrounded by lush green forests and a big lake with hills in the distance, which is part of the well known beautiful Bang Lang Dam in Southern Thailand. If not for the unfavourable situation in Southern Thailand, I am sure these two attractions would draw a lot of visitors.

Part of the waterfall/Having Fun

While the others were discussing about the potential tourism plan, I couldn’t help to ask one of the boat owners to take me for a short boat tour. I was told that he lived in a village called Nasai, about 30 minutes boat ride from Khokchang and came to Khokchang only once a week to buy some necessities.

The beautiful lake/Unloading of smoked rubber sheets

The short boat ride reminded me of my birth place, a small river town in Sarawak (East Malaysia, Borneo Island) where my family lived till we moved to Sabah, before I went to school. Our orchard and house were along a very big river where boat was one of the means of transport. There were a lot of logs floating from upstream and my mum used to wash clothes on one of those logs. My brothers and sisters with other neighborhood kids liked jumping into the river and having fun. As a little girl, I could only watch them…