The Town of Betong

a historical Perspective


The Town of Betong -

a historical Perspective

Good Friday Ride 2019

Back in April 2019, we embarked on a short solo trip over the Good Friday Weekend to the Southern Thailand's town of Betong. Betong is located in the Yala Province in southern Thailand. Betong is rich in insurgence history such that even up till today, there are occasional cases of insurgent activity with the province rocking the government official and militia within the province. Over the years there were many occasion when we were in Betong just after or before something happened (thank god we were not there during all the drama).

Brief history of communist insurgency between Thailand and Malaya (Malaysia)

The Communist insurgency in Malaysia, also known as the Second Malayan Emergency (Malay: Perang insurgensi melawan pengganas komunis or Darurat Kedua), was an armed conflict which occurred in Malaysia from 1968 to 1989, between the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) and Malaysian federal security forces.

Following the end of the Malayan Emergency in 1960, the predominantly ethnic Chinese Malayan National Liberation Army, armed wing of the MCP, had retreated to the Malaysian-Thailand border where it had regrouped and retrained for future offensives against the Malaysian government. Hostilities officially re-ignited when the MCP ambushed security forces in Kroh–Betong, in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia, on 17 June 1968. The conflict also coincided with renewed domestic tensions between ethnic Malays and Chinese in Peninsular Malaysia and regional military tensions due to the Vietnam War.

While the Malayan Communist Party received some limited support from the People's Republic of China, this support ended when the governments of Malaysia and China established diplomatic relations in June 1974. In 1970, the MCP experienced a schism which led to the emergence of two breakaway factions: the Communist Party of Malaya–Marxist-Leninist (CPM–ML) and the Revolutionary Faction (CPM–RF). Despite efforts to make the MCP appeal to ethnic Malays, the organisation was dominated by Chinese Malaysians throughout the war. Instead of declaring a "state of emergency" as the British had done previously, the Malaysian government responded to the insurgency by introducing several policy initiatives including the Security and Development Program (KESBAN), Rukun Tetangga (Neighbourhood Watch), and the RELA Corps (People's Volunteer Group).

The insurgency came to an end on 2 December 1989 when the MCP signed a peace accord with the Malaysian government at Hatyai in southern Thailand. This coincided with the Revolutions of 1989 and the collapse of several prominent communist regimes worldwide. Besides the fighting on the Malay Peninsula, another communist insurgency also occurred in the Malaysian state of Sarawak in the island of Borneo, which had been incorporated into the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963.

- source:

Betong - A Historical Perspective

Good Friday Ride 2019

Day 1

Singapore - Betong


It was an impromptu ride that was not planned. Had a 3 days long weekend to travel for a short ride and what better way to do it than to travel to Betong. Being the nearest Thai town to Singapore (about 650km away), it was easily accessible and suitable for a short weekend stay just to chill and ride. However, this time we decided to do a historical twist to the ride. We have rode to Betong plenty of times, often around 2 to 3 times in a year (remember it is a suitable distance for a weekend ride). In fact the first time that I was in Betong was around the year 2006 to 2008 somewhere around that time, I fell in love with its laid back charm, availability of muslim food and just the peace and quiet of the small town. The town is a nice place to spend a weekend of riding through part of Gerik (one of Malaysia top 5 roads) and into Thailand from the border town of Pengkalan Hulu.

Singapore - Betong, Yala

The closest Thai town to Singapore is just around 650km from Gelang Patah ( first town as you enter the Second Link into Malaysia ). The ride takes us through the Malaysian North-South Highway, exiting into Gerik in Perak then proceeding past the UNESCO site of Lenggong and to the border town of Pengkalan Hulu. Pass the border and Immigration for both Malaysia and Thailand, Betong town is just about 2km from the border. Border crossing is relatively easy and straight forward although on weekends its might get chaotic due to Malaysia visitors comming in for their weekend vacation.

Spent the night riding through 5 states of Malaysia to get to Betong by morning. It was always great to ride in the morning mist in Gerik with the morning sky giving out a purple hue, always a beautiful sight to see. Tasek Raban, a lake with a long bridge that spans the lake crosiing from one side to the other, is also a nice place to stop and admire the sight if you are travelling in the day. We are however travelling through these places in the dark therefore we are unable to capture the sights. Arrived in Gerik at dawn and managed to catch the purple hue in the sky on the misty mountains road.

Once the morning mist disappear the roads look so inviting as you ride through the corners of one of the top 5 recommended (bes) roads of Malaysia. The road surface is maintained for a rural road with small towns in between passing in between forest and national parks. It was a great feeling to ride the curves feeling the freedom that riding brings us and the smell of the morning fresh air and the drops of morning dews landing on your face. Next time will make it a point to visit Malaysia's UNESCO Heritage site, Lenggong Archaeological site. I am sure it would be an interesting experience as we uncover and learn about the ancient artefacts that were found during the excavation....well that is an adventure for another day.

Getting through immigration and crossing into Thailand

Next up is passing through the immigration of both Malaysia and Thailand. This crossing here is the easiest and simplest crossing between the two countries. Basically if you are staying within Betong Town itself, there is no need to fill in any other forms than just endorsing on your passport. However if you do intend to roam around outside of Betong Town or intend to travel to other provinces through Betong, then the normal formalities applies. i.e. Import permit, TM forms for conveyance on top of your immigration documents and Thai insurance.

Along the way we decided to stop by the Memorial for the fallen at the Kroh - Betong insurgency. There lies a wall marked out with the names of the fallen soldiers and police officers who were discharging their duties during the time of the insurgent. The area and the mood was sombre around the area with very little / few visitors or people hanging around the area.

Memorial of the Fallen

On 17 June 1968, at about 5.30 pm, the first battalion convoy of the Forest Police Force (PPH) based in Kroh (now Pengkalan Hulu), Perak was ambushed by Malayan Communist Party (CPM) terrorists while en route to Betong, Thailand. to carry out "Ops Sawadee Salam".

More on the "Ops Sawadww Salam"

The convoy, which involved four police vehicles, was aimed at strengthening the defense at Betong Camp, after receiving initial information that it would be targeted by the CPM. As soon as the convoy led by Inspector Malik Arshad entered the Kroh-Betong border area, CPM terrorists who knew about the movement fired several shots at them. Inspector Malik and all his men immediately returned fire and fought hard even though there was no place for them to take refuge from the enemy. Unfortunately, the attack which lasted more than 20 minutes saw one PPH member after another fall to the ground. The position and strategy of the enemy attacking from three corners of the hill as the convoy went through a sharp bend, made it even more difficult for the security forces to break their attack.

Although there was another convoy vehicle led by ASP Tan Hun Tiong was only a few meters ahead, they could not help because they were also attacked by the enemy. The bloody incident saw 16 PPH members killed at the scene while Inspector Malik and 16 other members suffered serious injuries. More sadly, some of those killed were tortured by the enemy with their eyes gouged out, their hands cut off and their genitals cut off.

The ambush also caused severe damage to the team's vehicle with the effects of enemy fire as well as all weapons, equipment and radio communication sets were also confiscated.

Malaysia - Thailand Border

Stopping by the stone marking demarcating the boundary between Malaysia and Thailand

Southernmost Point of Thailand

The marking of The Southernmost Point of Thailand is found in the Province of Yala Thailand. A single stone writing in Thai stating tis site as the southernmost point within Thailand.

Arrival at Holiday Hills Betong

Cleared the Thailand Immigration and Customs House and we are in ...onto the soil of Thailand, "The Land of Smiles". Aptly so as soon as I arrived at my hotel, I was greet by a long time friend of mine, Rosening, who works as the receptionist of the hotel which I always stayed in during my visit to Betong. Rose has been working there eversince my first visit to Betong that is during the year 2006 thereof. A long serving staff member, she is always helpful and goes out of her way to help the guest. We have since became friends and often she would help me with bookings of accommodation be it in Betong or elsewhere.

Spent the late morning lazying around the town as planned and chilling. We did go around a few sites within the boundary of Betong Town just to revisit them again and for some photo opportunity. Some recuperation needed after the 6 hours on the road riding from Singapore to Betong.

Mongkolit Tunnel

The only vehicular tunnel in Thailand spanning around 400 metres in length linking the town to the rural parts of Betong.

Betong Clocktower

This marks the centre of Betong Town. There are very few "traffic light" operated junction in the town. Generally the demeanour of the peopl here are laid back and their style of driving are also very slow. Time passes by slowly as you sit and watch the sight around town.

I could not sit still and just laze around the town as there was not much to do anyway. Decided to take a ride and explore the national parks and rural roads in search of an authentic communist settlement in Betong. This communist re-housing project took place when the communist surrendered themselves and cam out of the jungles. They were then re homed and rehabilitated to integrate into the society. As such a few of these type of resettlement areas can be found within the province of Yala, mainly around the border areas. They are known as the Chulaporn Communist villages.

However to get to these areas are not that straight forward as many are not marked on the map and there are little or no reviews done about these places. We had to rely on several accounts to slowly narrow down our search area and still we had to ride around hoping to discover it.

Entry into the National Park

The tarmac slowly change from the regular trunk roads to smaller road and then it slowly gets to broken roads (poorly maintained) and then to gravel and soon it was offroad.

Soon we arrived into the village. It was very quiet with very little residents who have chosen to remain behind in the village over the years. Over the years, many residents (younger generations) have chosen to leave the village and integrate with the mainstream society. It was outrightly obvious that the village was once a communist settlement with a red star marking the centre of the village as well the the remnants of communist ideology paraphernalia around the village.

Tea with former communist

Some of the residents were very welcoming as they invite me to sit down for tea and we spent time at length discussing and me finding out more information of how the lives had been for those who had stayed within the complex not to mention how it was living a life as a guerilla fighter in the jungles at the border of Malaysia and Thailand.

A member of the MCP (Malayan Communist Party (MCP) agreed to give an account of her life during the time of the insurgencies. She has requested to blanked out her image as she was shy to be on video. I have documented an interview with the former communist member and will provide a translation of the excerpts as she could only speak in the Malay language.

Interview On Life as a Communist Party Member

Spoke to one of the former communist member who wish not to appear for the video. We have r and translated the interview.

Later on I was brought on a tour of a mini museum that they had conserved within their village. The museum boast displays of many former communist member's portraits , weapons as well as communication equipment during the insurgencies. Their history was so well documented that I was engrossed listening to the first hand experience personalised tour conducted for me. I was so thankful for the tour (which I had not asked for) that was given to me... in fact the museum was opened just for my visit. I felt so thankful for the chance to visit. I guessed they too were happy to have someone dropping by their village.

Was very thankful for the time spent here with these folks but as the day goes by, we have to make our way back to town. We do nkt want to be caught in the darkness within these remote areas once the night comes. Bade farewell and thanks to everyone and rode off back tracking to the rural roads and then finally to the main road linking to Betong town. All the way in and out there were no other vehicles so I can just imagine that if something were to happen, no one would ever know that I was here (praying hard for my safety throughout). It would be great if you could go with friends or at least leave word with the hotel of your intention to go to such places and what time to expect you back. In case of emergency there could be a search party who would be out there looking for you.

Betong Hokkien Association

Betong City Museum - closed for the day

Dropped by the Hokkien Association of Betong boasting a beautifully crafted building in Chinese architecture and then went to the Betong Museum hoping to be able to find out what artefact they have on show. However the museum was closed for the day. Therefore we went on to have an early dinner at the market. Portions were small but tasty so I had second and third helpings. After dinner, I went around the nearby market and checked out the shops carrying various kind of "almost genuine" products consisting of tshirts, handbags and such. Spent the remainder of the evening walking around the streets and buying street food to be brought back to the hotel for late dinner/supper. WIll be looking forward to tomorrow for a new set of historical places to visit.

Betong - A Historical Perspective

Good Friday Ride 2019

Day 2


There is much to do both in and around Betong, and it can easily be divided into out-of-town excursions and those which are either in and around the city centre or nearby. Depending on where one stays, the Betong Clock Tower is a great place to meet and start a half-day walking tour. The self-proclaimed world’s largest Post Box, conveniently located at the Clock Tower intersection, once was the social meeting place and had a radio with loudspeakers perched atop the box with a slot for mail below it. Not more than a couple of hundred metres up the road is the Betong Mongkollit Tunnel, Thailand’s first and longest tunnel when it was completed in 1999. Just above it is the Betong Museum, which offers a colourful history of the town and its importance to the region.

Betong Post Office

The Largest Mail Box in Thailand used to be located at the Bell Tower intersection of Betong. It was built in B.E. 2467 before World War II as the communication post for the townspeople, through the radio implanted on top of the box, and the mail slot below it. At present a new box had been built in a larger size (nine metres tall), and is located at the City Convention Hall (Sala Prachakhom). The new mail box attracts a large number of tourists who come to take the photograph.

This unusual attraction was built in 1924, pre-dating World War II, as a communications center for locals. It once had a radio with loudspeakers perched atop the box with a slot for mail below it, and was located at the Clock Tower intersection of Betong town, where it broadcast news to the residents. Presently, a new box nine meters tall has been built to replace it, and is now located at the community hall, named Sala Pra Chakhom, on Sukkhayang Road. It attracts many visitors each year.

Tae Lor Su - The Lost World

Located between the fire department Ayer Weng Subdistrict Administrative Organization and the Headman's Office, lies a wooden suspension bridge. It was built across the Pattani River, with a width of 1.8 meters and a length of more than 100 meters. The bridge is made of solid wood with slings attached to it. It can bear the weight of pedestrians and motorcycles crossing it.

This village is said to link the mainstream villages to the lost world of Tae Lor Su. This is also the southern ridges of the Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary.

Taepusu Bridge is not only used to travel between villagers on both sides of the river. but also as a symbol of love and unity of people in the 32 km community as well. In the past, villagers on the other side of the Pattani River had difficulty traveling. which in that era must use bamboo rafts to cross - back and forth It is difficult to move agricultural products or sick people. Accidents occur often. and cause children to die every year The former kamnan at that time saw such hardships. Therefore, they helped to mobilize power and contributions from the villagers together with the government. Work together to build the construction until it is finally successful. And it was named “ Tae Pu Su Bridge ” after the pioneer itself.

Tourists of all directions flock to see the sea of ​​mist, Ayer Weng, Betong District, Yala Province during the long weekend. Not disappointed to see the fog after the rain. It is as dense and beautiful as anywhere else in Thailand. At the viewpoint of the sea of ​​mist Ayer Weng, Betong District, Yala Province, in the morning in Betong District It began to have a cold wind. After the rain in the evening, the sea of ​​mist is formed, dense, beautiful and long lasting every day during the long holidays. Making tourists traveling from all directions not disappointed.

The sea of ​​mist at Betong District As beautiful as anywhere in Thailand while entrepreneurs and villagers bring their tents to accommodate the tourists who have booked up for the long weekend. There are chalet now available in the area for tourist to spend the night and catch the early morning mist over sunrise. Latest news is that they have built a glass skywalk along the ridges and the area are more developed.

For our trip this time, we did not catch the sea of mist (refer to our other blog post on Betong for the sea of mist) as we had been here for many times even before this place became a tourist spot. now that it is touristy it has lost its charm of having to hike to catch a glimpse of the sea of mist

Sea of Mist Aiyerweng, Betong

Tourists who go up to see the sea mist are not disappointed. There is a dense sea of ​​mist that creates a very impressive impression on tourists. Visitors to the Skywalk flock to take pictures on the Skywalk, the sea of ​​mist, Ayer Weng. And the highlight is the corridor that extends from the base, totaling 63 meters, at the end of which is a clear glass-floor viewing balcony that can see through the floor below. Which creates a charming color And excitement for tourists As well as several check-in points that community leaders and villagers have jointly created to provide tourists with a variety of photographic spots. With the sea of ​​mist, mountains and the Pattani River as a different backdrop

A quick stop by the weekend market before proceeding to our next stop. It is on occasions like this that you get to mix around with the locals as they carry on with their daily lives. The weekend market was lined along the main streets heading to a small village outskirt of Betongf. It was full of local people buying produce as well as foodstuff.

Next stop we headed on to the Piyamit Tunnel, a former communist garrison in the hills of Betong. Below a lush forest in Yala's Betong district is a tunnel system built by Malay communists in 1976. Today, it's the crown jewel of tourism in the province. The Piyamit Tunnels were used to hide from airstrikes and store supplies for members of the now-defunct Communist Party of Malaya. It was dug into a hill by 40-50 people, who spent only three months completing the task.

The tunnel network stretches about one kilometre, and could accommodate 200 insurgents. The system, at present, has six entrances, reduced from nine in the past. Inside the tunnels are rooms for radio communications, work stations, storage and sleeping quarters. The tunnels are covered by trees above ground, which made it hard for government-troops to locate, especially from the air.

The tourist attraction is open every day from 8am to 4.30pm to visitors who usually spend about two hours within the complex. The tunnel is fully lit and the cool air inside makes exploration comfortable. The route leading to the main entrance is lined with various kinds of plants and visitors can also enjoy a mountain stream there. One area outside the tunnels, formerly used as a training ground for the insurgents, has now been turned into an exhibition centre where information about what life was like in the tunnel is available. The tunnels attract about 200,000 visitors every year, which helps generate an annual income of around 14 million baht for the locals. About 90% of the visitors are foreign tourists, mostly from Malaysia and Singapore

From there as the late afternoon beckons, we make our way back to town to continue chilling in the slow pace town centre. It is good to note that the route down from Hala Bala / Aiyerweng is a curvy road - mini Mae Hong Son (named after the famous 1864 curves in Mae Hong Son province). Once you hit town you will pass by a military checkpoint that inspect vehicle that comes into the Betong City, a much needed and welcomed security procedure as the area is noted for insurgencies and the many vehicle bombing tat took place around the region.

Back in the city of Betong

Took the time to visit the other side of the city, more to the places where the locals live. Dropped by the shop Route 410 Betong to check out the merchandise (did not buy any though) and say hello to the owner. From there we went on to have early dinner, this time western melted cheeseburgers at the nearby shop.

Betong - A Historical Perspective

Good Friday Ride 2019

Day 3

Betong - Singapore

680 km

Day 3, we are heading home today (Sunday). Work starts tomorrow and we hope to be home before dark so that I have some time to spend with my family as well as get some rest before work starts on Monday. Departed Betong early morning after breakfast ar around 10am. It will be about a 6 hour journey down the North South Highway of Malaysia so I hope to be ablew to enter Singapore by 6 pm.

A76 Pitstop Lenggong

Along the way up, we passed by this rest stop but it was too early in the morning that it was closed. So now on the way back we dropped by to pay a visit to a long time friend of mine, the owner of Route A76 Lenggong. Those taking a rest here, do try out their deer meat that is on the menu.

From there, we just made one stop in Ulu Bernam to pump petrol and then rode back straight =to Singapore.

Home Sweet Home

Arrived in Singapore by 6pm clocking in about 1700 km in distance over the past 3 days traveling on the Ducati Multistrada Enduro.

Enjoyed reading our journal....?

Catch it all ON VIDEOS !!

Enjoyed reading our journal....?

Catch it all ON VIDEOS !!

Betong - A historical View (Part 1)

Catch it all on Video

Betong - A historical View (Part 2)

Catch it all on Video

Catch Us on Our Next Adventure!!!