Previously: Part 6
We were stopped. Yes, we were. “ที่พวกคุณมาจากไหน คุณกำลังมุ่งหน้าไปที่ไหน?”, the army guy talked to us in Thai. “Sorry, we don’t understand Thai”, my dad answered politely. The army guy smiled. More like blushed actually. Maybe he was so eager to show his power when suddenly he realized, we are not locals. He called his friend. “Oh, where are you from?”, asked his friend. “Malaysia”, my dad answered. “Passport?”. We were so nervous, we gave the whole bunch of passports to the officer. He checked the passport then he let us passed through. The local young Muslim men in the pick up truck were still there being interrogated by the army as we drove through.
Kami ditahan. Betul, kami kena tahan. “ที่พวกคุณมาจากไหน คุณกำลังมุ่งหน้าไปที่ไหน?”, abang askar tu cakap. Adoi, manalah kami faham bahasa Thailand. “Sorry, we don’t understand Thai”, bapak aku menunjukkan kebolehan dia berbahasa Inggeris dengan baik. Senyum terus abang askar tu. Macam tersipu malu. Haha. Mungkin tadi teruja dapat tahan kami, sekali tengok kami bukan orang tempatan, siap boleh speaking lagi, terkesima lah dia kot. Haha. Terus panggil kawan dia. “Oh, where are you from?”, kawan dia tanya. “Malaysia”, bapak aku jawab. “Passport?”. Kami pun bagilah segenggam passport yang memang dijaga oleh aku sepanjang road trip ni. Dia periksa passport tu, lepas tu benarkan kami jalan. Yang mamat-mamat berjubah tu masih kena tahan lagi masa kami jalan, berlalu tinggalkan diorang.
As we proceeded to drive, we realized that we actually gave 9 passports when there were 10 of us in the MPV. The other passport was kept in the glove box that none of us realized it was there. Gladly, the army officer did not realize that. Which also meant, he did not inspect us properly. Pheww~!
Elok je lepas dah lepas sekatan jalan tu, kami perasan, kami bagi 9 passport je sebenarnya sedangkan kami ada 10 orang. Cari punya cari, jumpa satu lagi passport dalam dashboard. Nasib baik abang askar tu tak perasan. Nampak sangat dia tak periksa betul-betul. Pheww~!
We drove along the long and winding road until we reached the border arch saying “Welcome To Betong”. Finally, after several hours of driving, we reached the Betong town. As the skies turned darker, we drove around town, looking for hotel. As it was Chinese New Year holiday, most of the hotels were fully occupied. Leaving us with no option, we went to this one hotel where several rooms were still available. We booked 3 standard rooms for a night with the rate of THB 900/RM 90 per night. We were also given one card where the receptionist stamped 3 boxes with the last box written “Free Night”. Wow, they have a loyalty card? Why?
Kami jalan disepanjang jalan yang penuh bengkang bengkok tu. Lalu lah sikit-sikit lagi sekatan jalan. Lepas lebih kurang 30 sekatan jalan sepanjang perjalanan, akhirnya sampailah kami ke pintu gerbang “Welcome To Betong”. Akhirnya! Langit pun makin gelap, kami pun terus tercari-cari hotel untuk tidur malam ni. Sebab cuti raya Cina, hotel banyak yang penuh. Dah tak ada pilihan, kami pun pergi ke satu hotel ni. Kami bayar untuk 3 bilik standard untuk satu malam. Kadar dia THB 900/RM 90 semalam. Receptionist bagi kami satu kad lepas tu dia cop 3 kotak untuk 3 bilik kami. Kotak terakhir ada tulis “Free Night”. Wow, loyalty card? Kenapa?
It was not long for us to realize why the hotel gave us the card. As we went to the lift heading for our rooms, we saw several Malaysians [we knew and were very sure they are] with towels, some of them drunk, walking along the corridor. And after putting our bags, I checked out the TV. Suddenly, my mum came running towards our room and warned us “Don’t turn to channel *****!”. But it was too late, I already checked that channel and it was shocking. It was an adult channel! “Oh my, what kind of hotel is this?”, I asked my self.
Elok je lepas naik lif nak ke bilik, persoalan kami terjawab. Ada ramai lelaki Malaysia pakai tuala je, ada yang mabuk-mabuk, dok jalan dekat koridor. Lepas tu, elok je lepas letak beg, aku bukak lah TV nak tengok saluran apa yang ada. Tiba-tiba, dengar mak aku lari ke bilik aku. “Jangan bukak saluran ****!” mak aku cakap. Maaf mak, tapi dah terlambat. Aku dah tekan-tekan dulu butang TV tu dan channel yang mak aku tak bagi bukak tu, channel blue! Adoyai, hotel apakah iniiii??
We were not too comfortable in the hotel, so after cleaning up and performing our prayers, we went out for dinner. Along the way, I managed to see several landmarks of the town. The world’s largest mail box, the Betong clock tower and a lot of birds. Yes, birds. We were told that the birds originated from Siberia and because of winter, every year during winter time, they will migrated to Betong before going back to where they came from. Well, that is something cool, they are real travellers.
Kami tak selesa sangat kat dalam hotel ni. Rasa cepat-cepat nak keluar. Dah mandi, solat semua, kami terus keluar untuk makan malam. Sepanjang jalan tu, nampaklah tarikan-tarikan pekan Betong ni. Peti surat terbsar kat dunia, menara jam Betong, dan burung. Banyak sangat burung. Kami diberitahu burung-burung ni asal dari Siberia. Sebab musim dingin, diorang pindah ke Betong. Lepas musim dingin dah habis, diorang balik ke sana semula. Itu baru real traveller. Hehehe.
Halal food is definitely not a problem in Betong. A lot of eateries managed by local Muslims are available. Due to the increase visits from Malaysians, most of the locals managing the halal eateries can speak Malay, although writing in the language is something that they can improve.
Makanan halal bukan masalah besar kat Betong. Banyak kedai makan halal. Siap pekerja dia boleh cakap Melayu lagi. Cakap jelah, bab menulis tu, boleh diperbaiki lagi.
After dinner, we proceeded to walk across the town centre until we found the Mongkollit Tunnel. It is a tunnel connecting the town centre to the southern part of the town. The tunnel was closed to traffic but pedestrians were allowed to walk inside. At the end of the tunnel, there were a very big night market with a concert by the local performers. Army trucks were also in abundance, to ensure that nothing would happened, I guess. The atmosphere was nice. To visit a local night market and watching local acts performed, it was something to be remembered.
Lepas makan, kami jalan-jalan sekitar pekan sampai jumpa terowong Mongkollit. Terowong ni menyambungkan bahagian pekan dengan bahagian selatan daerah ni. Kereta, motorsikal tak boleh masuk dalam terowong tapi jalan kaki boleh. Kami jalan (pendek je terowong ni) sampailah di hujung terowong, ada pasar malam siap konsert lagi. Konsert penyanyi tempatan. Trak askar pun banyak jugak. Mungkin nak elak sebarang masalah tak diingini. Tapi, bestlah, sebab tak banyak pelancong sangat. Hehe.
Soon, as it was near midnight, we headed back to the hotel, resting for the final night before we leave Thailand’s soil the next day.
Dah lepak-lepak, sebab dah lewat malam, kami semua balik ke hotel untuk berehat, malam terakhir kami di bumi Thailand, sebelum berangkat pulang esok.
To be continued – Part 8