The furthermost point from Bangkok, Betong is often referred to as the 'town in the mist' as evidenced by the mist that tends to bathe Betong in the early morning, in Malay, Betong means 'bamboo' of which today, there is almost none as the town is largely a concrete egg-carton style place.
Set around 140 km from Yala, in a hilly district that borders with Malaysia, Betong is not a 'hill station' by any standard, though the nights here are cooler than elsewhere in the south. Almost completely surrounded by rubber plantations, Betong is a good place to see all the rubber being collected and trucked away.
Rubber and mist aside, Betong is famous for three other slightly more unusual reasons; firstly for its Siberian swallows (its easier for them to get here than you as they don't have to worry about the hairpin turns), hundreds of thousands of which migrate here every year to perch on the city's rooftops and weigh down the electricity cables.
Secondly, Betong has the world's largest postbox. It seems unlikely that Betong's postmen could ever get that busy, but built in 1924 this British style red pillar post box stands towards the northern end of town. The postbox is a functioning one so you can post your swallow shit covered postcards here for added prestige.
Lastly, Betong is home to the Piyamit Tunnels -- tunnels excavated by Malay communists in 1976 to avoid bombardment. The network of tunnels stretches for over a kilometre and is in a lush jungle setting. While not a scratch on the Cu Chi and Vinh Moc tunnels in Vietnam, these are nevertheless still well worth visiting.
The town itself is compact and bustling and an interesting place to explore with plenty of friendly locals around. Due to the proximity to Malaysia, Betong has a very multicultural feel to it with the population mix being 50% Muslim, 40% Chinese and 10% Thai Buddhist.
By Stuart McDonald.