Betong is 1 of 3 model cities of Triangle of Security, Wealth, and Longevity emphasizing on sustainable development by using local identity and cultural diversity to develop new tourist attractions allowing tourists to enjoy with the sea of fog in the morning with 360 degree view that is considered as the only province with this kind of attraction in southern border provinces. In Muang District of Yala Province, tourists are able to soak in hot spring and swim among valleys while learning on the way of life of communities, ancient food of Hakka people in 100 year community of Thai-Chinese people. These are all in Betong, Yala Province, the southernmost province of Thailand that is considered as the model of tourism and sustainable self-sufficiency.
In 2000, the first group of Chinese people who traveled from Gaungdong, China to Malaysia by a ship before walking by feet or hiring carts to take them to Betong. They consisted of 10-20 members who were young people. At that time, the condition of such area was a thick forest that was full with various types of animal. Subsequently, many Chinese people immigrated and settled in this area increasingly because Thai government wanted manpower as the pioneers to adjust forests as developed areas therefore people could book their own lands based on their abilities to develop such lands. Within a short period of time, large forests among mountain range were transformed into local Para rubber farms and Betong City originated from Malay language referring to bamboo that has been occupied by local people up till now.
K.M. 4 Village, Betong District, Yala Province, is considered as the residential area of Thai-Hakka people that is called K.M. 4 Village because it is 4 kilometers away from Betong District. With plentiful condition, this area was preferred by Chinese people who immigrated from Malaysia to settle in Betong District around one hundred years ago. They started to do farming and gardening. When they learned that this area was pleasant for living and working, they persuaded their Hakka relatives, siblings, and friends to live together until Thai government allocated some lands to them for growing and cutting Para rubber. Currently, most of them are owners of Para rubber farms, businessmen, and fruit gardeners.
Hakka people in Betong District, Yala Province, are considered as ethnic group with outstanding uniqueness who could maintain their identity properly, for example, new generation still listen to or speak Hakka language and Chinese languages and they still give more emphasis on agriculture than business under the Confucius Principle as well as maintain their tradition, culture, belief, and religion, especially food with delicacy and identity. Although Hakka people in Betong District mix other cultures with their living, it can be considered as the model of Hakka culture in Thailand that hidden behind the mist waiting for everyone to taste and seek for its charisma in person. Hakka people have been reputed on their cooking skills for long period. At this place, you will experience with ancient black jelly or grass jelly cooking method that is the original recipe of Hakka people.
Another famous food of Hakka people is Hakka styled meatballs, especially Papaya Meatball, one of delicious dishes that you should not miss because it is rare to find in other areas outside Hakka community. Papaya Meatball is considered as an ancient dish that has been inherited from generation to generation. Hakka people shred papaya and mix with flour, dried squid, and crackling before forming a ball with moderate size then streaming on ancient pan and stove. For serving, it must be poured with Hakka dip sauce.
Besides culture on food and architecture, old houses are also outstanding things of this community. K.M. 4 Village or Hakka Village is the location of the firs house of Hakka community that is older than 150 years. It is one of architecture mutually renovated by local people as the museum and cultural attraction under sponsorship of Southern Border Provinces Administration Center (SBPAC) in order to be renovated as the tourist attraction in the form of the museum for learning Hakka Community. Consequently, the community will gain more income from tourism. Development of cultural tourist attraction from 100-year old community is the model of cooperation in developing cultural tourist attractions for generating income to local people leading them to have better living and sustainable peace.
In Betong District, there are several Chinese lineages, for example, Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien, and Teochew. The owner of this ancient house is the pioneer of K.M. 4 Village. He was a Hokka person the ancestor of Lu Family. According to the house’s history, the owner immigrated from China and established a business in Penang, Malaysia. Subsequently, he expanded his business to Betong and lived here. Therefore, Thai government allocated 20,000 rai of land to him for working and living. Consequently, Thai-Hokka people call this area as “Wan Yi Rai”. In such era, such area was a rainforest. The first Hokka people pioneered this area for gardening, growing vegetables and rice, and establishing a waterfront rice mill for milling of local people. The ancestor of this family constructed this house with the design from a Chinese letter pronounced as Gao referring to high. In 2020, their children held a house blessing ceremony that was considered as a good opportunity to renovate this house as new check-in point of TOP Tourism Village – Hakka Community-Based Tourism of Betong