Published: July 1st 2010May 14th 2010
Sorry there has been a bit of a gap between the last blog and this one…we have been too busy lying and basking on a paradise tropical beach and booking flights to our next paradise tropical beach - jealous?
Anyhoo, instead of getting up at the crack of dawn and getting a Rapid Penang bus to the bus station and then onto a big bus we decided getting up at the crack of dawn and being picked up from our guesthouse with a smaller minibus was the better option for the (supposed) 4 hours journey to the Cameron Highlands.
Of course our 7:30am pick-up was late and we were the last ones on the bus…we swear with this minibus journey we really had to bite our tongues with our fellow travellers. They were so damn rude! First of all none of them would move and made Donna climb over them to get to one free seat right at the back of the minibus and when she said hello as she got in the minibus not one of them replied and looked at her like she was something on the bottom of their shoe. Neil got the dubious honour of
sitting next to the driver so he could witness first-hand the dodgy driving…he just loves the front seat of minibuses in Asia! So off we went on the way to Cameron Highlands only to stop just after we had crossed the massive bridge to the mainland for a ‘breakfast stop’. Honestly, couldn’t the driver have just got up a bit earlier to have his breakfast?! During the unnecessary breakfast stop, Donna had decided to turn the air con up a little in the van and actually point it up at the back of the van so everyone (not just the ones in the front row) could have the benefit of air con, especially as the window next to her was just a piece of clear plastic and not glass. As soon as our not-so-friendly fellow travellers got into the van, they turned the air con down and pointed it straight down at them…drawing comments about their rudeness from the other couple who were sat at the back with Donna.
Two more stops and 5 and a half hours later (yes it would have been 4 hours if the driver hadn’t stopped so much!) we finally arrived into the Cameron
Highlands to torrential rain! The minibus dropped us at Father’s Guesthouse where we had booked into the historical World War II Nissen huts. They were very basic with shared bathrooms but at RM30 (£6.25) a night they were a bargain and a nice bit of history. We were glad of the blankets provided though as it was FREEZING…well not really, but you know how we are with temperatures below 30 degrees (we accept any comments of us being softies!!), it didn’t stop us having ice lollies though and we even found a cool tangy lime flavour Solero ice lolly…yummy!
We headed down into the town to check out what was there and get some food - the town of Tanah Rata is a strange one. There are fir trees rather than palm trees, a Starbucks and lots of good value restaurants. Not surprisingly we went for the Indian option for lunch - Neil’s portion of chicken tikka naan set was huge and Donna’s meal (we can’t remember what it was called now, was some sort of savoury Indian pancake, similar to a dosa but not a dosa!) was too big for her to finish. We had hot drinks each
to try and get some warmth into us and didn’t really succeed! Brilliant value for food, so we were chuffed and knew we wouldn’t go hungry. That evening we tried a different Indian restaurant and Neil opted for a dish which must have had a whole chicken on the plate…of course he felt obliged to eat the whole lot and felt a little sick from overfilling his belly!
Another early morning for us the next day and the rain had stopped, it was also warm enough (only just!) to just wear a t-shirt. We had a fabulous brekkie of beans on toast - we love our beans on toast where we can get them - and started out on a tour of tea factories, plantations, strawberry farms and mossy forests. We opted for a tour for this and we were really happy we did as we learnt a lot that we wouldn’t have if we had gone it alone. We visited the Boh tea plantation - cue lots of Bo! Selecta impressions from the two of us (the Brits will know what we are on about here) with the Germans we were on the trip with looking at us
puzzled when we were giggling away to ourselves. So, the Boh tea company is owned by a Scottish family (called Russell) and is the biggest tea company in Malaysia; we learnt loads about tea growing, where different teas come from and the difference in taste and watched the tea pickers do their work hauling the huge bags of tea up the slopes. We were always under the impression that tea in Malaysia was originally brought there from India, but it wasn’t. The first tea plant came from China via Myanmar and the Russell family just shipped in the tea pickers from India and Sri Lanka; most of the tea picking now is done by Nepalese workers.
We then went to a big tower look out…it didn’t really look out onto much but it was fun climbing to the top and we then headed for the mossy forest part of the trip. This part of the tour was great, we were the only ones there. A mossy forest is basically a forest which rests on compacted moss and these are quite rare because they only occur at certain altitudes with certain climatic conditions. We clambered through the forest with our
guide telling us different plants - lots of medicinal ones and Bob the guide made us eat raw cinnamon from the tree (probably not such a good idea in hindsight!). We got dripped on a lot, got very muddy and Donna hoped that it was too cold for any nasty creepy crawlies to drop on her head.
Next stop was the tea factory, it was only a small factory but this one combined with Boh’s other factories it produces 5.5 million cups of tea a day! The smell of the tea was incredible and made us wish we had scratch and sniff photos on the blog…the noise was loud too with all the machines mashing and grinding. The tea museum lead down to the tea shop and what a rip off that place was - Father’s Guesthouse sold tea for RM1 for a big mug, this tea shop sold it for RM5 for a small cup. Don’t they realise that more people will buy from them if they are a reasonable price…don’t even get us started on the price of the cakes and scones! One bonus was the tea shop had a great view of some of the plantations
so we took advantage of the view and took lots of pictures.
Sweet talking our guide to squeeze in an extra stop to a strawberry farm as we were determined to have some strawberries. Strawberries are not easy to get hold of in Asia and they are expensive when you can find them. It was only in the last 5 years or so that strawberries were started to grow in the Cameron Highlands and the Malays co-opted the help of the clever Dutch to help them start their farms. In contrast to the UK all the strawberries here are grown in hydroponics bays in coconut shells wrapped in plastic instead of just in the ground. These strawberries were great and we had a treat of a strawberry milkshake to share between the two of us. Our final stop was at a fruit and veg shop where we loaded up on the sweetest cherry tomatoes and home-made strawberry ice lollies…mmm, our mouths are watering just thinking about it. We stocked up here as there were no fruit and veg shops in the whole of Tanah Rata…strange seeing as we were in the fruit and veg capital of Malaysia.
Donna at the cafe viewpoint
little did we know that the tea plantation employed overgrown Umpa Lumpa's to pick the tea!
the time we got back to Tanah Rata it was too late for any lunch, it was almost tea time so we did a very British thing and opted for an afternoon tea instead. We chose the T Café as we noticed on the menu it did apple pie and scones; it was a little expensive for the cups of tea but the apple pie Neil had with ice cream was really good and Donna’s scone (even though it was served with whipped cream?!) was good but not as good as her Nan’s scones - Vera’s scones are now officially the best in the world!
Our last night was spent having another Indian meal (Neil chose a little more wisely this time and didn’t get the large portion!), ice lollies and then back to the guesthouse for cups of tea and Cadbury’s chocolate - we needed it to keep warm! The only disadvantage to the Nissen huts was the outside bathrooms which made it very cold to shower, then there was only one hot shower between about 30 rooms…not too good on that respect and we had to shower during the afternoon otherwise there was no way we would
get into the hot shower!
As an aside we should say sorry now that there are a lot of pictures on this blog...it was just so photogenic, we couldn't resist but unfortunately, after our days of happily taking photos we realised the camera was set on too high an exposure, so we have tried to correct them as best we can!
The next day we were up early again having our beans on toast brekkie before our bus ride to Kuala Lumpur…we will just warn anyone planning this journey, it’s the worst journey we have been on for ages. Not because of the bus, the bus was great and brand new but because the roads going down to the capital were very windy with lots of switchbacks and stopping and starting. Vomit-fest on the bus…apart from us who were doing lots of heavy-going-into-labour-type breathing and pressing on the pressure points on our wrists (it works!) to stop ourselves being sick. Neil NEVER gets travel sick but on this journey he did!
We had a great few days in KL, eating lots of good food, shopping for clothes and Cadbury’s chocolate and all too soon our time in
Malaysia was over…the Cadbury’s chocolate is now well and truly gone, maybe someone will be kind enough to e-mail us some?
There are more photos below