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Published: July 25th 2011
N.B. Sadly we’ve lost most of the pictures we had taken in the Highlands. They were rather good if we do say so ourselves. Hopefully we’ll be able to recover them from our hard drive later. In the meantime, please enjoy those that we were able to save...
I can believe that upon arriving in the Cameron Highlands for the first time many people would experience the typical “we’re not in Kansas anymore Toto” feeling of surprise that comes with being geographically in the middle of mainland Malaysia, in a region whose name is depictive of Scottish hillsides and is in appearance reminiscent of Switzerland with regard to the Chalet style buildings. Furthermore, the Highlands are in no way lacking colonial charm, not surprising as they reached popularity many years ago with British expatriates escaping the heat and humidity experienced elsewhere in the country during the summer months.
Chris and I chose to visit the Cameron Highlands, staying four nights at the comfortable “Twin Pines Lodge” in Tanah Rata, for the tea plantations, strawberry and various other farms in the area (the Highlands seems to be currently advertising themselves as “the salad bowl of Asia”) and also for the
Boy in a window
He lived on the BOH Tea Estate
jungle trekking. With each item on our agenda, we were more than satisfied!
Approaching the Highlands we drove through hills evocative of goose pimples on skin- this might seem a trivial observation but I have only ever seen hills like them in Asia, never in Europe; they seem to grow out of the ground abruptly and in dense patches but are never very high... Anyway, we enjoyed the opportunity to look out over uninterrupted views of such gorgeous, green jungle but the evidence of flash farming and sometimes large-scale deforestation scarring the vista didn’t go unnoticed.
Once we had tided ourselves up we went out in search of food and found a cluster of around six or so street-vendor-come-restaurant type establishments serving both Chinese and Indian fare. We were herded into “Kumar’s Restoran” by a friendly waiter and never looked back, eating there daily, working through the menu and making the acquaintance of the lovely men who worked there (in addition to receiving free food as a reward for our loyalty). Next we sniffed out some tour providers, each of who were and most likely still are presenting themselves as tourist information offices. We weren’t keen on joining
a party of many to see six thousand places in half an hour (as a rough estimation), least of all the native village of Orang Asli, where we would be afforded twenty whole minutes (whole minutes for crying out loud!) to “get to know” the local people.
So instead we bought a map. In fact we bought two maps as Chris is becoming quite particular about the overall quality of the maps he carries on his person these days, and we planned our jungle trek for the following day. The hike started by passing Robinson Falls, then we diverted onto a slightly longer trail which took around 4 hours in total (for reference I think it was trail 9a which was pleasant and not too demanding, thus meeting the needs of those of us whose bodies just cannot be trusted). Having watched the movie “Stand By Me” more times than is strictly necessary, I spent the majority of my attention on “Leech Patrol” for which my attire became suitably haphazard (what an awful shame that we lost those photos!). Luckily we came across no creature more sinister than the mosquitoes (for which I am also a bona fide patroller,
by the way, and here’s a tip for you- Lavender Oil) and the hike received rave reviews from all who attended... namely Chris and myself.
The trail brought us out onto the winding main road about 9km out of town. Our plan was to follow the road which would bring us to the Cameron Valley Tea Bharat Estate, which we did after first happening upon a bee farm on the way. After a while we were sweating more than you would imagine possible and the walk to the tea estate became less of a pleasure and more of a chore. Having seen numerous trucks pass by I thought I would try my luck and stick out my thumb- beginners luck! The first truck to pass was delighted to pick us up and we got the best seats in the house from the back of their truck looking down into the valley below us. Now feeling like Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise we spent the duration of our stay hitching our way around the highlands, which proved to be a much more reliable mode of transport than the buses which just turn up unexpectedly if at all, and safer than
Not one of our photos - taken from www.vacationinmalaysia.com
the cabs whose drivers were sickeningly reckless. What’s more, people seemed genuinely happy to be helping us on our way.
Whilst at the tea estate we sat in the shade, with our shoes off, by a waterfall for quite a while. Beside the resonance of the water we could hear little else and were content to have found a peaceful spot in beautiful surroundings, away from most people (which is sometimes our favourite place to be). As unexciting as it may give the impression of being, and justly so as it was in fact in no way exciting, it stands as one of my most happily remembered hours spent travelling thus far. Before catching a lift for the remainder of the way back to town we stopped at the cafe for tea and I was welcomed with open arms to the world of ice tea (on this occasion with mint leaves with pleasing results)!
The following day we visited the famous “BOH” Tea Estate which is startling in its vastness and provides attractive scenery from the balcony of the cafe where we shared a slice of tasty strawberry cake and some more tea; this time Chris opted for
the classic black tea with milk and I tried black tea infused with mandarin. We walked around the estate for some time and watched the workers collecting tea leaves using mostly traditional methods as in most places the geography of the land dictates it so. Even though it could have only been early afternoon we were already thinking about our bellies and what we would eat for dinner that evening. The consumption of food and drink was an ever present theme during our time in the Highlands (and in fact for the duration of our stay in Malaysia); a local man told us that the further north you go in Malaysia, the better the food, and we’d have to agree with him (but perhaps first we’d like to travel Malaysia over again, for research purposes, of course).
Once again, we were very sad to leave...
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