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Published: November 17th 2011
Bright and early, at 6am, our bus arrives to take us on the 4 hour journey to Cameron Highlands. We get on the minibus, very tired, and are pleasantly surprised to find out that we are the ONLY passengers on the bus for the entire ride! After Vietnam and Thailand, where they cram as many bodies on any moving vehicle as is humanly possible, this is a dream! We quickly separate, each taking a row of seats and dose off.
After a couple hours the road gets windy and we enter the mountainous area. Luckily the winding road wakes us up because this is some beautiful scenery here! Our driver, not wanting to wake us, waits until we are awake before stopping for a break. Here, we sample strawberry coffee, which is not bad, as we enjoy our coffee with him, he gives us lots of tips on the area. Our drive continues around tea plantations, produce farms and many different types of vegetation, all set in a mountain setting. I think I could live around mountains my whole life and still be amazed by their beauty every day!
Some time later, we arrive in Tanah Rata, the main
tourist hub for the Cameron Highlands. I think CH is only a term used by tourists, as we don't see or hear anyone else use this word the whole time we are there. Since we are the only passengers on the bus, our drivers takes us right to the hotel we want to stay at - Father's Guesthouse. Guide books tout this as the best value for money in the whole country. Unfortunately, since the publication of these guide books, the place has been renovated and so has the price of the rooms. It's way out of our range now so we end up at Kang's Traveler's Lodge where we pay 12RM for a bed in a 12bed dorm that is musty and stinky.
While waiting for the official check in time, we have breakfast and explore the two streets that make up Tanah Rata. It's such a small town with not much to it, but it drawn many tourists for the beauty that surrounds it in the mountains. Despite the relatively high tourist volume, finding a tourist info centre or a map of the area is surprisingly impossible! We end up buying a map after a few locals
tell us the tourist info centre has closed down!
We have chicken curry for lunch, then catch a bus to the Boh (Sungai Pala) Tea Plantation. The bus only takes us as far as the main road and then we walk 45 mins uphill to get to the actual tea plantation. The walk up winds through the tea fields and it;s quite picturesque. Due to poor timing, we arrive at the factory at 3:45 and production is shut down for the day. They still let us walk through the factory where we can smell the overwhelming aroma of green tea and see the drying leaves and the big machines they use to make their great tea.
We can't leave without sampling some of this tea, as it's the most famous tea in Malaysia. We taste a regular black tea and an afternoon blend, both which are tasty. The plantation has this amazing patio set up overlooking the fields and so we sip our tea and enjoy the view, watching the workers carefully pick the leaves from the field.
Back in Tanah Rata, we grab dinner and then treat ourselves to Starbucks (ya, this teeny tiny town has
a Starbucks, all thanks to the Western tourist) because it is dang cold in the mountains! Back at the hostel, we watch The Others, one of the funniest movies ever and then try to sleep in our stinky hostel room.
The next day we debated doing a guided trek because the area is known for having the world's largest flower, the Rafflesia. These flowers are tended to by local tribesmen so it's virtually impossible to find them on your own. Luckily we are there in flower season, but our hotel host informs us that the flower the tour is visiting that day has been in bloom for 7 days and they start to lose their colour after 5 days. It was so refreshing and surprising to see someone in the tourist industry that actually cared about more than just making money. She said we would likely be disappointed and that we should not bother with the tour.
Taking her advice, we took our map and headed out on our own trek. Like most maps in Asia, it was terribly wrong but thanks to a blog we had read the night before, we successfully (after being sure we were
going the wrong way) found Trail 10 (it's actually through someone's yard!). The trail goes through the jungle with some really unique plants and flowers, including the elusive pitcher plants, which are almost extinct there today. At the peak of the mountain we admire the views that stretch out forever, then we cross to the next peak, take a turn at the wrong fork and end up exiting the trail earlier than we had planned. Unfortunately, the wrong turn meant we missed walking through a tribal village, but we were too far away to go back by the time we realized.
We ask a passing car for directions and we walk for a while before we realize the directions were completely wrong! We end up having to walk over 5km back to Tanah Rata where we sit down for lunch, exhausted, and are luckily treated to one of the best meals in Malaysia - tandoori chicken cooked and seasoned to perfection in a clay oven.
Since we have skipped the Rafflesia flower tour, we decide to head to Kuala Lumpur a day early. After getting our ticket for the next day, we embark on another hike (Trail 9)
which takes us to Robinson Falls, a nice waterfall and then continue on for another hour on an easy trail. Again, we see some unique bugs and pretty plants and meet a couple of friends along the way! We go back to the tandoori chicken place for dinner but have different food this time, which is just as good!
Given the cold, cold nights, we stay in again and prepare to head to KL first thing in the morning! It was so refreshing to get out into nature and mountains again after the stuffiness and congestion of Bangkok. We felt refreshed after doing from trekking here and we were ready to take on the metropolis of Kuala Lumpur!
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