Cameron Highlands #2: Flowers, Farms and Forests

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January 16th 2017
Published: April 24th 2017
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I had a booked a full day's tours so that I could see and do as much as possible in my full day in the Highlands. We left around 9 am, in a battered old jeep. There was me, the guide and a Korean family. We drove for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. It was a beautiful sunny day with clear blue skies. I was content watching the scenery pass by from the window. We turned off the main road and headed along a dirt path, it was quite muddy, but our jeep made it up and we didn't get stuck. We were off on our hike through the jungle to see the Rafflesia. We headed along the path for a while, before taking a turn (that I would have never spotted) down to a small river, we crossed the river and climbed the bank. We continued through the jungle. Some parts were shaded by the trees which was nice, but we were exposed to the sun in other parts. There was another tour group of about 3 or 4 people, but they took a different path at one point. We also came across a couple, who were on their way back. The hike was good, not too strenuous. I was enjoying being in the outdoors, even if the sweat was pouring off me. This area wasn't free from human intervention and there were a lot of pipes that were taking the water from the river/stream nearby to the homes and farmland. Some of the pipes had burst, which was a total waste of water, but made for a refreshing hit taking the edge off the heat.

We had a couple of rests on tour way to see the Rafflesia. One of them was a lovely spot by the water, where we chilled for a bit. I think we hiked for maybe an hour and a half to two hours to reach the Rafflesia flowers, which were hidden deep in the jungle. I wonder how people came across them. The locals must have an excellent sense of direction to know where they are. I would end up lost and dead, if I was let loose in the jungle. Rafflesia are these giant red spotty flowers, photos do a better job of describing them than my pathetic description. They are only found in the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, and were discovered in the 18th century. It is actually a parasitic flowering plant and is also known as a corpse flower due to the foul The foul smell it emits. There were two flowers in bloom at the spot we were at. They looked gorgeous and kind of alien-like, like they didn't really fit in with their surroundings. The dad of the family offered to take my picture with one of the flowers, I declined. After hiking through the jungle, I was hot and sweaty, the picture would have been awful. Also, you have to be careful not to touch them as this kills them and they only have a short life span of about a week. We saw a couple of dead ones and some buds of ones that were due to bloom soon.

For the hike back down, my guide told me that I should go with the local Orang Asli man, as I was a bit quicker than the others in my group. I felt sorry for the Korean guy, he apologised to me about how slow his sons were. Having lived in Korea and knowing that most older people in Korea are hiking machines, he was obviously embarrassed by his lethargic teens. I told him it was okay. I, for one, know how lazy and uncooperative Korean middle schoolers can be, having taught them for many years. Anyway, it was cool to go with the other guy, he spoke a bit of English and we chatted a little. He also showed me some pictures on his phone of other people he has guided in the area. He was quick and I lost him a couple of times, but when he saw I was missing he stopped and waited for me. While I don't think I could live some where so remote, it must be cool to know the jungle like the back of your hand and not be reliant on others to show you the way. Something I found interesting was that him and the guide constantly smoked when walking through the jungle. Also I rarely saw the Orang Asli gentleman bring the cigarette to his lips. I wondered if they were just using them as a way to keep the insects and other critters at bay.

Back at the start, we got in the jeep along with our 'new' guide and drove back down the hill. We stopped at Kampung Jedip, which is the village that the local guy lived it. We had a look around it. The government have built the families there new houses in the past couple of years, so people live in small concrete(?) homes, as opposed to the traditional thatched ones. We also got to have a go of one of their traditional hunting blow guns. That was fun, I was crap at it, but some of the others managed to hit the target. I don't think the indigenous people hunt like that any more though.

The others were only on a half day tour, so we headed back into town to drop them off. Since it was pointless for me to go back into town, the guide dropped me off at a swanky new looking mall, Cameron Square. My first port of call was the convenience store that I could see. A big bottle of water was just what I needed after the sweaty hike through the jungle. There were a few restaurants in the mall, some didn't look too appealing, but an Indian place looked good. I am continuing my quest of eating Indian food everyday in Malaysia. I got a huge plate of rice and covered it with meat, veggies, egg, and bread. There was even too much food for me and I left quite a bit of the rice. It all tasted yummy. The young lads working at the restaurant were really nice, very friendly, trying to guess where I was from. According to them I look Polish.

My guide was waiting for me when I headed back outside and off we drove to the tea plantation. I was wondering if it would be weird just me and the guide, I'm not really one for private tours, but it was fine. He told me lots of stuff, that was really interesting, but didn't talk too much. The drive up to the tea plantation was along some very steep and windy roads. The views were utterly gorgeous, all the rolling hills covered with tea plants. It definitely put Boseong (the tea fields I had visited in Korea) to shame. This place was huge! I think the guide said that tea was imported and that it wasn't an indigenous plant. He also told me about how his grandparents came over from India to work in the tea fields, and that now cheaper labourers are employed. I think he said most now come from Bangladesh. He also explained the picking and harvesting process. He dropped me and one point and I had a bit of a walk along the road taking in the views and also taking a million photos as I walked to where he was parked. Since it was a Monday, the plantation was closed, so I couldn't visit further inside of it.

We drove up the mountain, past more tea fields and the workers' accommodation. I really would have liked to have had a loser look at their housing. It would be interesting to get a fist hand account of their lives. We drove for about 20-30 minutes up steep, windy paths until we reached the top of Mount Brinchang, which is the tallest peak in the Cameron Highlands. It stands 2,032 metres high. It was quite foggy and cool when we got to the top. There was a weather station at the top, but it was out of bounds, also one of the trails that headed to/from there was roped off as the rainy weather had made it too dangerous for people to trek. There was also an old creaky looking observation tower, I really wanted to climb it, but it was roped off as it wasn't very safe. I also tried to take in the view but it was very cloudy and I couldn't see much. My guide told me that it is better to come in the morning if you want a good view.

From the peak, we drove back down a little, before stopping at the Mossy Forest. It was pretty foggy and I loved how mystical it made the road look. I enjoyed my walk through the Mossy Forest. I would have liked a longer walk as it wasn't very long, but it was still fun. The path was up and down and a bit twisty. The trees looked so cool, covered in all the moss. I felt like I was in Hobbiton. There were some beautiful flowers around here, too. They looked very unusual, I hadn't seen anything like them before. The Mossy Forest covers the two neighbouring states of Pahang and Perak. Tanah Rata, where I am staying is in Pahang and the village we had visited earlier and the Rafflesia flowers are in Perak. We stopped once more on the drive back down. There is another gorgeous view over the tea fields, so I got some more pictures of that. Our last stop of the day was the Strawberry Farm. It was pretty meh to be honest. I had a quick look at some of the strawberries growing in the greenhouse and bought some strawberry hot chocolate in the gift shop. Then we drove back to Tanah Rata. I think the tour was meant to finish around 5 pm, but because there was only me for the afternoon section, it went a lot quicker and I was back home by four. That meant chill out time reading and drinking local tea in the hostel.

That evening, I headed out with one of the girls from the hostel for some dinner. We found a nice looking restaurant on the main street and went in there. I had Sweet and Sour Chicken, something I love, but haven't found since living in China. Is it a Western Chinese dish? After dinner, we headed back to the hostel and chilled, chatting to some of the other people, who were staying there. An interesting point on budgeting came up, everyone said that they spend more than people suggested that you need to spend to get by, do people deliberately make SE Asia sound cheaper than it actually is, or live like paupers and not see or do anything?

Additional photos below
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Kampung JedipKampung Jedip
Kampung Jedip

Orang Asli Village

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