Week 47 - Cameron Highlands & Pulau Penang

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September 11th 2011
Published: September 12th 2011
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Father's Lodge
Week 47 - Cameron Highlands

Our next destination was the picturesque Cameron Highlands; the alpine-scape of blue peaks, green humps and fuzzy tea plantations was a cool escape for us. The temperature rarely climbs above 21 degrees so it was a bit of a relief arriving after the smog of the city in K.L. Although the journey from the capital to the highlands was a queasy one as the bus had to meander up the steep and very windy roads which left Cerri and myself rather green; even though our faces matched the colour of our surroundings we were quite relieved to arrive at our next accommodation the Father’s Lodge and greeted with a hot and soothing cup of tea. Not long after settling in our new digs the rain began to fall so this was the perfect excuse to cuddle up on the couch in the lounge area with a hot cup of cha and a good book, followed by a movie and dinner.
The next morning we woke up feeling refreshed as it was the coolest night’s sleep we had had in a while, after a spot of breakfast and yes you’ve guessed it another cup of tea,

Cameron Highlands surroundings
we had a chat to the helpful receptionist, in which she explained that a famous thing to do was to go for a walk/hike along the many trails that were all around us in the surrounding hills and mountains. She then continued by telling us the story of the famous Jim Thompson; an American man that founded the Thai Silk industry and made many dollars in doing so. Back in 1967 on the 26th March whilst on holiday in the Cameron Highlands Jim decided to go on a pre-dinner walk, never to return or be seen again! The mystery still remains as to what happened to Jim, kidnapped, tiger attack, murdered, planned disappearance or suicide and after many many extensive searches no-one to this day knows what happened to Jim Thompson. And with this story still fresh in our minds . . . we decided to head into town and do a bit of exploring ourselves. We strolled around the Tanuh Rata town looking in a few shops and the quirky restaurants, just getting ourselves acquainted with our new and quiet surroundings. We decided to go on a walking trail to Robinson Falls, this led us slightly out of town

Tea time!
into the jungle. The falls themselves in our opinion were quite average but after all the travelling and visiting the many different countries which have had spectacular falls we’ve decided we’re waterfall snobs, so it takes a lot to impress us! After a quick picture we trekked back into town as the rain clouds were starting to arrive, we decided to stop for a little bite to eat and popped into a little cafe where they served traditional afternoon tea. As you can imagine Cerri was extremely excited and being from Devon I was also looking forward to a bit of a taste of home, the scones, cream, jam and tea arrived and we were very pleased and so were our stomachs. As we sat munching away we noticed that many of the buildings around us had a tudor look and feel about them which once again showed the British history that Malaysia has. Fed and watered we headed back to the Lodge to relax a bit before dinner, along the way Cerri noticed the local markets and wanted have a little nose around. One of the stalls was selling local food delicacies with pastries, fish and the dreaded smelly

The dreaded durians
durians; durians are a type of fruit and are very sought after by the locals the only and biggest downfall with them is that they are incredibly smelly! You can smell them a whole street away due to the fact that they smell like a rotting corpse but with a fruity twist, you have to smell it to believe it! After the stench we quickly moved onto the next stall which sold absolutely everything that you can imagine with a strawberry on it, you name it they had it either in a strawberry shape, strawberry colour or turned into a strawberry. The Cameron Highlands as well as being famous for its tea plantations and walking trails is also famous for its mass strawberry farm productions. After our little walk back up the hill to the lodge we made a new friend in the garden and then grabbed another cuppa and chilled in our room, a couple of movies later it was time for dinner. We headed back down into town as earlier in the day we had spotted an impressive looking Indian Restaurant. A couple of beers later our dinner was served up on a huge traditional banana leaf each

Workers hard at it
and we tucked into the yummiest tandoori chicken feast with all the Indian trimmings, we paid the bill of just £4.00 and hit the sack as the next day we had booked ourselves onto an all day tour.
Morning came and me and Cerri jumped into the back of a jeep with the rest of the tour goers and our first stop was right in the middle of a tea plantation; here we were told all about the different types of tea leaves with some of the workers. We soon discovered that leaf picking was a very tough job and traipsing up and down a mountain with all the equipment for very little money indeed wasn’t exactly our cup of tea! Excuse the pun! Back in the jeep we headed up to the highest point of the Cameron Highlands; Gunang Brinchang here we climbed up a tower structure to take in the breathtaking views over the surrounding jungle, unfortunately the view had to be short lived for me as my Indian from the night before was starting to bite back . . . . . since we were in the middle of the Malaysian jungle toilets aren’t exactly readily available!

Spectacular view of the Malaysian jungle
Cerri soon joined me back on solid ground and then we started our hike into the Mossy Forest, on our trek we saw numerous plants and herbs that we had never seen so far during our travels, including a flesh eating plant which we carefully stepped around. Our tour guides were very knowledgeable and also very funny by constantly reminding us that we were in the jungle and if we did see a tiger it’s every man for himself. Now we’re not sure if it was the thought of tigers or the Indian but Cerri’s tummy soon caught up to mine and the rich spices from the night before were reminding us that’s its not a good idea to have a curry the night before a trek in the jungle! Thankfully the hike was over and we were off to Boh Sungai Plas Tea plantation; me and Cerri were super excited about this as it wasn’t another cup of tea that got us going it was the fact that they had fully functioning toilets! After a long toilet stop Me and Cerri were feeling semi normal again and rejoined our tour group just in time for a tour of the

Couples combo at Tea Plantation
tea plantation and factory, the tour informed us about the different stages and procedures of making a good old cup of cha! After all of the background information we were able to treat ourselves to another tasty afternoon tea on a beautiful outdoor tea room veranda with a stunning view of the cascading hills lined with thousands of tea bushes. Next on the agenda was back to nature where we entered a butterfly farm, the farm not only had butterflies it also housed many other insects, bugs and reptiles. We wandered around the enclosure with our tour guides telling us a bit about each animal; we even got to hold, stroke and cuddle some of them. We all put the animals back in their homes and entered the butterfly enclosure which had hundreds of butterflies going about their day to day chores. There were so many different varieties and colours and they often landed on us for a little rest from all the fluttering. With the winged fun over and our tummies rumbling . . . in a good way this time we were dropped off in the town of Brinchang for lunch, where we befriended a couple from Singapore

Having a rest
so we exchanged travelling tales over some hot Malaysian food. The rain started to fall so it was good timing when our tour guides picked us up and took us to the “Time Tunnel” here housed all types of brick a brac and historical objects that has made Malaysia and the Cameron Highlands what it is today. There were a few interesting and also some rather odd artefacts on show but it was fun all the same. Next on the tour was Kea Farm Market which was a great part of local culture with lots and lots of yummy goods on sale and their local fruit and veg suppliers as well as a few strawberry themed stalls once again. I thoroughly enjoyed it as I got picked to taste test some weird fruit gums which thankfully turned out to be rather scrumptious. Rose garden was the next stop on the tour where they grew the famous green rose, if you named a colour this garden had a rose in it, also an unusual flower which the locals called Cinderella’s slipper as when you placed the flower bud on its side it resembled Cinderella’s glass slipper. Carrying on the tour we

Big Red Strawberry Farm
arrived at Sam Poh Temple which is a typically Chinese kaleidoscope of Buddha statues, stone lions and incense burners and with a bit more history about the different types of gods and warriors that make up the temple we hit our final stop the Big Red Strawberry Farm where we got to pick the strawberries and sample them in all different forms; Cerri chose the waffle that was covered in Strawberry jam and sauce with a mountain of cream and I helped her eat it! After such a long day of sightseeing plus an early bus journey in the morning, as soon as we got back to Fathers Lodge we headed straight for bed.

We got up as the sun was rising and jumped on the bus to Butterworth where we then caught a ferry to one of the most fascinating islands in Asia, Pulau Penang. This place is the oldest of the British Straits settlements, before Singapore and Melaka. This place was the prime stop on the watery road between Asia and Europe and homes Asia’s great Kingdoms and the colonial empires that conquered them. We were staying in Georgetown so as we got off the ferry we

Love Lane
decided to jump in a taxi as the heat was blistering once again, as soon as the taxi guys saw us coming a man grabbed our bags and put them into his car and then Cerri started her bartering skills, as she was getting pretty good at it. Although this taxi man would not budge on his price so Cerri starting taking our bags out of the boot to this man’s disgust and we headed for the next taxi who was more than accommodating with price and even conversation. As we arrived at our new home for the next three nights the Cozy Home Inn we whacked on the air conditioning and settled in. After getting our bearings we decided to hit the streets and explore Penang, we went to the famous Chulia Street which is the main street that runs right through the middle of the town and hosts all different types of shops, restaurants and booking agents. We then explored Love Lane which has its name from the mistresses that were housed here by the rich men that lived around the corner with their wives! At the end of the lane was a school; outside the school for

Fort Cornwallis
when the kids had finished their classes was a kebab van! Myself and Cerri were impressed and wished we had had the same when we in school, it beats chips any day! We wandered through some more streets discovering Chinese temples and the architecture was pretty amazing, the amount of detail it was so exquisite. After a long day we stopped off for a quick bite to eat at Ecco Cafe (recommended in the lonely planet) it was a great spot where we nibbled on tasty pizzas and then hit the sack ready for a full day of sightseeing the next day.

Next morning we were up and ready, the lonely planet, Heritage Day trail map and of course the sunscreen all packed in the back pack as it was another scorching day. A quick stop at the local corner shop for supplies such as buckets of water and pastries for breakfast we visited a booking agent as we bought our bus/ferry tickets for our next destination Koh Pha-ngan in Thailand. Back on track our first stop was the City hall and then the Town hall followed by walking along the esplanade and headed into Fort Cornwallis which was

Jubilee Clock Tower
built back in 1786 by the founder of the city Captain Francis Light. After we had fully absorbed all the history we then continued around town passing the Jubilee Clock tower which was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 1897 Diamond Jubilee. Next was the Pinang Peranakan Mansion which is the former home of Chung Keng Quee a secret society leader from the 19th century, inside the home represents Chung’s personality with a mixture of European art and Chinese lavishness. Moving on, on the tour we then stopped off at the King Streets Temples and strolled through Little India where we were hit with an array of colours, smells and Bollywood music. Our next culture stop was Khoo Kongsi built in 1906 which was Penang’s finest and most colourful clan house; a Kongsi is a building that’s used as part Temple and part meeting hall for Chinese people of the same clan or surname. After all this walking our bellies were starting to rumble so we stumbled upon what seemed to be a local’s only hawker centre and had some yummy Malay and Nonya dishes. We headed to the waterfront to view the Clan Jetty’s where numerous families lived in small

Beer O'Clock
handmade shack like houses surrounded by rubbish and junk. It was a real culture shock and made us appreciate what we have. Towards the end of our daily tour we visited the Heritage building which housed everything that made Penang and Georgetown what it is today and then wandered through the Chowrasta Market with loads of different products and goods on sale and luckily Cerri didn’t buy anything! After this full day we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and get ready for a night out, as we were meeting some friends that we made at Father’s Lodge for drinks and dinner. First beer stop was Hydratguilty bar where we had several drinks including a beer tower where we swapped travelling stories with Hannah and Andy who had started travelling the exact same date as us and had completed a very similar travelling route. We then ordered what seemed a good idea at the time a beer tower; once this had been consumed we all had the munchies so it was time for dinner, we went to the Red Market Garden which is renown for its great variety and quality food as well as dinner time entertainment in

Kek Lok Si Temple Gardens
the form of karaoke with the stage in the middle of the complex. We walked around the many different cooking stalls to pick our meals and then got a table followed by ordering more beer and enjoyed a local man murdering a classic Michael Jackson song; it reminded us all of that scene from the film Rush Hour 2! We went late into the night enjoying delicious local food in a weird and wonderful atmosphere.

It was our last full day in Penang and more sights to see so with nursing two fuzzy heads we jumped on the bus to go to Penang Hill to escape out of the heat and enjoy the spectacular views from the top. As we arrived we noticed a few signs in Malay that we couldn’t decipher but we soon discovered that the Penang Railway to the top of the hill was closed for renovation so we decided to get some food instead as I had spotted another Hawker centre from our bus journey. Stomachs full and heads feeling better we walked down to Kek Lok Si Temple the largest Buddhist Temple in Malaysia. Construction of the temple started in 1890 and took more

Turtle water feature
than twenty years to build mainly funded by donations. Within the same area as the temple there is also the Ban Po Thar – Ten thousand Buddha’s Pagoda and a cable car that whisks you to the highest point of the complex where you are in awe of a 36.5metre high bronze statue of Kuan Yin the Goddess of Mercy. To get up to the temple, we had to work our way through strategic cobbled backstreets lined with touristy shops, stopping half way to see the bizarre collection of turtles in a strange water feature. We took in all the culture and history and with the sun beating down on us we headed back into the city ready to prepare for our longest bus journey, we were off to Thailand the next day which started at 4am! We shoved everything into the suitcases and then went to grab some dinner before an early night, since we had had such a good time the night before we went back to the Red Market Garden as Cerri had her eye on a chocolate waffle she had missed out on. I on the other hand was starting to feel a bit dodgy and

Kuan Yin the Goddess of mercy
struggling to look at food never mind eat it, so I sat and enjoyed the karaoke once again! Back in the hotel we went straight to bed to try and get some shut eye before getting up at stupid o’clock, I didn’t get much sleep as my stomach went from bad to worst and I was finding it difficult to stay out of the bathroom and with the bus journey looming I starting to get worried if I’d make it. 3:30am the alarm went off and two very reluctant travellers got up and waited for our bus. We were hoping for an empty bus so we could lie down and go back to sleep . . . and so I could nurse my upset stomach, unfortunately we were far from it as a full mini bus pulled up in front of us and to our disbelief our luggage as well as us were shoved and squeezed into the bus alongside another 14 travellers! At this point the journey can only be described as the “journey from hell” for me, as the journey went on I got progressively worst and Cerri got worried as my colour turned from my normal tanned

Malaysian man making lanterns
look to a grey/yellow! As we drove through Malaysia to the Thai border and then continued on up through the country we had to change buses three times where the bus drivers got worst, more and more people were getting on board and the music got louder, at one point there were 22 people on a 14 seater bus as you can imagine it really helped me feel better! Finally and thankfully we arrived at our final bus drop off point and the thought of getting off the bus perked me up, but as we walked into the agency we were told that a boy was going to come and get us to walk us to another agency to catch another bus to drop us at the ferry port! In disbelief and on the verge of fainting I dragged myself whilst Cerri carried as much luggage as she could to the next bus stop! Thankfully our next bus arrived in the form of a coach and we were able to spread out and have enough space to sit and have the ability to move our legs, we were ecstatic! In a couple of days it was the Full Moon Party

This could be the reason I was ill; I just couldn't resist!
in Koh Pha-ngan the main reason it was our next destination, so as we arrived at the Ferry port for the last ferry of the day it was very busy with lots of fellow travellers and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and die but we had a four hour journey ahead; I was just praying that it wasn’t going to be bumpy one. Many toilet trips later we were back on solid ground and after a short tuk tuk ride we were at our resort for the next week. After a 26 hour journey through two countries we jumped straight into bed, after one more trip to the bathroom of course! We woke up the next morning in paradise ready to enjoy our next few days resting, relaxing and for me recuperating before preparing ourselves for the notorious full moon party . . .

Additional photos below
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Tea delivery!

We found a new friend in the garden!

Tea for two

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