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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Malaysia | Cameron Highlands

Updated: Apr 9, 2021

We have arrived in the Malaysian version of Alex's homeland (Vancouver, BC)! We arrived by bus early Thursday afternoon and our first afternoon in the Cameron Highlands went something like this.... 12:30 p.m. -- Arrived Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands 1:00 p.m. -- Check-in at hostel and go find food for lunch 1:10 p.m. -- Order food, as it starts sprinkling... 1:20 p.m. -- Rain coming down harder... 1:40 p.m. -- DOWNPOUR!! 2:10 p.m. -- Buy non-fashionable umbrellas at local shop so we can at least cross the street from one covered walkway to the next. And still a DOWNPOUR! 2:30 p.m. -- DOWNPOUR! Rain doesn't look to be easing up, so we grab a snack at the "swinging chair" café.

3:45 p.m. -- Rain finally eases up to a drizzle and we are able to get back to our hostel for our rain jackets. 4:15 p.m. -- Venture out for a short trail walk to a waterfall nearby (in the drizzle) This schedule somewhat repeated itself the second day as well, but at least we were prepared that day. However, Saturday has been an absolutely gorgeous day, and as of 5 p.m. this afternoon it hasn't rained yet!

Cooler Climate - A Welcomed Change

Beside the periods of downpouring rain, the Cameron Highlands have been FANTASTIC! The bus ride here was so scenic and the weather here is much cooler than the lowlands of Malaysia; the temperature normally is around 23 C or 71 F for a high and then at night it may only get to about 16 C or in the 60's F. This was a much needed break from the extreme heat and humidity we had been experiencing in Kuala Lumpur. It has been very relaxing and refreshing from the big city as well. Because of the cooler temperatures, the Cameron Highlands is the prime area for many vegetables and fruits, especially strawberries, to be grown; they are also known for their tea plantations. So as you drive along the roads you see many different kinds of fruits and vegetables being grown in the various greenhouses. The main reason for the cooler temperatures is because we are up in the mountains, but the farmers here still use every land space possible (even along mountain slopes) to plant their crops.

Local Tea - Teh Tarik

At the first lunch we had in the Cameron Highlands we ordered some of the local tea - Teh Tarik, which is tea in a milk base - and it was so GOOD! I'm sure there was quite a bit of sugar and milk in it, but it was honestly some of the best tea we've ever had. Which made us super excited to go to the tea plantation that afternoon. However, because of the afternoon rainstorm we had to delay our trip to the tea plantation until tomorrow.

Motorbiking Around Tanah Rata

Because the area is so scenic and because we have enjoyed renting the motorbikes in Vietnam, we decided to rent one on Friday to explore the area around Tanah Rata. We started out the morning by stopping at one of the many strawberry farms where you could see the strawberry plants, lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, etc. being grown in the greenhouse. The farm, of course, had some strawberry food you could order and we just couldn't resist having FRESH strawberries; so we ordered the Strawberries & Cream to share and devoured it within minutes! At that point we were wishing that we hadn't had breakfast so we could have ordered the other good looking items like strawberry muffins, pancakes, etc.

Tea Plantation

We continued next to the Sungai Palas & BOH Tea Gardens where they had endless rolling hills of tea plants planted on the sides. Now days most of the tea leaves are harvested by machine, but if the slope is too steep then they have workers go out to those areas and cut the leaves by hand. At the tea plantation they had a factory where you could watch the tea being processed. There are six main steps to the tea processing: (1) Plucking, (2) Withering, (3) Rolling, (4) Fermentation, (5) Drying, and (6) Sorting. As we walked through you could smell the distinct aroma of the tea brewing.

We couldn't resist not having tea after seeing it being made, so we stopped at the shop and shared a pot of one of the varieties. Plus the views from the tea shop were incredible!

We drove around checking out the valleys and areas of the Cameron Highlands. There are several other types of farms like a bee farm (which we stopped at) butterfly farms and rose gardens/nurseries.

We headed back to Tanah Rata for lunch and got some Naan at one of the local Indian restaurants.

However, just like the day before, as we were eating lunch it started to rain, and rain hard! It let up a little bit so that we had enough time to ride our motorbike back to the hostel, but then it DOWNPOURED again for the next couple of hours. It finally eased up around 3:15 p.m. so we decided to make good use of the motorbike while we still had it. We headed south of Tanah Rata and stopped at another tea plantation, Cameron Highlands Bhurat Tea plantation and ordered the local specialty - Teh Tarik. It was even better after riding for an hour in the drizzle. Earlier in the day we had seen a stop that served Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream, so we headed back north to find that stall. Alex tried a scoop of the strawberry and blueberry and I had scoops of the strawberry and the strawberry-chocolate. It was really good, but the ice cream had a consistency more of "ice" than being creamy; but it was still a nice treat!

We filled up the tank of the motorbike with gas before we returned it to the rental place and only had to pay 3.30 RM (or $1) for the entire day's worth of motorbiking. We had been going full throttle most of the day so Alex was impressed with how little gas cost us. This only re-affirmed his desire to get a motorbike when we get home. ;-) However, despite having to drive a manual bike, up and down hills, through windy roads, on the opposite side of the road and in wet conditions, Alex got us back to Tanah Rata all in one piece, and with no problems at all. I was just glad that I had to hold on....

Next Trip Plans

Before dinner we spent a couple of hours at the Internet Cafe trying to figure out our accommodations for the next week or so. Because of the approaching Chinese New Year on Feb. 14, starting Feb. 11-13, many of the native Malaysians and Chinese people have holiday/vacation for at least 3 days and then school children have a week or two off from school, so many people travel during this time as well. Of the last three hostels we've stayed at all of them said they have been booked for months over the Chinese New Year weekend. We hadn't booked anything yet, so we decided that we better firm-down some plans so that we wouldn't end up on the corner of a street with no room. By that time we figured we'd be in Langkawi (northern Malaysia) and we were able to find a place for the night of Feb. 11 & 12 that we booked, but as soon as we put in the night of the 13th only 2 places came back and they were out of our price range for accommodation. We decided even though we'd like to be around during the Chinese New Year, that at that point it might be best to move on to avoid the escalated prices and crowds during this busy holiday season. So we'll head north to Thailand on the 13th, where it seemed there was a lot more accommodation choices as they don't have an official Chinese New Year holiday.

Bringchang Mountain Trek

On the last day in the Cameron Highlands we headed out on a trek to Brinchang Mountain. It was an hour and half hike up to the top and we were basically within the rain forest for the entire hike. For the most part, it was a nice hike with the birds and insects chirping in the background. However, because of all the rain the past couple of days it was a little muddy in spots and by the time we got to the top, our shoes were pretty nasty. Parts of the trail we were using rope that was hanging on the side and climbing up the tree roots to get to the top, so we were proud of ourselves that we had done a "real jungle hike." However, by the time we got to the top we were not looking forward to going back down because of the conditions being slick and muddy. Luckily for us, there was a road that 4x4 vehicles could go up, so we decided to take that path down. But we first checked out the tower at the top of the mountain and we were actually higher than the clouds at that point, which was cool!

We started our trek down the road and part way down there was a Mountain Strawberry Farm, so we stopped for a snack. We got the homemade Strawberry Ice, which was like a big Ice Pop, but with a stronger and better strawberry taste! As we got at the end of the road, it broke off to either the tea plantation we went to the day before or the road back out to the main highway. We thought that we would head to the tea plantation so we could have a little snack and possibly find a ride back to town. So we walked to the tea plantation, but only after washing our feet/shoes with some of the water running down the pipes in the ditches - so at least we'd look presentable.

We enjoyed our tea and strawberry tarts at the plantation. However, we found out there wasn't any buses so we started our trek back into town. Luckily for us, only after about 20 minutes of walking a Malaysian couple stopped and asked us if we wanted a ride. We willingly accepted and rode with them to the end of the road where the highway was. We chatted with them briefly and found out they were from near Kuala Lumpur and on their honeymoon! At the end of the road we thanked them profusely (they saved us probably a 45 min. walk) and wished them well as we started our walk to Brinchang where we might be able to catch the bus. However, luck was on our side today (including no rain) and the city bus drove up, pulled over on the side of the road and stopped for us to get on! We hopped on and enjoyed the rest of our ride back to Tanah Rata! This time, the Asian system worked in our favor of picking up people along the side of the road. We laughed about how if we had been back in America or Canada how the bus driver wouldn't have given a second thought of stopping to pick us up if we had been walking. Once we arrived back in Tanah Rata we had a light (late) lunch and then headed back to the hostel for some refreshing showers! After trekking through the mud earlier, the shower felt very nice! Tonight we'll enjoy our last night in the Cameron Highlands. There is a golf course celebrating its grand opening this weekend so we might go over to the free concert and possibly fireworks later tonight. Tomorrow morning we grab an 8 a.m. bus to the island of Penang.

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