Cameron Highlands is home to tea plantations, strawberries, and… well, that’s really about it. I ventured over from KL for a 2.5 day, 3 night trip and even that proved to be a bit on the longer side. Despite being slightly anticlimactic as a whole, I can’t deny the immense beauty of the tea plantaions hidden within the mountains. They are as green as green can be and are sure a sight for sore eyes. Case in point:
The road to Cameron Highlands gave Pai, Thailand a run for it’s money. It’s a 4.5 hour ride with the last 1.5 hours being constant twists and turns through the mountains. Before starting the last leg of the journey our driver stopped and gave each person a small plastic bag and a lecture: “From now, road is like this,” he said as he wiggled his arm in the air like a slithering snake. “You get sick, you use the bag. No go in the seat!” he continued, wagging his finger. “Need more bags? I have more and no extra charge for you. You go in seat and you pay 30 ringgit! Okay we can go now.”
And off we went!
(From KL, take the LRT to Bandar Tasik Selentan for 3 MYR; Walk to TBS station; Don’t be a rookie and wait in line, go to the automated ticket machine and select Cameron Highlands, 35 MYR; Choose seat 1, it’s delightfully roomy)
We made it without incident (as far as I know) and were dropped off in Tanah Rata, the town I was advised to stay in because it’s the more bustling area of Cameron Highlands. Let me say this, if Tanah Rata is “bustling” I’d hate to see what the others look like. There are a few cafes along this one-street town including, ironically enough, Starbucks, though my main activity in Tanah Rata quickly became the devouring of scones. I’m a pro at this, it’s really quite impressive.
THANK YOU LORD
The Lord’s Cafe is a quaint little place that felt like a visit to Grandma’s house, at least if my grandma were Malaysian and had Bible quotes hung in her home. Their apple pie was a borderline direct American import using your great aunt’s secret recipe that she perfected back in 1954 and the scones were nearly as good as the world’s best, which happen to be at the Puyallup Fair back in Washington (pronounced pew-al-up, for the curious amongst us).
These blessed carbs were a gift from the scone Gods above and came with creamy butter, delectable whip cream and a side of strawberry jam. The jam is made with berries picked in the fields of the Highlands and without a shadow of a doubt would receive my Grandma’s seal of approval. The chamomile tea is also from the Highlands’ famous tea plantation, BOH, and it was smooth as honey and had me reminiscent of my younger years when, to help me fall asleep, I would make myself a cup of chamomile tea with a
monstrously heaping totally proportionate teaspoon of honey.
Now I’ve never really gotten all that jazzed about the desert or cacti, but I thought I’d check out Cactus Valley since it was that or eating more scones (which I eventurally did later anyway). After my visit, I can say with confidence that I’m beginning to fall in love with the cactus in all it’s prickly glory. I love how diverse they are, how funky they look, their resilience, and the fact that it is harder for me to kill one than to keep it alive. Forget bouquets, if you want to profess your love to me please do it with a cactus.
Later, I drove the windy roads to Malaysia’s most famous tea plantation and it ended up being a glorious ride alongside vibrant green hills of tea fields and mountains. Best of Highlands tea, or BOH as it’s more colloquially known, produces 4 million kilograms of tea a year, which is the equivalent of 5.5 million cups a day! That’s insanitea! They only produce black tea and foreigners make up a bulk of their leaf pickers, mostly hailing from Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal and a few from Indonesia. They are paid 0.27 ringgit per kilo they pick, which is roughly half a US penny, and earn about 32 ringgit a day, or $7.52. Fortunately, they live in homes on the plantation that are paid for entirely by the company, including water and electricity.
The plantation itself boasts some jaw-dropping scenery and has a small (and very packed) cafe atop a hill that overlooks the tea fields. I enjoyed some vanilla tea and Oreo cheesecake, because if there’s anything I’m a sucker for it’s Oreo or cheesecake based, and be still my heart if they are working together as a team.
As far as the tour I did on the second day, I could take it or leave it. For the most part, I’m happily the star of a one-woman-show and don’t go on tours because they’re usually cheaper to do on your own anyway, however, due to a recent trend in robberies and attacks along the trails, including the rape of a woman, I decided to take heed when hiking. Unfortunately, the “jungle trekking” that we were supposed to do on the tour was non-existent, unless you count the planked pathway through the anti-climactic Mossy Forest. It was $11 for a half day tour, so I’m not complaining, and in any case our guide was pure entertainment.
First off, this guy had cobs of corn just hanging out in the cup holders of his truck; one unopened and one semi-shucked. Roadtrip snacks? The mystery prevails… Then, we stopped at a viewpoint for a few minutes and one second I see that he’s casually leaning on the car while we take pictures of the landscape, and the next second I turn around and he is casually walking around with a crown of ferns on his head. Though, hands down, the best part was near the end of the day when we went to the Butterfly Farm. This activity didn’t exactly draw forth my enthusiasm, but either I was to wait in the car or go in for $1. I went in and thank goodness I did because at one point I saw my tour guide sitting inside a den and cradling a raccoon like it ain’t no thing. And yes, there are raccoons at the Butterfly Farm.
Who on earth is this raw-corn-eating, fern-crown-wearing, raccoon-cuddling man!?
BUTTERFLY (& everything else) FARM
There were butterflies, hamsters, ducks, turkey goblins, snakes, annoyed-looking lizards, piles of scorpions, very strange insects, and hungry chipmunks. Seriously guys, change the name of this place already.
Just kidding, there’s no such thing.
IN THE END…
If I may politely throw out some unsolicited advice if you intend to visit: I would spend 2 days/1 night here, skip the tour and take a scooter around instead. Then again, I did get to pet a raccoon and, my oh my, are they incredibly soft little creatures.
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