Cool Cameron Highlands High

Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
Trip End Feb 28, 2013

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Flag of Malaysia  , Pahang,
Thursday, June 14, 2012

6/14 Kuala Lumpur to Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands
11am - 3:20 pm (200 km)
ESM Hotel 50 - Ringgit per night ($15.66)
Daniel's Lodge - 50 Ringgit per night

Now, back to our story….

It was another stifling hot day in KL. We stored our cold weather clothes at Explorers Guesthouse and made the 10 minute walk to the Pudu Sentral bus station. The 10:30 bus took off at 11AM. It was a very comfortable air conditioned bus with plush reclining seats and even footrests. We scored front seats and I (Michelle) was in my element watching the scenery change. Noticeable were the lush green areas in KL. The roads are in great shape too. For the next couple of hours, we saw many enormous palm orchards stretched out over the hilly terrain. I never figured out what kind of palms they were. They were too short to be date palms or coconut palms. We stopped for lunch at cafeteria where we were able to ladle some rice or noodles, vegetable and chicken dishes on our plate. Not too bad.

Soon we left the toll road and were winding our way up a seriously narrow mountain road. The scenery had a more jungle-like feel with high trees with ever larger leaves and thick dense undergrowth. The switchbacks were unrelenting. Nearing our destination, we passed some fantastic steep mountainsides covered in the neat rows of tea plantations for which the area is famous..

6/15 Tanah Rata Hospital
Dave has had loose stools for over a week now. No cramps or anything. He suspects it is a present from the first meal we had in Malaysia, which happened to be street food. Today we decided to get an intestinal bug killing antibiotic at the pharmacy in town. It was closed when we arrived so we continued to walk a mile out of town to the pharmacy at the public hospital. The sidewalk runs almost all the way and even partially covered providing protection from sun or rain. It made for a great walk. On the way we passed a small hydroponic strawberry farm and the turnoff to Robinson Falls. The new hospital is in a beautifully lush green mountain setting.

We found the pharmacy and were told it only dispenses medicine ordered by the doctors at the hospital. We needed to see a doctor in order to get prescription. About 30 people were waiting to be seen by doctors when we arrived. Dave checked in with reception, filled out his name, birthday and passport # and paid 15 RM ($4.75). Then he waited no longer than 20 minutes to be seen, first by a nurse who took his vitals, and then by a doctor who prescribed 3 medications for him. They did not have the necessary diagnostic tools on site to check what was really causing the problem. The doctor agreed to send a stool sample to IPOC to be analyzed. And while Dave went to leave "a sample" I went to pharmacy to pick up the medications. No extra charge for those.....amazing. It all seemed professional and efficient. An internet check of the medication prescribed confirmed these were just to treat symptoms. The real issue would need to resolve itself naturally.

Back in town we went a popular Indian food restaurant for dinner. I survived! The appetizing roasted chicken and hot roti (bread) displayed at the front convinced me to give the cuisine, which I have shunned for over 20 years, another try. It was a little spicy but not too bad and definitely a nice way to ease into it again.

Back at the hotel we played cards and were overwhelmed by the putrid smell of durian, something that challenges my gag reflexes. Indian curry vapors blended into it a bit later. Then the music and street noise began again which kept me awake till 3am. Time to look for a different hotel, I think.

6/16-6/17 Tanah Rata
Dave was still not feeling 100%. The main roads become crowded weekend tourists and that makes for a good day to hang low. We checked out other hotel options and found most hike their prices 25 to 50% on weekends and holidays. We felt immediately at home at the rustic "Daniel's Lodge" with its cozy covered patio with ample plug-ins for electronics, a book exchange and knowledgeable English speaking staff who can assist with any travel or tour questions you may have. We booked a room starting on Tuesday and spent the rest of the afternoon talking with fellow travelers, reading and planning.

6/19 MOVE TO DANIEL'S LODGE (also known as Kang's Travelers Lodge)
At this high altitude, temps range from around 23C in the day and down to 16C overnight. Tanah Rata has really great weather. Now we have a homey guesthouse and we plan to stay awhile.

6/21 Dave picked up Flagyl at pharmacy and hopes to finally put an end to his persistent intestinal problems. Time will tell.

6/22 Our Self-guided Cameron Highlands Tour
We rented a motorcycle today. The lady at the rental company had great haircut so I asked her where she had it cut. "Susan at the shop around the corner" she said. I immediately  made an appointment for later today at 5:30.

We had a good tourist map of the area and a clear and gorgeous sunny day. We decided to go north east toward Brinchang and explore some side roads. We followed the busy windy mountain road and when we reached Brichang, we took a side road to Sam Pho, a Chinese style temple. The temple warranted no more than a 5 minute look-see. We made quick peek at the sparkling golden Buddha inside and off we went. Back on the main road we explored the touristy and more upscale town of Brinchang with its snazzy resorts, golf course and big hotels. A row market stalls line the road out of town selling fruit, vegetables, tea,cheap Chinese made clothes, stuffed strawberry pillows, umbrellas and t-shirts. Yes, this famous tea production area is also known for growing strawberries. We continued out of town and stopped at a butterfly, bug and reptile farm where we spent close to two hours. We waited for a rainstorm to pass then rode up a the main road to a cut-off which soon wound through a gorgeous tea plantation area with rows and rows of neatly trimmed and tightly spaced tea bushes carpeting the mountainsides as far as the eye could see.

We were happy to have the freedom to stop and take it all in and take a few pictures. We followed the road to "BOH" tea plantation where factory tours are given and tea they produce is sold. We enjoyed the panoramic view from the covered restaurant terrace and tried some of their teas with so-so tuna sandwiches. I decided I prefer the puer teas and particular green teas from China or Japan so I didn't purchase any from here. It was getting late and I had hair appointment so we shot back to town after just 5 hours of exploring.
After a thorough head and neck massage and long lathering shampoo, my hair was cut and I was released to return to the guesthouse. I was not totally pleased with my cut. Way too much thinning and barely enough hair left for ponytail. But it'll grow. No biggie.

6/27 - Robinson Falls and Trail 9A Hike
We planned to do some day hiking while we were here. But by the time we read the latest news over breakfast and lingered over cups of coffee, mid-morning clouds and rain showers usually rolled in. We have bus tickets for the 28th, so it was now or never. 

The weather gods were smiling as we started walking toward Robinson Falls with our map and a bottle of water. It is about 2 km through town to the cut off to the falls. We entered the jungle and followed a narrow cement trail along a small river to the falls. The falls aren't big and the surrounding jungle is the real star of the show. The cement path ends just beyond the falls and we were on a beautiful natural earth jungle trail. Despite the recent heavy rains, the trail wasn't at all muddy. And it was a steady grade downhill for a few km.

We came to a ribbon blocking the trail with a note written in English. It recommended exiting the trail through the farms below because the main trail was slick, muddy and steep. We followed the advice and found a path that lead past vegetable farms, a bee farm and an orchid greenhouse. We arrived at the main highway and refreshed ourselves on sweet oranges and water melon from a fruit stand..

A friendly man in a beater car pulled over and asked if we cared for a ride the 9 km back to Tanah Rata. Great timing and luck we thought. As we started to get in, the man said the price would be 10 Ringgit! We were taken aback by the friendly offer turning out to be a commercial venture so declined and waited for the public bus to come.

As we waited, a torrential cloud burst above us and we took refuge under a small roof of the bus stand. The rain was also unrelenting and our efforts to hitch a ride, and the effort of a pair of young students who tried to hitch, went unrewarded. There was plenty of traffic but nobody would stop.

Finally, a taxi pulled over for us and we gladly got in (also 10 ringgit). The rain pelted down so hard it was difficult to see the road. Some vehicles had pulled over to wait for the worst to end. We spotted a sopping wet tourist standing at the roadside trying to get a ride. We told our driver, "pull over, pull over". He wouldn’t pull over for her. He didn’t let the dripping girl in because she would have made his seats wet! We felt bad to leave her standing unprotected in the downpour. That could have been us.
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