Cool Getaway on Cameron Highlands
Trip Start Aug 15, 2006
4Trip End Aug 27, 2006
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Where I stayed
I checked out of the hotel in Penang and hailed a cab to Sungai Niborg Bus Terminal – a no-choice situation. On the way there, the Indian driver told me that it was rare to pick up passengers to the bus terminal at Georgetown as most travel agencies provided transfers to the bus terminal using mini-van for only MYR$2/pax. I was not informed about this by the staff at the travel agency. Anyway, I reached the terminal 15 minutes later, and the taxi fare was MYR$20 (the bus from Penang to Cameron Highlands costs only MYR$23.50).
On the journey to Cameron Highlands, I got to know a family of three from Sabah, who were in
Cameron highlands was a popular tourist spot, especially during the hot season. After spending an hour trying fruitlessly to get a room or bed in town, I managed to get a dormitory bed (MYR$6) at Daniel's Travellers Lodge, about 100m away from the main road. All rooms were fully booked but I asked the staff to reserve the first available room for me. Once the accommodation was settled, I was famished, I hurried to the main town area to have lunch in a
After lunch, I explored the various shops in town and also went to the tourist bureau at one end of town, where I bought a tourist map (MYR$4). There were two main towns in Cameron Highlands, Tanah Rata and Brinchang. Tanah Rata was smaller, well organised and cleaner than most places in West Malaysia. At 5pm, the atmosphere turned cooler with dark clouds in the sky and mist started to engulf the whole town. Knowing that it would be colder at night, I went back to the lodge to take a quick hot shower and rest. I also signed up for a country-side tour (MYR$20) for the next day through the lodge's reception counter.
I headed back to town after nightfall. The weather was quite cold but I was dressed in my usual T-shirt and knee-length pants as I enjoyed the coolness. The town was rather disappointing at night with basically nothing to do except dining. I spent most part of the evening in a restaurant, called The Orient, having my dinner and a nice pot of hot Chinese tea to combat the cold. Then, it was bedtime.
Around midnight, I was awaken several times from noises made by guests walking and talking in the dormitory (which was in the attic with wooden floor) and also the itches on my body. The lodge organised bonfire behind the building, almost every night, for its guests and would end around midnight. The burst of activities was a result of the attendees returning from the bonfire and going to the showers.
19 August 2006 (Saturday)
I woke up early and had breakfast (MYR$5.50/set) at the "Jungle Bar" behind the lodge. I was the only one there at 7.30am. Behind the Jungle Bar was where the bonfire was held last night. After breakfast, I packed my backpack and deposited it at the reception after being told that a room was available but was not tidied up yet. The room (MYR$20) had neither fan nor air-con – there was no need for one anyway – except a small window facing an inner corridor.
At 8.45am, a bus came to pick me up for the half-day country-side tour. First stop was the butterfly farm (MYR$5, not included in the tour ticket). There were beetles and snakes being
Next destination was the BOH (Best of Highlands) Tea Plantation. The tour bus had to meander
The Rose Valley Garden (MYR$4, included in the tour ticket) was next. Apart from the various types of roses and other flowers, there was nothing much to see as I could not appreciate
I was dropped off at Tanah Rata bus station and crossed the road to D'Chennai Curry House
At 5pm, my camera was fully charged. I hiked to the end of town, where the park was, and embarked on path 4 to Parit Waterfall. It's a short 20 minutes walk to the small waterfall, which looked nice except for the litters floating around. Parit watch tower was just nearby. The uphill climb to the watch tower was quite strenuous and I was panting after 10 mins. The tower
After a hot shower at the lodge, I was back in town in a light misty drizzle. The rain drops were icy-cold at night. I walked into a restaurant, named Rosette, which had a Japanese theme but the menu was similar to The Orient. After dinner and with nothing to do, I spent an hour in a Internet cafe (MYR$2.80/hour) before going back to bed.
20 August 2006 (Sunday)
It was not a good sound sleep all night as the thin-walled room was not spared from the rackets
Starting with the Convent School and church, situated on a hill near the tourist bureau, I took a few photos from the foot of the hill as the school was closed on Sunday. The Heritage Hotel
It was noon when I was back in Tanah Rata again, I walked to the park at the other end of town and embarked on path 4 again. I walked leisurely towards Parit Waterfall and beyond, determined to complete the whole path. It was not a tough walk as most of the walkway was
The 18-hole golf course was a short distance ahead. I was at a T-junction, the road leading to the right was a shortcut to Brinchang but there were more things to see by taking the road to the left. Eventually, I came to Smokehouse Inn (or Ye Old Smokehouse), which was an attraction itself with its award-winning garden.
After lunch, I stroll along the main street of Brinchang until I reached the Cactus Valley (MYR$4). It was at the bottom of a V-shaped valley with one slope full of different varieties of cactus plant. Flowers and fruits on the opposite slope. Further inside the valley was Big Red Strawberry Farm which grew vegetables and had pots of strawberry plant for sales.
Outside the Cactus Valley, the locals were setting up stalls on the road, selling clothes, toys, vegetables, etc. I realised that I was standing right in the middle of a pasar malam (night market) which was held only on Fridays, Saturdays and school holidays. It was a Sunday when I was standing there but I found out later that it was Malaysia's one-week school holiday starting the following day, no wonder all hotels were fully booked. It started to drizzle and I headed back to Brinchang instead of continuing to the farms further downhill.
For 10 minutes, it only drizzled lightly, so I decided to visit Sam Poh Buddhist Temple at the other end of town (towards Tanah Rata). I followed the road to the temple (there was actually an
After 20 minutes in the temple, I left and took the shortcut back to Brinchang where I took the local bus back to Tanah Rata (MYR$1). It was 4.30pm and I decided to visit Robinson Waterfall. It took me another 20 minutes along the road behind the new bus terminal to reach path 9. Ten minutes later, I was standing opposite Robinson Waterfall, which was much higher than Parit Waterfall. It was not spared from litters too since both waterfalls belonged to the same river. I headed back to Tanah Rata. All the walking caused abrasions on my feet against my sandals,
While charging my camera at the reception, I spent 2 hours pouring over the guidebook and tour brochures to determine where to go next. Most tourists would opt for either Perhentian Islands or Taman Negara. Undecided on the next destination, I signed up for an adventure-cum-trekking tour (MYR$80) in the jungle of Cameron Highlands for the following day and had dinner again at The Orient.
21 August 2006 (Monday)
I was not the earliest person at the Jungle Bar, which was filled with guests who were checking
We stopped shortly at a shop in Kampung Raja where we bought some bread and water, just in case we felt hungry when in the jungle. At 10.15am, the tour guide stopped by a small aborigine village and hired a native guide, who armed himself with a parang knife for clearing paths. Beside the village was a yellow muddied path, just wide enough for a car, leading up the mountain. The
Due to the heavy downpour yesterday, the path was muddy and slippery, causing the jeep to be stuck about 100m from the end of the path. After 15 minutes of failing to free the stuck wheel, the tour guide remained to handle "the situation" and we were led by the native guide to the end of the path to wait. One of the ladies commented that we were so naive to follow a native, who
Half an hour later, we were joined by another tour group of seven people with their native guide. Their vehicle was held up by our stuck jeep and both tour guides, both drivers, needed to stay behind to move the vehicles. Anyway, the second native guide passed the message that we should move on. Following the guides, we cut through the rainforest, crossed river using bamboo bridges and skipped small rapids. Each of us had our shares of slipping and falling on slippery slopes. It was a hot sunny day but the native guides, who could not speak English, did not stop for resting breaks. They trekked very fast, making us panting heavily behind them.
An hour later, we walked up to two large orange flowers. There were Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world with no leaves and stem. They were parasitic plants. A full-grown bud that was ready to blossom in the next few days was nearby. This was only the second day that the full-bloom flowers had blossomed. (We were told later that these flowers would lose their colours after the fifth day. Two weeks later, it would turn black and musangs, a type of civet cats, would eat the fruits of the flower and the seeds. The musangs would pass motion at other spots of the rainforest and new Rafflesia flowers would grow again. This meant that the Rafflesia flower would not always be at the same spot.) We took turns taking photo with a rarely seen 8-petals Rafflesia (usually only 5 or 6 petals). Some distance away, we were shown a smaller white-
The drive down the mud road was very bumpy and I banged my head against the window once. We were back to our small group. Back at the aborigine village at 2pm, we were introduced to the aborigine's hunting equipment – the blow pipe. The pipe was made from two bamboo stems, double-layered, and the darts were from some kind of leaf-stalk sharpened at one end. A soft fluffy object at the other end provided the windage. When the aborigine hunts, the sharpened tip was coated with a poison obtained from the ipoh tree (guess where these trees used to grow in abundance). A villager demonstrated how to use the blow pipe and we took turns blowing darts at a scoreboard 15m away. The blow pipe was very light and accurate. Most of us had no trouble scoring a hit.
Leaving the village, we stopped at Kampung Raja again and had lunch in a Chinese restaurant. After lunch, we visited the honey bee farm, the same one that I visited two days ago. I just loitered in the farm and re-took some photos. It started to rain heavily, so our guide took the long drive to Gunung Brinchang, which took up to 30 minutes, passing the BOH tea plantation. On Gunung Brinchang (6,666 feet above sea-level), we could not see much as the atmosphere was very misty but the rain had dwindled to a light drizzle. After 10 minutes, we departed.
On the way down the mountain, our guide stopped the jeep at an isolated spot and showed us
Further down the mountain, at the perimeter of the BOH tea plantation, which we passed by earlier, we took photos of the tea plantation from the roadside. The tea factory closed on Monday. The tea estate looked much greener and scenic after the rain. The photos I took two days ago showed the tea plants to be much drier under the hot sun.
Next stop, the butterfly farm, but I did not go in as I had been there two days ago. I loitered at the shop outside the farm. Last stop was the pasar malam outside Brinchang. It was fully
Back at the lodge, I showered and went to the reception to book a ticket to Taman Negara (MYR$70) using the jungle route. Most tourists would head for Perhentian islands but I had no mood for beaches with all the bedbug-bites on my back and limps. Then I went to town and had Malay food at a stall near the town's carpark.