The cool Cameron Highlands

Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
Trip End Feb 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
What I did
Had tea and scones

Flag of Malaysia  , Pahang,
Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hello everyone.
Hello from the beautiful and most importantly cool Cameron Highlands. Finally, after 9 months in sizzling heat we found some respite in these gorgeous, green, mountains famous for their tea plantations. 

The bus we took from Penang zig-zagged for hours up the mountains and I was very glad to have some very strong travel sickness tablets. So strong in fact that I was laughing my head off once we actually got off the bus. Not a great impression on the in-laws you’d think, except for the fact that it was the in-laws who gave me the tablets in the first place! J So all strange behaviour was excused….phew! 

On our first afternoon there, we lazed around in the beautiful garden of our guesthouse and enjoyed the scenery. Whilst the town we stayed in, Tanah Rata is quite built up we were lucky that the guesthouse we stayed in was still surrounded by nature. 
We booked an afternoon tour for the next day which promised to show us 8 different things in the space of 4 hours. I felt breathless just reading what we’d manage to fit in and booked with some trepidation. Still it was the only tour available that didn’t involve hours of hiking, and the four of us had agreed that anything remotely physical was OUT for the weekend. We were here to stuff our faces with lovely English scones and rest. 
Our first stop was a Rose garden, which was quite pretty and set over 4 open air floors which gave us lovely views over the highlands. With that one ticked off we hopped back in the van and set off to a strawberry ‘farm’. The ‘farm’ involved rows and rows of potted strawberry plants that you could pick. The clever people of the highlands had raised the pots to waist level so that you didn’t even have to bend down to ‘pluck’ the strawberries, as they called it. Unfortunately, this also took away all the romanticism of picking fresh fruit from a field and we didn’t even bother. Instead we opted to taste the strawberries in the form of strawberry ice-cream and strawberry tarts. Two down, six to go! 

The highlight of the day was definitely the visit to the biggest tea plantation of the highlands. The plantation was started by a Scottish man in the 1920’s who brought in loads of foreign workers to harvest the tea. Today the plantation is run by his grand-daughter, with the work still done by foreigners, mostly Indonesian, who leave their homelands to come and earn their fortunes. We were shocked to find out that the poor workers were paid by the amount of leaves they harvested and they needed to harvest 120 kilos of tea a day to make £15! I will keep them in mind whenever I feel like moaning about my job when I eventually get one (although I plan to avoid that for as long as possible!). 
We indulged in some gorgeous tea and scrumptious cakes in the café of the factory which overlooked rolling fields of tea plants that made us feel like we were in some kind of fairy land. 
The rest of the tour, as expected was nothing to write home about. Especially disappointing was the ‘bee farm’. We walked down 6 flights of stairs to get to a garden with loads of boxes stuck on sticks. We assumed the boxes were full of bees, but had to leave it at that before we walked back up the steps to a room full of honey products we could buy. I tried to make the visit worthwhile by buying a piece of bee-hive filled with honey. I was meant to chew it, eat the honey and spit out the comb. (If you’re wondering, the hive’s texture is very much like wax, crumbly and tasteless, but the honey was pretty good!). 
Another stopover was an insect and butterfly farm, or should I say cemetery. For some strange reason there was also a hutch of about 6 very cute rabbits. A Thai girl, who was with us on the tour exclaimed how cute they were. Paul’s dad went next to her, saying that they’d be even better stewed with wine and garlic! (For the non-maltese, in Malta rabbit is a national dish enjoyed by all and sundry). She looked at him in shock saying, ‘you mean, you mean man!!’. 
The insects at the place were also brilliant and we saw some fine specimens of weirdness. Paul’s mum Eileen was even brave enough to have a scorpion put on her. The rest of us were extremely impressed.  Less impressive was the butterfly area which had more dead butterflies than live ones. It was quite distressing to see the little creatures splayed on the ground. I thought some weird instant epidemic had hit and ran to tell the managers that there were many dead butterflies. They shrugged nonchalantly saying butterflies only have a 3 month life span. How deflating. 
Our final stop was a temple where once again Joe joked with the Thai girl, asking her if we could have some of the bananas on offer in front of the Buddha. She giggled away, saying he would go to hell if he did that. Instead we lit up to candles and offered them up for good luck. 

As Karen mentioned Tana Rata is built up and unfortunately not in a good way. Instead of having quaint little low rise guesthouses scattered around the hills, they have huge concrete monstroties all over the place. We understand the need for development but it can be done in a much more prettier way! Just outside the town there are some beautiful hotels that are mainly done in a mock English tudor style. We actually went to one for lunch. When we walked in it felt very strange to be walking into a hotel pub that was so English looking that we could have been in a hotel in the Lake District. We actually did not stay for lunch as the prices were so high they made London eateries look cheap! The hotel is called the Lake House so don’t say you were not warned. 

The Cameron Highlands are well worth a visit. Yes they are very touristy but if you have more time you can avoid all that and have a nice chilled time (in mind as in temperature). Next time you have a cup of tea, just think about what Karen wrote above and appreciate all that effort that has gone into getting that tea bag into your cup or mug! 

Our next stop could not be more different from The Highlands. We are off to the tropical island of Tioman (via Kuala Lumpur) to laze on the beach for a week. Mine’s a banana daquiri! 
See you all soon!
Love Paul & Karen xxx
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