Cameron Highlands, Malaysia’s Worst Kept Secret

Overlooking the tea plantation

We apologize for the delay in posting, but sometimes we don’t know that we don’t have wifi until we get somewhere, which forces us to delay sharing our trip with all of you.  And at other times, there is just too much sun to soak up and too many fishes to see under the water.  But we are back now and we bring you our first stop on Christina’s vacation after a quick two days in KL…

The Cameron Highlands are only about 3 hours north of Kuala Lumpur.  However, as usual, 3 hours turned into 5, the AC never turned off so we froze, and our bus driver hit the toll booth so we had to make a detour to fix the bus.  Thank goodness the rain had stopped by the time we arrived.  We stepped off the bus and less than two seconds later, people are handing us hostel and hotel information. We decide on a place, get there, put our bags in the room, and the manager comes in and says,”oh, you can only have the room tonight, and it’s RM90.”She had only two minutes before said three nights at RM80.

It was explained to us, that May 1st was the following day and Mayday (Labor Day) is a national holiday throughout Southeast Asia. The hotel could make more money not renting to us and taking advantage of more local tourists with few options who were willing to pay RM150/night, instead of RM90.  So we hopped back in the van, drove over to option number two and got a triple room for RM70, along with a bar nearby, a lovely patio area for reading and playing cards, and a comfy bed.

The two main towns, Tanah Rata and Brinchang, are made up of mostly Chinese, Indian, and of course Malay people, so we were excited for food. The weather was like a cool foggy San Francisco day, perfect for us at this point.

Brinchang night market

Yet, the quaint, clean, fresh aired town did a 180-degree turn in just one day’s time. On our first day, we took a quick ride to Brinchang and went to a Buddhist Temple (not on any map or guidebook), the night market, and a strawberry farm for all things dessert. We were excited for day two. And then, the madness. Thousands of people, arriving almost all at once descended upon the town like a Black Friday sale, and with it, they took the fresh air, clean sidewalks, and quiet vibe. Since rain is like clockwork in these parts, we had to get up somewhat early and be active before 2-3PM. So we decided we’d make a 10km round trip walk along the highway down to the nearest tea plantation (as we had seen the other one). We walked by hundreds of cars just idling, waiting to make their way into Tanah Rata with a main street that takes only 5 minutes to walk across.

We reach the Cameron Valley Tea Company’s plantation, had a quick bite to eat and walked down into the plantation itself.  The walk home was going to be uphill along the same busy highway.  Unfortunately there was not path for trekking.  We were tempted to get a cab. There was one right in the parking lot on its way into town. But, no, we’d see how far we could walk along the side of the highway and see how it went…and just in case we needed a ride, we kept our eyes out for semi-empty cars. I remember people at one point driving by at 10mph laughing at us, and me pointing and laughing back each time we passed them walking. It became a fun game. Still, Christina was hurting a bit from the flight, bus, and crappy beds all in a two day period. We turned around, waved at a guy on a motorbike and asked if he would take her into town. No problem, all he wanted was a picture of his new friend on his camera phone. Done and done. We ended up beating the cab we saw at the start by about 60-car lengths and had a nice walk, chatting with people in cars, making bets we could beat them into town, and getting our picture taken several times.

Roadside hike back to Tanah Rata after some tea and cake

With the rain, came card games, and we met a cool friend Laura. Cards were fun, watching the rain was relaxing, and the highlands wasn’t all that bad, but it’s not a place we’d recommend for over two days.  And hasn’t compared to some other places in Malaysia. None the less, we met a new friend and she would come with us to our next stop, and for that, we’re thankful.

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** Traveler’s Tip: Brinchang has an awesome night market for food and some rare fruits to try out. A taxi from Tanah Rata is RM8, buses there only depart every two hours and are RM2. Daniel’s Backpacker Lodge (Kang Hostel) is the best place in town if you want to meet people, and they have a dorm. The BOH plantation has the best scones. The Mossy Forrest tour is awesome (but short), and the rest of it isn’t necessary. You can buy all the same tea’s in the plantations in town, sometimes for less, so no worries if you leave the place empty handed. Only one bus company heads to the Cameron Highlands, and it’s a good ride and very reasonably priced. Holler at us if you have questions.  Oh and be sure to check the calendar for national holidays, because we heard of people paying RM600 for a room!


One thought on “Cameron Highlands, Malaysia’s Worst Kept Secret

  1. It is so nice to see your recent activities. Great pictures, not bad for someone who had bugs in their ears! And what color green is that!? Incredible. I was thinking your photo lens was a bit convex, but Nena tells me some how in the midst of the foodie craze you have actually lost a few kg’s? I’m still carrying enough weight to hedge my bet for a sudden cold snap.
    Love you and miss you,
    Michael

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