Cameron Highlands: Malaysia’s little England
Coolly Cameron Highlands
The night before we left Kuala Lumpur for the Cameron Highlands, Thomas and I thought it would be a great idea to go ‘clubbing’ in Changkat Bukit Bintang. This avenue resembles to the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat in Amsterdam, which is only doable when it’s after 2 AM and you are ex-treme-ly drunk. The next morning I was a bit hungover but we had to go to the bus station to take a bus to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. The ‘concierge’ of our 70’s looking hotel sent us to KL Sentral, but after an hour of searching and asking we apparently were sent in the wrong direction: our bus left from Putaraya station. Hungover + NO breakfast + 40°C + my cocoonish house on my back = Hellish me to the tenth power! However, after a dirty breakfast at McDonalds (because there was literally nowhere else to go) and a sprint to Putaraya, we paid the bus driver 40 MYR (€8,95) and after a 3-hour bus ride we finally arrived at one of the most serene places I’ve ever been: the Cameron Highlands.
Kota Kinabalu change of plans
Sandakan change of plans
Sipadan change of plans
Seminyak & Ubud
How wonderful to cool off and breathe some fresh air after the sticky heat of Kuala Lumpur! The Cameron Highlands is named after its discoverer: the British surveyor Sir William Cameron. He found this place during an expedition in 1885 and it soon became a popular destination for the British colonists.
Today, it is Malaysia’s largest hill station (name for towns founded by European colonists as a hide-out for the summer heat) that covers an area about the size of Singapore. It is home to seven small towns including our location Tanah Rata. Because of the height the temperature never drops lower than 10ºC or climbs above 21ºC.
Full Day Experience Tour
I’m not really the type of traveler who makes use of guided tours, but in case of the Cameron Highlands I did! No regrets at all! We booked a Full Day Experience Tour at Father’s Guesthouse (absolutely recommended if you’re in search for a basic, clean and low cost place to stay). Our tour guide Raju from Eco Cameron picked us up at 8.45 AM in his white Land Rover. We explored the natural areas of the Cameron Highlands starting with a Mossy Forrest Experience (mossssyyyyy, which is a terrible term if you ask me…) through the Gunung Brinchang. This is one of the highest peaks in the Cameron Highlands and rises 2030 meters above sea level. The trail walk isn’t very heavy, so it’s an excellent option for people (or just me…) who do not sport.
Raju is a fantastic tour guide and mega enthusiastic in his explanations about the exotic flora in the surroundings like the carnivorous Pitcher plant, the use of various spices and medicinal plants and why the ground in the forests are wet and bouncy.
Sungai Palas BOH Tea Factory
The next stop: the BOH tea plantation! This is the largest tea plantation in South East Asia. A super impressive and an extreme tranquil place with a spectacular view. After Raju did a tea talk about the tea processing, we went to the factory to actually see the different process stages from withering to sorting. The BOH tea plantation even created its very own art award together with the website Kakiseni, the BOH Cameronian Arts Awards, to raise the profile of Malaysia’s performing arts scene! Yes! Address: 39100 Brinchang.
Next to the nearly 300 tropical butterfly species, including the Raja Brooke, named after the British explorer James Brooke (1803-1868) who became the first white Rajah of Sarawak, you can find other exotic wildlife here like: scorpions (nooo!), rhinoceros beetles (what?!) and last but not least stick insects (ok, now I’m gone…). Address: 43rd Miles, Kea Farm, 39100.
The Cameron Highlands is the only part in Malaysia were strawberries are grown. I’m not a person who is extremely interested in the cultivation of hydroponic strawberries, but since it was part of the guided tour it was nice to learn something new about these red fruities. Next to that, the strawberries tasted excellent! Address: 42nd miles, Kea Farm, 39100.
Time Tunnel Museum
Malaysia’s first memorablia museum. At first glance you might think: Wow, what a crappy museum which actually is located in a basement! But if you look closely it’s really fantastic. Everything in here is decorated like in the old days, a kitchen, living room and even a barber shop is reconstructed. Treasure hunt written all over it! Loved it! Address: 255 Jalan Sungai Burong, Brinchang.
Sam Poh Temple
The last stop of our Full Day Experience Tour was the Sam Poh Temple. This temple is the most important temple for the local Chinese people. It’s dedicated to the Chinese eunuch and naval officer during China’s early Ming dynasty, Zheng He (1371–1433), the fourth-largest Buddha in Malaysia. Address: 41 Jalan Kuari, 39100, Tanah Rata.
Wait WHAT?! A Dutch restaurant in the middle of Malaysian nowhere? YES! At first I thought I wasn’t seeing clear, a whole orange painted bar furnished with flags from Dutch soccer teams like Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV, posters from the famous Dutch folk singer André Hazes and frikandel, friet and bitterballen on the menu? The owner had a Chinese restaurant in Assen for over 20 years, but during the economical crisis he decided to go back to Malaysia. This is a must-visited for all Dutch people! Address: 45 Jalan Besar, 39000, Tanah Rata.
Best dinner spot: KouGen
Best dinner spot in Tanah Rata! KouGen is a Japanese-styled restaurant with some incredible food! Plus, it is extremely cheap for Western standards (but nearly everything is in Malaysia). A-ma-zing! Try the hot stone bowl bibimbab with roasted pork or roasted lamb and the Japanese-style fish croquettes! Hello yummy in my tummy! Address: 35 Jalan Besar, 39000, Tanah Rata.
Well, after one and a half day in the Cameron Highlands it was already time to move on. Next destination: PENANG! Soon more about this artsy place!