After five days in bustling KL and the heart of Malaysia we decided the time was right to move on…we had after all left London to escape all the hustle and bustle. After some conversations about where to go next we decided that the relative ‘escape’ to the Cameron Highlands would be the perfect change of scenery. We jumped online straight away and found some bus tickets to get us there the following day (easily found and for only about 35MYR).
All packed and ready to go in the morning we prepared ourselves for what Google told us would be about a 50 minute journey to the bus terminal via KL Sentral…Google lied. However, its not what you think, to our surprise we got there in about 20 minutes by hopping on a local train south from Hang Tuah station which took us directly there! So, arriving with plenty of time we sat back, some fake Oreo’s in hand and undertook one of our favourite past times…people watching!
Our first bus journey was, thankfully, relatively uneventful apart from the headache-inducing interior and a 1 hour wait on a mountain road while 3 men tried to saw a fallen tree into what can only be described as kindling for a fire, but hey, travelling in South East Asia we have come to always expect these bizarre things…
We had read in the guide books that the Cameron Highlands was somewhat of a tourist destination for both locals and travellers alike but, arriving in Tanah Rata, we were struck with just how much of the town was doused in bright lights, hotel signs and quirky Asian-Western restaurants. That being said, the views across the mountains and glimpses of the tea valleys on the ride in were very promising for the fresh adventure we were craving!
We had chosen to stay at Fathers Guesthouse; bagging a double room for 70 MYR a night where we could spread out and relax – and as a minor treat for Charlotte’s birthday (26…getting old!!). It being late afternoon when we arrived we simply had a wander around the town to get our bearings, a few birthday beers and an early night before we commenced our day of hardcore jungle trekking…well, jungle trekking.
There are 10 paths you can walk in the highlands, all starting, ending and converging at different points. Despite having got up early, raring to set off along path 9, we were soon discouraged by the sign in the hostel, noting this route had recently been victim to a spout of muggings and a frothing, rabid dog biting at peoples heels. No rabies jabs for Josh and the wild man of the woods already haunting Charlotte we amended to path 4. We wanted adventure but we also value our heads and heels so off we went!
Path 4 was a relatively easy 20 minute stroll along a little stream and past a small waterfall but it had already highlighted just how useful our photo-of-a-map was really going to be when the markers to look out for were simply ‘concrete bin’ or ‘electricity pole’. At the top of path 4 we were directed off down the tougher path 6 by a self-proclaimed ‘jungle man’, but, not before he pushed some of his special leaves under our noses for a smell of course! The adventure had begun!
Path 6 took around 3 hours to complete and despite some initial trepidation – scanning the dense jungle for the mad mugging man – we settled into our stride and absolutely loved it. The first two and a half hours were mainly up hill…our calves did not enjoy it as much!
We emerged from the jungle sweat drenched and sticky with the smell of deet but with a strong sense of achievement! We headed back to the hostel for showers and one would assume to rest our feet but madly, and most likely in the midst of our adrenaline rush, we had decided to walk down the road away from Tanah Rata 5km to the Cameron Highlands Tea valley. It didn’t disappoint. Despite having seen some pictures before we arrived, as the tea plantations rolled out before our eyes the view was incredible and definitely worth the walk!
Surprisingly to us but not to everyone else, apparently, you are allowed to walk in the tea fields (if you are happy to ignore the angry sign), which of course we did. After getting our quota of good, bad and downright ugly pics and of course Charlotte being chased by ‘stray’ dogs we headed back to the cafe for some authentic tea and scones. At this point we had completely forgotten about the 5km uphill walk that faced us with too much cream and tea in our stomachs. You live and learn.
The next day, with the pangs of tired legs, we booked onto a half day tour (50MYR each) and were picked up by camouflage clad Navid at 8.45am. We hopped into his jeep with a few other people in our group and made the bumpy journey to the famous Boh Tea plantations. If we had thought yesterdays views were impressive these were even more so. We watched the tea pickers working in the field, and listened to some info on the history of Boh Tea in Malaysia before heading further up into the mountains. A climb up a rickety, rusty covered watchtower (no health and safety here!) and we had reached the peak of Gunung Brinchang – the highest mountain peak by road in Malaysia – for a view across the highlands. A quick trip to the factory and a taste of the real deal (Boh Tea) our tour was complete and so was the Cameron Highlands.
Two full days was more than enough to explore what the highlands had to offer without having to spend too much time in the small and gaudy town centre.
Off to the islands we go…
C & J