While we poor Europeans are travelling to Asia seeking the tropical sun, the Colonialists – no matter which motherland had sent them – were desperately looking for cooler places in higher regions, building settlements and mansions there to take a break from….being wealthy and having servants.
|A visit to the beautiful tea plantations is not to be missed when visiting the cool highlands.|
Whether you go to Da Lat in Viet Nam, Thansur Bokor in Cambodia – or precisely the Cameron Highlands: You’ll find temperate climate, elegant villas and holiday homes, and excellent infrastructure in lush surroundings.
Having been to many of these places, I must say that the Cameron Highlands are a bit less colonial and a whole lot more sumptuous.
These highlands, named after British explorer and geologist William Cameron, range from 800 meters / 2,600 feet to 1.603 meters / 5,259 ft above sea level.
There are over 700 species of plants growing here, and the vegetation changes according to the ascent of the mountains.
The highlands are known for tea farms – BOH being the most popular one, vegetable farms, and flower nurseries. Therefore, the views of the breathtaking landscape are obstructed by ugly, plastic covered hothouses. But no worries, it gets better: Once you get into the woodlands, you’ll be amazed by the perfect and undisturbed ecosystems. Besides the sumptuous flora, this area is also a shelter for a wide variety of animals, birds, reptiles, and insects.
|These butterflies are real. Mimi doesn’t try to catch them, she’s holding her hand in the picture to show their size.|
And all this is crowned by the famous Rafflesia arnoldii, a stemless blossom looking like some weird red cabbage, being the largest single flower of any flowering plant – we’ll get to that later.
There are two main places to stay in the Highlands, Brinchang and Tanah Rata, latter being the administrative center. However, if you are into hiking and nature and Malaysian life, you should stay in Tanah Rata.
If you are rather into shorter strolls, souvenir shopping, and lots of strawberries, stay with the Asian tourists in Brinchang. You need to know that strawberries, being a very exotic fruit in Asia, are the big thing here for visitors from other Asian countries. Picking a couple of these red fruits at a ridiculously high price is one of the major activities.
|While strawberries are not special to Europeans, tea bushes are.|
I’m European, we are drowning in strawberries, I came here to see the jungle: All over Tanah Rata, you can book different combo-tours practically around the clock.
|How close or how far you have to hike, how difficult or how easy the trail gets depends exclusively on the spot the Rafflesia picked for growing.|
Obviously, you’ll book a tour according to your interests, but if you ask me, I’d recommend taking a hike – no offense! – to see the Rafflesia arnoldii, if it is the season (mostly April).
|Rafflesia Arnoldii – the pride of the Cameron Highlands.|
If it’s not the season, you do not need a guided tour to explore the jungle trails around; actually, we didn’t even have a map. But if you want to take one with you, you can buy it cheap at many places in Tanah Rata and just follow one of the 9 designated trails; however, ask locals whether there is a reason not to go on a particular hiking trail at that moment e. g. due to recent disturbances or if they have any recommendations.
|How considerate from the other wanderers to leave some explanations on the official signs.|
You cannot miss the beautiful tea plantations – and one of my favorites was the mossy forest. Normally, moss grows on the tree’s shady northern side. Here, however, it overgrows the trees and bushes completely so you could not use it for orientation like you might in other woods. The mossy forest looks like an enchanted fairytale jungle.
|Bewitched mossy forest.|
|Moss-grown rocks along the way.|
Although the center of Tanah Rata looks really small, you find all the facilities and amenities you might need, including various banks and ATMs, a hospital and the main police station. The taxi and bus station make travelling to, from, and around the Highlands very easy and affordable – even if you don’t want to join an organized tour.
|The radio and tv station on top of Mount Batu Brinchang, constructed by the British in the 1950s.|
Best place to sleep:
If you can do with less luxury, want to enjoy the company of other budget travellers, and don’t mind staying a bit farther – however, still in walking distance – from the town center, Gerard’s Place is your best bet. It’s basically a big flat where every guest has its room – some with shared, some with en-suite bathroom. The owners get out of their way to assist you with everything you might need.
Check out the Century Pines Resort‘s* availability and prices if you’re in the mood for a little bit more at a great price – or check out Gerard’s Place* if you’re looking for comfort yet contact and togetherness with other travellers.
Best place to eat:
Like everywhere in Malaysia, in Tanah Rata food is a very important asset. In the city center are many good Indian restaurants, but the big thing here is the Steamboat, sort of a fondue where you cook ingredients of your choice in a broth – here, too, you can choose between two different kinds.
The only thing that’s a bit irritating is the seafood formed from some….paste. Don’t get me wrong: They have an incredible variety of veggies and real fish and meat, but simply also some weird formed stuff, too.
However, it is a very enjoyable and entertaining way of eating – I guess, the more the merrier; we were only two, but had a great time.
|Noodles, veggies, meats, and fish – everything is simply thrown in the hot broth and makes a delicious steam boat.|
To enjoy the best of both worlds, i. e. Malaysian tea, British scones, and local strawberry jam, you absolutely have to pay The Lord’s Café a visit. It’s located basically across the street from the bus station on the upper floor. A real – local – treat.
Then go to the main post and take your pick!