In this post I cannot explain you how to reach the Valley from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, but I will give you a proof of the Malay kindness, plus Cameron Highlands tips to spend 2 unforgettable days.
How we met Mr Mohd in Kuala Lumpur
Cameron Highlands was the second destination of my itinerary (that you can find here). Super-organized with a perfect plan and all the info printed in chronological order, we reached the kiosk of the bus station to buy the tickets for the next day. Total failure: no bus available, because moved to the far TBS station, panic and fear to be stuck in KL. Without any ideas and pressed by the time, we called an Uber to reach some friends outside the city and enjoy some chicken satay, simply postponing the problem: often the “living the moment” approach works the best (I should learn!) and while stuck in the heavy traffic, we asked advice to the friendly driver.
– “Cameron Highlands? If you want tomorrow I can pick you up and drive you there, my sister lives nearby!” – Mr Mohd replied enthusiast, made us wonder what was the deal and the trick (Italian and Ukrainian roots don’t boost the trust in the kindness of strangers …)
– “Emmh… how much would it cost?…” (for 3h route!) – we asked reluctant.
– “You just pay the fuel. I want to help you!”.
Still surprised, we accepted the offer with the promise to pay more than asked or at least the price of the bus tickets! (By the way, in case you wonder: the chicken satay was really delicious and worthy the trip to the opposite side of the city!).
Adventure to Cameron Highlands
The morning later, we woke up, lazy breakfast and in the hotel hall waiting for Mr Mohd, stress free and sure that he would have shown up. And he did, 30 minutes later, with his small red Malaysian car, a baseball hat and a big smile. We loaded our suitcases, he pointed two water bottles “for the trip!” and there we go, ready for Cameron Highlands’ adventure! The small vehicle bypassed the skyscrapers of KL, crossed the countryside and climbed up to the mountains for 30+ km of hairpin bends, surrounded by a tropical forest of palm and durian trees. We felt like two children spending the day with their grandpa but instead of ice cream, Mr Mohd bought us 1 kg of mangosteen, small fluffy fruits. An Asian grandpa let’s say.
– “We were very lucky to meet you!” – we commented in a sincere explosion of joy.
– “I was lucky as well! I am retired with nothing to do, better than staying at home watching TV”. And he was right: Cameron Highlands are soooo much better than any TV programs!
Cameron Highlands tips: The Strawberry-land
Maybe you have never heard of it, but it is actually a VERY popular destination and you start realizing it in front of the giant statue of a strawberry that marks the entrance of the Strawberry-land.
At this point you need to know that Cameron Highlands is affected by an obsessive strawberry fever and you will probably find yourself in a plastic greenhouse provided with scissors and a small basket for a “pick-up session”, from the vases to the mouth.
Sounds touristic? Yes, it is and also quite expensive for Malay standards! But it is part of the experience, just embrace and have fun with photo shoots. While Mr Mohd was picking his strawberries providing instructions, the lady was patiently following us and waiting for our endless ½ kl of harvesting. After her third “Not yet, not yet, pick up more!” we just gave up with the recognition that we suck as farmers.
Exploring tea plantations
What are Cameron Highlands famous for? It is the largest tea producing region of Malaysia and guess who discovered the Valley? Mr William Cameron, a British colonial surveyor at the end of 19th century. The area was renamed few years later, during ’20s and it became soon a popular resort destination to escape from the hot and wet climate of the city.
Only at the end of the decade, another British gentleman had the idea to start a tea business: Boh Tea Plantation is still a very successful brand and launched the opportunity to reshape the territory into what we know now.
To sum up: British + fresh climate + tea. Does this combination make totally sense like it does to me? 🙂 Funny and greeny bushes fill the hillsides like a flock of cute sheep and create a relaxing landscape… ideal for a good cup of tea indeed!
There are several cafeterias but I would recommend Bharat, on the road to Tanah Rata. Sip your hot drink in the panoramic terrace, maybe with a slice of a tasty cake and walk down to visit the plantation for few ringgit. If it was not for a rainy wind announcing a storm, we would have spent hours and hours among the small shining leaves.
Adventure in the Mossy Forest
For the second day, Cameron Highlands offer two options:
- active one, hiking on a trail through the mossy forest and the tea plantation. The intermediate level trail n.1 from Brinchang offers a good variety of landscapes.
- lazy one, joining a half day tour (guess what we chose…). The jeep allows to reach the altitude of 2000 m. effortless and to save energy for the small hiking. The moist tropical forest, called Mossy, is absolutely charming, a natural set for a Tim Burton’s movie! The heavy fog creates a magical and mysterious atmosphere. While you walk safely on the wooden trail you can recognize medical plants, carnivorous and poison ones or you can admire delicate orchids dangle from trunks covered with moss.
In case your shoes allow you, feel free to take the muddy path, but be prepared to this:
Those boots obviously don’t belong to me: I did not manage to go further than 10 m. but I am sure you can do better!
The tour generally continues to the Boh plantation (yes, the original one above, of the English gentleman, remember?). The iron and glass pavilion creates an interesting contrast with the natural environment of the lush hills. It hosts the cafeteria and a small museum where you can learn about the process of the tea, from the harvesting to the fermentation.
I can guarantee: after visiting Cameron Highlands, drinking tea will assume a new meaning! And it will remind us forever the happy smile of Mr Mohd, our grandpa for a day.
I hope that my Cameron Highlands tips have been useful, please let me know if you loved the valley as much as we did 🙂