Travel Diary #4: Drinking tea in the Cameron Highlands

Cameron Highlands Malaysia Boh Tea Family

The Cameron Highlands is an elevated region in Malaysia that lies more than a thousand metres or 3000 feet above sea level. As a consequence, the temperatures are on average a lot lower than in the rest of the country. The Malaysians like to come here to cool down a little and flee the hot temperatures of the mainland. Because of the rain, we even thought it was quite chilly. Another reason why everybody comes to the highlands is for drinking tea and admire the rolling hills covered with tea plantations.

We rented a small apartment with Miss Lilian, just outside of the centre of the ‘city’. Everything was there, a kitchen, bathroom and two beds. What we didn’t take into account, however, was the mosque next door and the dogs of the neighbour below our studio. A husky that kept on howling the whole night. The consequence is a lack of sleep throughout the rest of this article and almost a conversion to Allah’s believes.

Tanah Rata

After a bus ride that lasted way to long (5 hours from which we were stuck in a traffic jam for 2,5 hours) we arrived in Tanah Rata. It’s a national holiday and it feels as if everybody in Malaysia has come to the Cameron Highlands. The road from Ipoh to the highlands is curvy and climbs the whole way. The curves together with the somewhat old suspension of the bus make us take away the books and games of the kids. Luckily we only have to cope with two little white faces staring in front of them, and not something worse, which we won’t be describing here ;-).

Tanah Rata is the centre city of Cameron Highland (next to Brinchang) and the base to arrange all your excursions. And that’s actually the only thing the two has to offer. The culinary highlight for the kids, however, is the discovery of a bakery with the most colourful cakes. Time for a sugar boost! Hanne makes the right decision by going for the pie filled with chocolate mousse, Yuna chooses the tiramisu and daddy picks the chocolate cake. Hanne’s cake turns out te bo delicious, much to the displeasure of daddy who secretly tries to steal a piece :-). Luckily there’s always mum who is in the neighbourhood.

Tanah Rata Cake Kids Family Kinderen
Hanne’s piece of cake turns out te be the best…

After booking our country tour at Fathers Guesthouse (that looks like a nice place to stay by the way), we visit the local Indian restaurant. Delicious, spicy food and very cheap!

The Parrit falls

From Tanah Rata, there are starting different trails. Some of them difficult and long, some of them easy and close and others that are discouraged because tourists have been robbed. Because the kids have some spare energy after all the sugar in those pies, we decide to talk the easy and safe walk to the Parrit falls. Only half an hour walking and you already reach the fall. Not very spectacular and unfortunately a little contaminated by the locals, but nevertheless a fun activity. A little walk through the jungle, a nice small waterfall and very suitable for the kids. Even the rain wasn’t really a problem, it kind of matched with the environment.

Parit Falls Kids Tanah Rata Cameron Highlands
The not very spectacular but nice walk to the Parit Falls

Our excursions

The country tour

Since we were in the Cameron Highlands for four days, and there weren’t tuns of activities, we decided to take it slow. Working and teaching a little and some activities in between. We chose for a half-day country tour and a half-day sunrise – Mossy Forest tour. Both tours visit the Boh Tea plantation, but more about that in the next chapter. The country tour turns out to be fun (especially the plantation) but there’s not much more to say about it. The kids loved the afternoon, we, however, found it a bit commercialised. But we had a nice and enjoyable afternoon. Luckily it only cost 90 RM (€18/$22). We visit the tea plantation, a rose garden, a bee farm, a butterfly and insects garden, a Buddhist temple, a strawberry farm and a farmers market.

The rose garden is nice and fun to wander around, but again not spectacular. In the butterfly garden, we get some butterflies and insects on our body. Yuna isn’t too crazy about them but we all enjoy the experience. After the butterflies, centipede and walking stick, its the snakes turn. Only Heleen is brave enough… A fun visit especially for the kids, but a little bit outdated and the cages of animals aren’t too big.

After tasting the honey of the local bees, we go to the strawberry farm. Apparently one of the highlights for the Malaysians and tourist of Singapore. Strawberries are very rare for them, they can only grow in these milder temperatures, and they are wildly enthusiast about picking and eating the strawberries. As we have some strawberries growing in our own back yards, it is not that special for us. It is interesting however to see how they let the plants grow out of a coconut a metre above the ground. The milkshake in this place, Raaju Hill, really s one of the best we ever tasted.

Strawberry farm Raaju Cameron Highlands
The strawberry farm with the best milkshake and some nice wall art

Tea plantations

During the country tour, we visit the Boh tea plantation first, because rain is coming. Boh is one of the oldest tea plantations in Malaysia and owned by a Scottish family. It is a must-see in this country and we can confirm it. The views are breathtaking! During our first visit, we decide to go to the fields and take some pictures and fly the drone. Luckily, no rain…

Boh Tea Plantation Cameron Highlands View
The stunning views on the Boh Tea plantation

The second day, we have a bit more time. We drink some tea of course accompanied by a delicious chocolate cookie. The Boh plant is still active until this day, so we pay the factory a visit. We learn more about the process of getting the tea from the tree into the teabag. Thanks to the cheap working force from Nepal and Bangladesh, every morning tuns of leaves arrive at the factory out of the fields and get dried and crunched. Very interesting, also for the kids who are fascinated. Apparently, tea bags don’t grow directly on the tree…

Sunrise – Mossey Forest

When we book the tour, the inform us you have to be lucky at this time of the year (September). We either get a marvellous sunrise above the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands or a cloudy sky. Not a nice gamble when you know you have to get up at 5:30 am. But if you don’t take a risk, you can’t make a game they say… So we get picked up by a ‘genuine’ jeep, Hanne’s day is already a success! Together with some other early birds, we drive into the highlands. Despite some lightning at the horizon and a dark sky, we still hope to see some sun. But unfortunately… no sun at 7:15 am. Nevertheless, a precious moment to experience the tranquillity of nature at sunrise and the beautiful views on the tea plantation.

Cameron Highlands Jeep Mossy Forest Boh
The most exciting part for the kids is travelling in a real jeep

The jeep goes up a very steep road to the mossy forest. This is the highest point of the Malaysia peninsula. The forest feels a bit as fairylike, with all the moss, a bit creepy and mysterious at the same time. The rain and fierce wind give it an Avatar feeling. Or was it Game of Thrones? Probably even more beautiful when the sun is shining, because now it is more of a foggy forest. The rain, however, does fit the environment. We make a short walk on the paved trails and enjoy the forest. Hanne and Yuna, however, are glad to return to the jeep, as it is the first time we have genuinely are cold.

Mossy Forest Malaysia Tour Cameron Highlands
The Mossy and foggy Forest turns out to be beautiful

What did we think about the Cameron Highlands?

Do we think the Cameron Highlands are worth a visit? Definitely! The view of the rolling hills and the tea plantations was breathtaking and one of the highlights of our trip. We do have some concerns, however…

It is quite commercial and very busy. So we do not advice to visit the region in the weekend or on a national holiday. There can be traffic jams of more than eight hours just to go from one side of the town to the other! If we were to go again, we might rent a car. It gives you the freedom to discover the highlands by yourself and not be dependent on the tours. You can also avoid the most commercial places that way. On the other hand, the Mossy Forest, for example, can only be reached with a 4WD.

We stayed here for four nights, and that was actually just a little bit too much (even more because are nights weren’t the best and we missed a lot of sleep). 2 nights would have been enough to visit all the highlights you want. As we are on a long term trip however and with the kids, we want to travel slow now and then, it was ok after all.

After the Cameron Highlands, we leave for George Town. The food city of South-East Asia! Please leave us a comment on what you think about our adventures. Have you been to the Cameron Highlands? Let us know what your thoughts on the place were in the comments below this article.

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