The thing that was so nice about the Cameron Highlands was the cool temperature. It’s a few hours from KL, up a tightly winding road and away from the thick heat and pollution in the city. A number of little towns are perched here and there over quite a wide spread in the mountains. We stayed in Tanah Rata, one of the longer established towns, and a popular holiday spot for Malaysians and international travelers. Actually there were heaps of white tourists, mostly backpackers. On the first night we had a delicious steamboat dinner and a passing Canadian exclaimed, “oh it’s like fondue!” (well…sort of…not really…)
After missing the turnoff and driving around for ages, we made it to the Sungei Palas BOH tea plantation. The building is an airy and light modern structure cantilevering out over the plantation, with a stunning view of velvety green blanketed hills and the winding rows of tea crops (“like brain cells” dad said). We had tea and odd, triangular scones, and Lachy and I wandered through the factory to see the stages of tea being processed (the others weren’t really interested, so we didn’t opt for the longer tour).
Then down for a local lunch, followed by strawberry picking. There are heaps of strawberry farms, all proclaiming you can pick your own strawberries. I didn’t manage to get a photo of most of the signs, but favorites were ‘self picking strawberries’, ‘self plucking strawberries’ and the simple yet direct ‘pluck yourself’. We got some gorgeous, delicious ones from a place near where we had lunch, which said on a hand written sign that they used a special Japanese music technique called ‘sonic bloom’. I also indulged my 9 year old half-Asian self and bought a souvenir strawberry pillow, which the others all thought odd but I think it’s marvelous.
Lachy and I went for a stroll in the late afternoon, watching locals and backpackers play football, kids speeding around on motorbikes that seemed far too big for them, and following an overgrown, yet signposted path to an unknown destination. It felt a bit like following the yellow brick road as the jungle got denser around us, and when two guys appeared on the path behind us I felt a moment of trepidation. But they soon overtook us and disappeared ahead. Then, suddenly, the path opened out into a huge, deserted clearing with benches and a playground. A small river and a pretty little waterfall rushed to one side. We wanted to follow the mossy path to the waterfall, but it was already getting dark so we turned back.
We drove back down the winding road a while until we reached the Lakehouse, a mock-Tudor style hotel. We had been watching a bit of Fawlty Towers earlier in the day, and as the tall, skinny and smiling manager strode forward to greet us, Nick started whistling the theme tune. Although it did feel somehow Fawlty-esque, thankfully there were no madcap mishaps. I had one of the most delicious steaks ever, and a tasty strawberry mojito (“ah, we call ourselves the mojito capital!” the manager proudly proclaimed). We were also given a tour of one of the beautiful guest rooms; I’d love to stay there one day. So unlike anywhere else in Malaysia.