The Cameron Highlands. Escape the heat and humidity and get in touch with nature and tea!
Where to stay – backpackers in the Cameron Highlands?
The backpackers central is definitely Tahna Rata. There are a few smaller towns (e.g. Brinchang) however these are more suited to Hotel-goers.
We stayed at 2 hostels while we were in the Cameron Highlands.
- Two Pines Hostel: I found the room very damp and not comfortable. We also arrived late in the night and the guy tried to rip us off. We haggled the room for 3 down to 80rm for 1 night. I would not recommend staying here.
- Fathers Hostel. Just around the corner from Two Pines is Fathers. I found this hostel to be fabulous. My dorm bed was 20rm. They have lots of comfy lounging areas on the balconies, a café, small kitchenette and the hostel is genuinely comfortable. I highly recommend Father’s on price and comfort.
Food in the Cameron highlands. How much does food cost in Tahna Rata?
- 1 meal is approximately 6-20RM ($2-$6)
The cost of eating out in Tahna Rata is very cheap. This was great for us as our hostel had no proper kitchen here. Every meal is going to set you back less than $3, in the local restaurants. There are a few aimed at tourists which will cost more. I often had a Roti as a meal (cost: 40cents!), which is an indian bread served with a curry sauce. It is simple, but I couldn’t get enough of it. Another cool thing about it is that you see the chefs making the breads in a public space in the restaurant. This particular restaurant is called Restoran Kumar, located on the main road.
I found a small fresh food market in the mornings towards the end of the main road, just off the road itself. In the evenings, here they served very cheap, local Malay meals from small stalls. Here is definitely where the locals eat – there were not many tourists to be seen. This was quite nice though, as the prices are real Malaysian prices (some meals <$1). One downfall – the menu was not translated to English! Thankfully, we are all familiar with a few dishes, such as the traditional Mee Goreng and Laksa!
There were also a couple of supermarkets between the market area and the stretch of restaurants. Like always in Asia, it is difficult to find snacks that are not completely full of sugar and high GI carbohydrates in these mini supermarkets. Take a good stack of healthy snacks with you.
Things to do in Cameron Highlands
- Tea Plantations in the Cameron Highlands
The Boh Tea Plantation is approximately 8km outside of Tahna Rata. You could walk, or hail a cab and pay approximately 35rm for the ride up to the farm. At the plantation you will find a shed displaying the tea production process as well as a show room, tea tasting café and a souvenir shop. The building sits upon the hill looking over the hilly, lush, green valley. On a sunny day it is a glorious view from the verandah of the café. The café has a small collection of snacks and hot foods as well as of course, a large array of Boh Teas to try. I was a little disappointed in the cafeteria style of the café.
Tips for how to see the tea plantations in the Cameron highlands:
- Do not go on the weekend or during the local school holidays. The roads will be absolutely full (we learnt this lesson too late). 8km took 1 hr to drive through the hills along the 1 lane road.
- On the way back from the tea planataitons, be prepared to walk a long way – or – hire a driver for the full day, as the taxis will not pick you up, when there is a laot of traffic (which was every day when we were there).
- The shop and café are both rather expensive. I found prices for the same tea to be cheaper in the shops in the towns. However, drinking a tea with the amazing view is a must.
- If you are a tea enthusiast, I would assume you like nice tea cups with a fine rim. Prepare yourself to drink from a thick, heavy mug (a real tea enthusiast will know what I mean!).
- Hiking in the Cameron Highlands
There are multiple tracks winding through the hills of the Cameron Highlands. Many start from either Tahna Rata or Brichang. Many of the tracks are difficult to navigate, with steep slopes and unsigned paths. Perhaps this is a drive to make you hire a guide, however I met plenty of people who survived walking the tracks under the instruction of hostel staff members. Check with your hostel for a map and information
- Rafflesia Flower
The Rafflesia flower is one of the largest flowers in the world. It is also carnivorous – how cool is that! It is nearly impossible to find the flowers yourself, so it is recommended to take a tour. The Rafflesia flower tours drive you to the closest possible point and then guide you on a hike through low-lying rainforest for 1-2.5hrs.
Tip: Take old shoes, as you may get very muddy, especially after rain.
Other activities you can do in the Highlands include:
- Butterfly farm
- Picking strawberries
Both of which you can combine with the tea plantations as part of a day tour. These tours are provided by many companies and you can book from your hostel. Prices start from approximately 25RM for a half-day tour.
And when all else fails – eat! Enjoying the Indian restaurants along the main road, is my personal suggestion.
I hope this gives you all some inspiration and useful information for your stay to the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.
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