After landing in Kuala Lumpur (30 deg.) then spending over a week in Penang (35 deg), the Cameron Highlands (max 25 deg) was heaven for a couple of Tasmanians.
The road into the Cameron highlands is 1 lane, with many small villages and way to many cars, buses and other road users. We took a bus from Penang to Tahna Rata. Expected travel time: 5hrs. Actual travel time: 9hrs. The traffic jams were so unexpected! The fact that we would be sitting on the bus for so many hours, without amenities, we had no idea! Maybe we would not have drunk so much water and we would have definitely taken some food on board! Alas, despicable me was playing and the bus driver was singing, so it was an entertaining ride.
I had done some reading on blogs about the Cameron Highlands before going. To be honest I was shocked at how touristy it was. Blogs say it is the “ultimate Malaysia destination to get away from it all” (or something to that effect). The dream of hiking through the wilderness and ending up at the luscious, green, remote tea plantations is a myth! Realistically, you walk along the road which is often in standstill from poor traffic flow and when you finally reach the tea plantation, you are crowded by tourists! I got stopped countless times by young Asians who wanted a photo with me! It was not quite the relaxing day I had expected. Since the Cameron highlands is a famous area for tea plantations, I will tell you about my tea experience.
Tea Plantations, Cameron highlands Malaysia.
We visited the Boh Tea Plantation which was 8 km outside of Tahna Rata. We got a cab (due to illness) from Tahna Rata direct to the tea plantation. That was a fun ride in itself! My brother hailed a really old school cab. A a car enthusiast, he was in heaven sitting in the old school Mercedes. The crazy old driver certainly knew how to get value from his time. He picked up a mate on the way, dropped him home and then picked up 2 hikers also on the way! The drive was slow due to traffic jams. Definitely DO NOT go to the Cameron Highlands on weekends or during local school holidays!!! Only 8km, but 1hr later, we arrived at the Boh Tea Plantation, situated in a gorgeous valley in the Cameron highlands.
At the Boh tea plantation was the show room, tea room, souvenier shop (rather pricey – you are better buying the same tea in the town) and a shed showing the production of the tea. As a tea enthusiast the tea leave drying and preparation process was pretty cool to see. After seeing the production of tea, we took a walk through the tea plantation itself. Even if we were not meant to walk there (really not sure about that) we finally got away from the crowds and could enjoy the gorgeous view of the valley below.
Tasting tea at Boh Tea Plantation.
We lined up for what seemed like ages to buy some snacks and of course, tea! I was quite disappointed when we got served a MUG (that’s right, a thick, chunky, not tea-like, mug) full of hot water, with a teabag. For some reason a bad cup always includes bad tea. I tried the jasmine green tea. It had a very strong flavour and the mug really did not help that. After finally finding a table and eating, we enjoyed the view from the tea house – from which you can look right down the valley.
We were getting exhausted from the tea plantation by early afternoon, so decided to call ac ab back to the hostel in Tahna Rata. HAHA. Bad idea. Due to traffic jams, taxis do not pick you up from the plantations. You gotta walk!
Strawberry farms and tea farms line the road as you drive through the highlands.
Food in the Cameron Highlands
The mixture of Indian, chinese and Malay food in Malayia is amazing. I am a lover of a good curry and also chinese cuisine. Malaysia is the place to get the best of all.
The cost of eating out in Tahna Rata is very cheap. This was great for us – I often like to cook using hostel kitchens to save money, but our hostel had no kitchen here. Every meal set us back less than $3. 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.
I found a small fresh food market in the mornings towards the end of the main road, just off the road itself. Buying fresh produce is usually my style, however nothing here got me excited – the curries were too good to refuse! In the evenings, here they served very cheap 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 knew 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.
Aside to the traffic – it was a great area to stay in for a few days.
Now you have heard part of my experience, Check out my guide to the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.