Friday 24 May 2019

The Cameron Highlands

Over the last few years we have watched with interest many friends take the trip up to Malaysia’s highest point by road, the Cameron Highlands, and now we have followed suit. Armed with loads of tips from our friends we decided to do a two night, three day visit. One of the best pieces of advice was to not visit the highlands on a weekend. Good advice as we did head up on a public holiday and came home on a public holiday, but we did not experience any high volume traffic. 

Close up of a tea plant.

Also, we timed our visit with Ramadan, a religious time of fasting for Muslims during daylight hours. This time of fasting meant a lot eateries where shut during the day. And just to top off the excitement we both left with colds, which was unfortunate as we were bound for a much cooler climate and we don’t carry any warm clothes anymore. One thing that was upsetting was quite literally as we were leaving Matilda we noticed a mouse (god forbid it’s a rat), had been chewing on a loaf of bread, not good.

One of hundreds of Land Rovers we saw on our visit.
So 6 cans of bug spray later we closed up Matilda and took off for our 3 day sojourn. As a tip we have found rodents do not like insect surface spray at all and will abandon ship.  Our little hire car went like a champion giving us terrific fuel economy. It was great to be on the southern bridge, or the second bridge (odd term as is it the second from the south or the north?). It’s official bridge name is: Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge and is some 24 km’s long, lending itself to being the longest bridge in Malaysia and also the longest in South East Asia. The view looking east was stunning.

Great shot of the southern bridge linking Penang to the mainland.

We saw a few happy couples saying their 'I Do's'...amongst the tea plantations.
We left from Batu Uban Marina which is a government run facility and very well priced (as long as you don’t use a lot of water. At RM2 per 10 litres, that soon adds up). Our journey from the marina to our hotel took us around 4 hours. This included 1 stop for drinks, snacks and the loo and 1 other stop for a late lunch. The return journey with no stops took us 3 hours. You will need a Toll Card to cross the bridge and travel the highway. The charge was around RM17.60 on both legs.

Batu Uban is the marina where we left Matilda while we went to the Cameron Highlands.

Another one.
The highway to Ipoh was excellent and the road up the mountains was in very good condition. Construction of the road started in 1928, taking 2 years to build. Although the passing traffic was at times scary. I think we saw some of the most dangerous over taking situations we have seen since being in Asia, just downright dangerous. If you drive up yourself, always keep to your left, because those coming in the opposite direction will assume you will be out of their way as they whiz around others on blind corners and long winding bends. As we got higher the rain started which meant we couldn’t see any of the views, but it was glorious driving so high up in the clouds.

These are the workers cottages at the BOH tea plantation.

Tea as far as the eye can see, well almost.
As you approach the highlands it soon becomes obvious this is an incredible place. Ipoh must be the grand home of all things granite, marble and lime stone. They are literally carving out entire hill sides, taking the tops off the mountains and gauging huge scars in their mountain sides.  Apart from what must go on, the views of the limestone karats where spectacular. Then as you reach the top of the mountain ridge, the hydroponics are in mass. It’s like someone went berserk with the canopy nurseries. They cover every square inch of the hillsides, they mass the valleys and where it’s just too step they have actually built out structures so they can make man made growing fields. It’s mind boggling.

Taken from inside the car, the gauges in the mountain sides where substantial.

This shot was taken on the road to the Mossy Forest. The hydroponic tents all had vegies in them.

Not sure you can see it but mid centre is showing how they build these structures out on difficult terrain so they can keep growing.

This is showing the hydroponic tents running all the way up one of the many valleys.
Next are the townships. We are sure that many years ago the mountain communities where quaint with very endearing English Tudor style homes and hotels as it was commissioned to be a retreat mountain destination some 70 years ago. Now it’s totally out of control. Some of the roads are in bad condition in some parts due to the sheer volume of truck traffic and the water run off is alarming. We passed what was most likely the one main stream, which was quite wide in some parts and in the most gorgeous setting, but the water was the colour of clay, as there are no run off laws here. The rubbish was alarming. Some of it was so thick in some parts, the natural water flow was obstructed by the sheer volume of plastic, jute and hessian bags. The housing is mayhem, with structures appearing everywhere, some areas resembled shanty towns.

It had just started to rain and this guy was ready for it!

With much infrastructure being built the roads are suffering badly.

Another couple,,,,,
As you approach the town of Tanah Rata, which is the main township for the Cameron Highlands the craziness does subside to some degree but it’s fast becoming the same as its neighbours. If someone doesn’t control it soon, they will lose what little remaining charm it currently has. Something that was immediately obvious as one of the last remaining remnants from the Brit’s is their love of Land Rovers. There must have been 100’s of them everywhere we looked. It was incredible.

Yep, another one.
The area was first recognised in 1889 as a suitable area for a sanatorium, health resort and farming lands. Later during 1925 an experiment station was set up to grow: tea, coffee, fruits and vegetables. It was successful and construction of the road in was started not long after, in 1928. The British moved in bringing their love of tea, strawberries, roses and Tudor style housing, the rest is history. All these legacies are still remaining, but the farming is now in mass, the Tudor housing is still there, but now they build with the same facade as the old style, but it’s not the same when it’s on ten story apartment blocks.

We had decided to wing accommodation until we arrived, as there is so much to choose from in the highlands. After doing much internet research over our rissole sandwiches (on a freshly brought loaf) we chose The Casa dela Rose. A very good price was secured thanks to booking a room via Agoda. The hotel proved to be a good choice. We had a king size bed – quite a treat coming from our boat bed. A lovely view out of our window and our room had a bathtub. I (Deb) do miss not having a bath as a live on board. It was lovely and I got to have two very long hot baths – bliss. Being in a cooler climate we got to snuggle with a donner, ahhh it was lovely. The location of the hotel was glorious with beautiful vistas and very little traffic noise.

Our choice of hotel - swanky hey!!

The view out the front of our hotel.
Our full day was packed with enjoying the scenery and taking in all the local attractions. On our hit list was: a visit to The Lavender Farm, see some butterflies in a butterfly farm, go to a Cactus Farm, enjoy a dinner of Beef Wellington, a walk in the Mossy Forest, some bird watching, call into a strawberry farm, a visit to the local Buddhist temple, see the tea plantations and take in loads of scenery. We did make the decision to not pay to get into anything we had already seen elsewhere, being budget conscious we wanted to watch our spending’s.

This shot is zoomed right in, the haze is a bit thick. Its one of the many Tudor style houses amongst the tea plantations.
After a good night’s sleep, a lovely long hot shower and our complimentary breakfast we took off. It was nice to be in a cooler climate with a few more layers on. Our first target was to see a tea plantation or several. As you drive around, the mountain sides are covered in tea plantations. We headed off to the Cameron Highlands Tea Plantation. It was very impressive. You can stop along the winding road safely, jump out and take photos. Incredible views. It was the first time we had both seen tea plants, and were quite taken with the aerial view. But the plant itself is quite gnarly and we can only imagine how tough life is to be a tea picker as they walk among the bushes. They must get so many scratches and damage to their arms, hands and legs. We wanted to enjoy a local tea at a quaint tea house overlooking the plantation but as our life dictates the tea house was closed on Tuesdays!

You guessed it,,,another one.

The Lavender Farm which is a huge complex, has the tightest car park in history and they wanted to charge us on entry, so we declined our visit as we both know what lavender looks like, instead we took some photos out the front and took off.

Then it was off to the Mossy Forest for a walk, it was highly recommended so off we went to that. The road in was shocking and it didn’t get better. We did drive in for quite some time but it got to a point where the road was so bad we turned around. It’s been ruined by torrential rain, no road maintenance and quite large trucks moving local produce down the mountain.

The road to the Mossy Forest in a shocking state.
But it did put us in position to go visit the BOH tea plantation as its on the same road. Their plantation like the others is vast covering immense mountain sides. It was lovely to see some pickers out and we even saw a few brides having their photos taken amongst the tea bushes. The Mossy Forest is a well-known birding site which we were looking forward to, but we didn’t make it in. we did however see some very lovely little birds and managed to capture photos of them.

The road to the Mossy Forest, it was a hint of what was to come.

BOH's tea plantation.

Inside their shop which is a new addition and was still under construction as we walked around.
This was our choice of tea from BOH - their ginger & lime tea is really lovely.

Oh, another one.

White bags full of tea ready to be shipped out.

A shed in the BOH grounds and on the road to the Mossy Forest, love the roof!

Workers scattered on the hill side.

Tourist viewing platform built inside the tea plantation grounds
The foliage was so green everywhere we looked. Everyone’s plants and gardens where spectacular and the golf green opposite our hotel made for a lovely view during breakfast. It’s easy to see how the nurseries all do so well, we really loved all the colour. Bruce loved seeing so many orchids growing in the wild.

Oh dear, another one.

There are strawberry farms galore up there. We didn’t stop at these, we know what strawberry farms look like but it was mind boggling just the same. Their claim to fame for the tourist is to ‘pick your own’ and it seems to be working well with the Chinese tourist. We did want to see the Butterfly Farm but after seeing them we declined. They were in a sad state and not sure if any butterflies where going to be in there. We did however go to see one of many cactus farms. I was quite amazed they grew so well in such a cool climate. They are a fascinating little plant, well some not so little and their flowers are beautiful.

I love the tones of this plant - I have not edited this photo at all.

This is my favourite photo of the entire trip. This to me looks like a family of cactus with a mum and dad, a teenager and 2 toddlers.

Then off to the well-known Sam Poh Buddhist temple. This took some finding as the shanty towns have been built over the roads that Google maps knew. So after much mucking about up some very tight streets we found the temple, only to get there and find it in a state of refurbishment. We couldn’t even get into the car park, so that was a quick visit.

No its not a blury photo, its pouring with rain. This was as much of the Sam Poh Temple we could see.

Another one hahaha.
We also went to visit one of many water falls but by the early afternoon the skies had opened up, it was raining so hard we actually pulled over at one stage. The rain doesn’t slow down the local trucks or cars and their overtaking antics were something we were happy to let go by. The rain didn’t subside so we gave a walk into the waterfall a miss.

Once we realized the torrential afternoon rains were settled in we retired our driving around for the day, where we felt a bit safer back in our hotel room. Thanks to Bruce’s forethought we enjoyed a few beers, watched some sailing YouTube videos and then went down for dinner. Giving our original thought of devouring beef wellington a miss, as we would have been soaked just getting in and out of the car. So down to the hotel’s restaurant it was, we were the only guests. Our dinner of chicken chop with vegies and a Caesar salad was lovely. A nice end to a busy day of sightseeing.

This was the view out the back of our hotel room.

To finish off our last day we went down for our complimentary breakfast only to find we were the only ones there again, talk about feeling special. We had a lovely American Style breakfast freshly cooked for us. We checked out and made our way back to Matilda. No rain on the drive down, which meant we could take in the views which were stunning. We are so glad we went to experience the highly recommended Cameron Highlands, although wondering how much different it was looking back say 50 years. It was interesting to read that the Cameron Highlands is to this day remain Malaysia’s most popular tourist destination.


  1. Beautiful write-up on Cameron Highland. We haven't been there for sometime now. The last time we visited was maybe 8 years ago and people have been saying it's not as nice as it's use to be. I remember we visited it many many years ago when our kids were still little and stayed at the Strawberry Park apartment and the whole place were really nice and the weather were much cooler. For dinner everyday we had the typical asian steamboat on charcoal stool which kept us warm at the same time we enjoyed the abundance of fresh veggies there. Maybe we will make a trip up there sometime soon.