That is one word that would most certainly sum up Cameron Highlands. For me a quick trip to the highlands is the best way to, quite literally, cool off- both from the hectic buzz of Kuala Lumpur and its hot humidity. It is popular even among Singaporeans and its cool clean air also makes it a lovely romantic getaway for honeymooners.
A Walk Back in Time
When you are in Cameron Highlands it is easy to make-believe that you are in England. It isn’t just the overall ‘feel’ of the place- some of the old buildings, particularly the bungalows, are literally reminders of its Colonial past.
Cameron Highlands was first discovered in the late 1880’s by a British colonial government surveyor, William Cameron, during a mapping expedition. British planters soon came to recognise its potential as a tea plantation- tea being a coveted commodity at the time. It also became popular among the British as a place to escape the heat of the lower grounds of Malaya, as the country was known at the time.
Strawberries ‘N’ Cream, Scones ‘N’ Tea
Even to this day it is still known for its tea plantations and strawberries- something you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else in Peninsular Malaysia. In fact, it is common knowledge that Cameron Highlands is the biggest tea region in the country as well as one of the main suppliers of fresh vegetables and fruit, which are found in abundance in its night or morning markets. I personally love being there on a Saturday evening when peddlers sell delightful snacks such as corn-on-the-cob or my personal favourite, deep-fried oyster mushrooms- delicious on a crisp cool evening. The stalls also sell everything from strawberries to cacti as well as the usual trinkets for tourists.
Although there has been quite a bit of development in the highlands itself as well as its surrounding areas, this has not detracted from its natural beauty. Whenever I’m there I always take the opportunity to not only soak in the surroundings, I also make it a point to visit any of the tea plantations and just sit in the sun, eating scones with cream and sipping freshly brewed tea. One could even see how tea is processed if one wishes to.
And For The More Adventurous…
Cameron Highlands is on the Titiwangsa Mountain Range what is known as the spine of the Peninsular. Hence its jungle trails and mountains make it an ideal spot for those who are more adventurous and want to break a bit of sweat. I’m less outgoing but I do know that there are probably 10 different and beautiful jungle trails you can choose to take, the Parit Waterfall Trail being one of the more popular ones as it is not too difficult and has pretty picnic areas where you can rest after your walk.
As for mountains, you can take your pick of Gunung Brinchang, its highest peak, or the smaller mountains, Gunung Berendam and Gunung Jasar. Whichever you choose, the hike up is worth it for the beautiful view that awaits at the end. Guides are available for hire at a small fee, or just take a map and try your luck although the former option would be better if you’re unfamiliar with the terrain.
There is plenty of accommodation in Cameron Highlands, both in and outside the town centre. However, it would be advisable to book in advance especially during Malaysian and Singaporean school holidays to avoid having to rush your journey. Most of the accommodation would generally be full by mid-afternoon during peak season, so it’s a good idea to plan your trip properly especially if you are travelling with young children or senior citizens. If you’re used to warmer weather, remember to be prepared as it can get quite chilly especially on a rainy evening.
What I love most, though, is that I can choose to stay in one of the apartment hotels or an old bungalow and make believe I’m in another place and time. Whether you’re lazing on the hills or trekking through the jungle, there’s something almost mystical about its beauty. As I said earlier- simply idyllic!