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Hideout In The Hills

MY Malaysia
Hideout In The Hills

Lush greenery, scenic views, refreshing temperatures and varied accommodation to suit any fancy make CAMERON HIGHLANDS an ideal destination for a family getaway

Located in the state of Pahang on its north-western tip, Cameron Highlands is arguably the best highland resort in the country, situated at more than 1,800 metres above sea level – covering an area of 71,000 ha. If you feel like getting away to the cool mountain resort, then Cameron Highlands is the place worth a visit, with its lush valleys, tea plantations and strawberry farms.

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Verdant tea plantations as far as the eyes can see

It was discovered in 1885 by William Cameron, an English surveyor working for the British Colonial Government. He was said to have described what he saw as “a sort of vortex on the mountains, while for a (reasonably) wide area we have gentle slopes and plateau land.”

But the plateau on the Main Range or Banjaran Titiwangsa, was only developed into a hill station in the 1920s by British Administrator Sir George Maxwell, who after a nine-day visit compared the “oval-shaped terrain” to Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka and Baguio in the Philippines.

The seed was sown for the birth of Cameron Highlands as a hill station – and soon after both the British and locals started settling there as schools, hotels, and houses were built, followed by a nine-hole golf course.

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Vegetable farms in abundance (L); tea plantation worker harvesting tea leaves

The fertile soil and the cool weather all year round, coupled with abundant rainfall meant the farmers and tea planters were getting a good harvest.

Malaysia’s Premier Hill Resort

Cameron Highlands in the last century had mushroomed into the country’s premier hill resort with a population of more than 50,000 people.

Most of the hotels, resorts, apartments and shopping centres are found in the townships of Tanah Rata and Brinchang, while most of the locals who are engaged in agricultural activities stay at the townships of Ringlet, Bertam Valley, Kuala Terla and Kampong Raja.

Although most colonial-style cottages and bungalows have been converted into boutique hotels, the area still maintains much of its English countryside atmosphere, with the peoples’ attitude being very laid back and relaxed.

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Streets of Tanah Rata (L); enjoy English ‘colonial’ countryside atmosphere

Cameron Highlands may be a holiday resort but it has all the trappings of a bustling town with amenities that included banks, clinics, restaurants and a shopping mall.

Going there during school holidays or long public holidays, you may end up getting caught in a traffic jam especially along the road leading into Tanah Rata or from the town to Brinchang.

Cool Stays

With lots of rain all year round, it is cool during the day and cold at night and in the early mornings. With night temperature sometimes dropping to as low as 15°C, it is easy to wake up to a misty surroundings most mornings.

Staying in Cameron Highlands has never been easier, with many hotels from the biggest to the smallest, resorts and apartments, mostly in Tanah Rata and Brinchang. These accommodation come with all the amenities of a hotel in the city. For those who prefer ‘no frills’, then there is abundant budget hotels and lodges.

Attractions

Tea Plantations: There are two famous tea plantations in Cameron Highlands. The first is the Boh Tea Plantation, started in 1929 by John Archibald Russell, the son of a British administrative officer. The second is the Bharat Tea Plantation, which began operations in Tanah Rata in the 1950s. Although black tea is the most popular, you can also find Oolong and green tea being served.

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The Tea House at Boh Tea Plantation (L); Bharat Tea's Cameron Valley

Boh Tea Plantation is the largest estate covering an area of more than 3,200 ha. The plantation and factories are open to the public at Habu in Ringlet and Sungai Palas in Brinchang.

Bharat Tea Plantation, meanwhile, covers an area of just over 800 ha and you cannot miss it if you’re travelling up from Tapah as it is located along the road from Kuala Terla to Tanah Rata.

Strawberry: Given its cool climate, Cameron Highlands is suitable for growing strawberry. Most farms are located in Tanah Rata and Brinchang. Visitors can try their hand at strawberry picking, especially if you visit between the months of May and August.

Strawberries here are grown by hydro-phonic method in greenhouses to ensure high production.

The popularity of the fruit had also ensured that most restaurants and cafes offer strawberry-flavoured pies, cakes, ice cream, waffles, chocolates and drinks.

In addition, the fruit had also led to a booming cottage industry. If you pop into a local shop, chances are you can pick up many different kinds of souvenirs such as key chains, pillows, clothing, toys and other merchandise – all strawberry-themed.

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Strawberry-picking is a must when in the highlands (L); Kea Farm features a vegetable market selling traders’ and farmers’ produce and goods

Kea Farm: An agricultural district with its central feature being a vegetable market along the main road, buzzing with visitors on weekends. Check out the local traders’ and farmers’ produce and goods – from morning till evening.

KC Kuang & Sons: Located in the Blue Valley, about an hour out of town, this is the only grape farm in Cameron Highlands.

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Visit the only grape farm in Cameron Highlands (L); marvel over gorgeous species of butterflies at the Butterfly Garden

Butterfly Garden: Located at Kea Farm, this is a live insect gallery and zoological garden. It features a large enclosure along a hill slope that houses several species of butterflies and live insects, along with other native creatures. Also, don’t miss the reptile exhibit, aviary and small petting zoo.

Show Gardens: Cactus Valley, Rose Centre, Rose Valley, Camelia Garden and Lavender Garden, among others, feature local and exotic flowers such as roses, camellias, carnations and cactus, and most also have flower nurseries with plants for sale.

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Nurseries brimming with local and exotic flowers at the Butterfly Garden

Bird Watching: Bird watchers would be happy to know that many guesthouses do organise bird-watching tours. Expect to see species such as the mountain peacock pheasant, yellow breasted warblers and silver eared mesias.

Nature Trails: If you’re into a bit of adventure and hiking, you can choose from a number of hiking trails available. Each is tagged with a number and a walk on any of these may allow you to encounter some wildlife such as monkeys, various type of birds, squirrels and insects.

If it’s not raining, enjoy a trek to Thompson Falls, the only waterfall in Tanah Rata.

You may also take a broadwalk for about 2km from the main road to reach the summit of Mount Brinchang; the summit can also be reached by car. If you’re lucky, you may even spot the world’s biggest flower, the Rafflesia. It gives off a foul smell and has a penchant for devouring insects.

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Enjoy a trek to Thompson Falls (L) or perhaps spot the world’s biggest flower, the Rafflesia

Sri Thandayuthapani Swami Temple: A Hindu temple set up by the Tamil community living in Cameron Highlands, believed to have been built in the 1930s. It features multi-coloured Tamil Nadu-style sculptures created by artisans from India.

Sam Poh Temple: Built in 1972, this is the fourth largest Buddhist temple in the country. The red-yellow ornate temple, dedicated to Chinese explorer Admiral Cheng Ho, houses a series of huge statues and intricate tilework.

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Sam Poh Temple, the fourth largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia (L); native produce sold in abundance at the night market

Night Market: Located in Brinchang, the Night Market is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, where native products of Cameron Highlands are sold in abundance, including fruits, vegetables, tea blends, plants and souvenirs. There are also hawker stalls selling all kinds of Malaysian goodies.

Tudor Mansion & Lakehouse: The Tudor Mansion was built in 1937, a great place to soak in English countryside vibes over some tea and cakes. The Lakehouse complements the Tudor Mansion in that they may be the last remnants of Cameron Highlands’ colonial past.

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The Tudor-style Lakehouse                                                                                                             Photos© The Lakehouse

Golf: For golfers who forgot to bring their clubs and would like to play a round at the nine-hole Cameron Highlands Golf Course, you can rent clubs, shoes and other equipment at the club.

Orang Asli Villages: You are advised to engage a guide if you want to visit the villages to get a better understanding and in order not to offend their customs and sensitivity.

Mah Meri Art Gallery: In Tanah Rata itself, you’ll get to sample Orang Asli art by visiting the Mah Meri Art Gallery. Originally from Carey Island, the Mah Meri offers some wonderful wood-carving products such as masks, statues and sculptures.

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Visit an Orang Asli Village, and don’t forget to engage a guide                                            Photos © Tourism Malaysia

Getting There

Cameron Highlands is just a little over 200km from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA); grab a car/taxi/rental from KLIA and you should get there within 3 hours.

For those planning to begin the journey at the north of the peninsula, it’s about 250km away from the Penang International Airport. Another option would be to land at the Sultan Ahmad Shah Kuantan Airport – the journey would take approximately 4 hours by car.

The highlands are also easily accessible by road either from Tapah or Simpang Pulai if you are travelling on the North-South Expressway. 

Tips for Travellers

If you are planning on heading to Cameron Highlands during the rainy season, occasional landslides and slippery roads can make driving a bit of a challenge. Umbrellas and warm clothes are must have items if you are more used to the warmer weather at sea level.

 

Photos © iStock by Getty Images (unless otherwise specified)

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