Escape the heat and dust to the cool Cameron Highlands. Story and pictures by ZAHARI ZAKARIA.
PART of the joy of holidaying in Cameron Highlands is the journey itself.
There are two ways to get there by road. First is the older winding road from the Tapah toll exit of the North-South Expressway. Then, there’s the newer, easier route from the Simpang Pulai toll exit.
Both routes are challenging to take, especially when it rains. You need patience and good driving skills to maneuver your car at some of the sharp corners of the winding roads and to overtake slower vehicles.
Driving along the Tapah road unveils the rolling mountains, deep valleys and the beautiful Lata Iskandar waterfalls. Along the roadside are simple huts where the Orang Asli (indigenous people of Malaysia) sell handicraft and jungle products. The temptation to stop at these stalls is strong, especially for those who can’t resist petai (a local bean) and other jungle vegetables and flowers.
The Simpang Pulai route is less winding and the road is wider with two lanes on one side at some stretches. Vegetable farms dot the landscape, especially near Kampung Raja.
The journey on either routes takes one to two hours, depending on your driving speed and the number of stops you make. The weather in Cameron Highlands is very unpredictable, depending on the month, but the average day temperature is about 33C and at night 22C. For most people who come from other places, it’s time to “show off” their sweaters and leather jackets. But, what a picture of contrast you will make when you see the locals move about in their shorts and singlets!
Kings of the Mountain
The first town that greets you in Cameron Highlands is Ringlet. It’s the first settlement on the highlands and most visitors usually bypass it.
After Ringlet, you reach Tanah Rata, Camerons’ biggest town with rows of shop houses along its main road. It has the feel of a resort town with many eateries and shops catering to tourists.
You’ve to be more alert when you drive further up the highlands. It’s not because the road is more challenging but because your driving skills will be challenged by the “kings of the mountain” – those famous and notorious modified Land Rovers used by the highlanders to get in and out of their farms and other workplaces.
Often, these rugged four-wheelers are overloaded with vegetables and other farm produce. These mean machines seem to appear out of nowhere and you’ve to be deft at your driving so as not to collide with them.
For many, a must-do in Camerons is sipping tea and having scones at English-styled inns or tea houses. For a breathtaking view of tea plantations while you sip the golden brew, don’t miss the Bharat Teahouse located between Ringlet and Tanah Rata and the Boh Teahouse in Sungai Palas. While there, you can enter the tea plantations and even pick some tea leaves yourself.
At vegetable and fruit farms, you get to learn a thing or two about farming. At strawberry farms, you even get to pick your own strawberries. Fresh strawberry jam is an excellent buy.
For dinner, nothing beats having steamboat in the cool night. Ferns Restaurant at Hotel Rosa Passadena serves delightful steamboat at RM25 per person. You get fresh Camerons vegetables to go with pieces of chicken, fish, prawns, meatballs, crabsticks, tofu and other ingredients. Order Strawberry Delight – thick, juicy and yummy strawberry juice to go with your steamboat at Ferns.
You can’t leave Camerons without going to one of its markets. Not only can you get fruits and vegetables but you’ll also be spoilt for choice when it comes to flowers – both fresh and dried – and also cacti in a multitude of colours.
Look also for Camerons’ homegrown apples at the wet markets. The fresh apples are sweet and juicy and the locals say they are good to cool the body.
The markets there are so enticing that you can’t help but to buy and buy. But don’t be surprised if some of these items are much cheaper in hypermarkets in Kuala Lumpur! But hey, what’s a trip to Camerons without shopping?
Where To Stay
For accommodation, there are many choices — from five-star to budget. A local chain of hotels offers three types of lodging: Rosa Passadena (three-star); Hotel Rainbow (budget); and Casa dela Rosa (boutique). Both Rosa Passadena and Hotel Rainbow are located in Brinchang town while Casa dela Rosa is in Tanah Rata.
Named after a rose, Rosa Passadena has nicely furnished rooms and penthouse suites. Altogether, there are 120 units. The weekday rate is RM128 nett per room per night (twin sharing) with breakfast. Weekend rates are slightly higher. The hotel arranges sightseeing tours for its guests. For details, call 05-491 2288 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The hotel is located at No. 1, Bandar Baru Brinchang, Cameron Highlands.
Driving Map and Driving Direction to Cameron Highlands: