Cameron Highlands (Jan 22-24): A Mossy Forest, Tea Plantations, and a Cool Climate

The trip to Cameron Highlands was a tough one for me, mostly due to the fact that I don’t know how to control my liquids before long bus/train trips (you’d think I would learn by now…). Even though the main Cameron Highlands town (Tanah Rata) is just under 90km from Ipoh, it still takes about two hours to get there, and that completely depends on the traffic. Add in the twisty, bumpy roads and you’re in for a problem if you have a full bladder. We left Ipoh at 3pm after I paid 20 ringgit for my ticket ($6.53AUD), didn’t arrive until after 5pm, and I don’t think I’ve ever had to use the bathroom so bad in my life! I ran to the toilet in the bus terminal, only to find that it was chained and locked up! I ran across the street into the nearest shop (a phone store) and asked where the nearest bathroom was. They redirected me across the street and I replied that it was closed. The mom said something to her boy and he took me into the back of the shop and let me use their toilet (thank goodness!). I then walked to my hostel, which was called Father’s Guest House. The reason I chose this hostel was because I really wanted to do a full-day tour of Cameron Highlands (as opposed to a half-day tour), but the majority of the tour companies that I contacted weren’t offering full-day tours at that time. The hostel said that I was the only person to express interest in a full-day tour and told me to ask again once I got there. However, the stress of that was too much for me to handle since I only had one full day in Cameron Highlands, so I kept researching and found a tour with Eco Cameron for a full day (8 hours) and it cost me 90 ringgit ($29.38). Tanah Rata is a cute, little town that reminds me of a mountain resort like Banff or Jasper. I found my hostel, which was more of a huge house (very lovely), and I stayed in a 10-bed mixed dorm for 19.98 ringgit per night ($6.78). The only other person in my room was a guy from New Jersey named Ben (who had been travelling for the past five years). Ben and I went for dinner at an Indian Restaurant called Kumar Restaurant, where I got a massive dish of tandoori chicken.

Afterwards, we went back to the hostel so that he could work on his photography and I could work on my blog.

The next morning (Wednesday), I was meant to be picked up by my tour at 8:15am so I got up at 7 and tried to find a nearby restaurant called Yong Teng Cafe because they’re known for their pancakes. The restaurant is run by an old couple (probably in their 70s) and the lady is mute, so a lot of pointing and hand signals were needed in order to get information across. I got a banana pancake with coffee, and they were both so good! Plus they only cost me 8 ringgit ($2.61)!

I went back to my hostel and waited for the Range Rover to come pick me up. The only other people on my tour were a Dutch couple (likely in their 60s) and a girl from the United States who was teaching in South Korea (and she was only doing the half-day tour). We started by driving to the Mossy Forest, which was all the way up to an altitude of about 2000 metres. I’ve seen moss before, but nothing like this! Plus it was such a foggy morning so it added a mysteriousness to the forest.

The guide pointed out different plants, such as the carnivorous pitcher plants, which fill up with water and then trap insects to consume.

He also showed us berries to eat, citronella leaves, and other medicinal plants for treating wounds or helping with digestion. He took the smallest piece of moss, rolled it up into a ball and then squeezed it, and the amount of water that came out was amazing! He said that the amount of time it takes for plants to grow there is extremely long because of the high altitude. If we looked at a tree in the Mossy Forest and then looked at the same sized tree in the rainforest, it would only take 20 years for it to get to that size in the rainforest whereas in the Mossy Forest, it would take between 200-300 years. The path through the Mossy Forest was only about 20 minutes long but we kept running into other tour groups so it got quite crowded. After that, we walked up another 32 metres to the top of Mount Brinchang, which normally gives a 360 degree view of the entire area but since it was so foggy, we literally couldn’t see anything.

We walked back to the Range Rover and drove to the tea plantations, which Cameron Highlands is known for. One of the most well-known teas is BOH Plantations, which was started by a British man in 1929, and is continued to be run by his Granddaughter. We were given an hour to explore the BOH Plantations – 15 minutes for a tour through the factory and 45 minutes to do as we pleased. I walked around for a bit and then I went to the cafe and I’m not kidding, I had the best iced tea I’ve ever had in my life! I basically grew up on iced tea and even the Lipton iced tea doesn’t do it for me here, but this was amazing! I was so tempted to buy some, but I didn’t want to have to carry it around for the next three months.

After the tea plantation, we dropped off the girl who was only doing the half day tour and then we went to the Butterfly Farm, where we were able to see many different species of butterflies. I saw a massive butterfly and even got to hold it, it was beautiful!

The guide said that they only have a lifespan of two weeks, which is a shame. The Butterfly Farm also had many other insects and lizards, as well as some frogs, hedgehogs, and many flowers.

After we finished wandering around, the guide took us to a local restaurant (Restoran Yao Yat) for lunch, where I had chicken with mushroom sauce and rice, as well as a strawberry white coffee (I was so intrigued, and it actually wasn’t too bad!), which cost me 11.50 ringgit ($3.75). We then went to Raaju’s Hill Strawberry Farm, where I treated myself to a strawberry milkshake for 8 ringgit ($2.61).

It wasn’t the best strawberry milkshake I’ve had in my life, but it was probably the freshest! After the strawberry farm, we got about a half hour to walk through the local market and then we made a quick stop at Cactus Point, which was (as its name suggests) a shop that sells cacti as well as other plants.

We went to the local museum, which went through the history of Cameron Highlands and had a bunch of antique items throughout the museum.

Our last stop was the Sam Poh Buddhist Temple, which was very quiet and still wasn’t as nice as some of the other temples I’ve seen.

By the time I got to my hostel, I was completely exhausted! There was another guy who had moved into the room named Sam and he was on vacation from the Netherlands. We actually talked for quite awhile – it was another one of those moments where we just clicked so the conversation came naturally. I had the coldest shower in awhile – mind you, all of my showers in Malaysia have been pretty cold but I normally welcome them since I’m coming from 30+ degree weather. However, the Highlands are naturally a lot colder (around 19 degrees) because of the high altitude so it was a lot more difficult to get into a cold shower! When I got back into the room and complained about my shower, Sam asked if I had flipped the switch in the hallway before my shower (which controls the water heater). What?! NO! Why hadn’t anyone told me this before?! Maybe that’s why my showers have always been so cold… Sam and I went to get dinner and stopped at a place to have a couple skewers of satay before having an actual meal. There, we ran into Ben so he joined us for dinner. We went to another Indian Restaurant called Curry House, where I got Chana Masala and naan bread for 19 ringgit ($6.20).

We then went to a bar called Jungle Bar and each had a beer, then played some games before going back to the hostel.

On Thursday morning, I had to catch a bus to Taman Negara at 8am so I got up at 7 again, and Sam, Ben, and I went for breakfast at 7:30 before we all had to part ways. We went to another Indian place, where I just had roti and cheese with a curry sauce for 4.50 ringgit ($1.47). I then went back to the hostel and waited for my bus to come pick me up. Cameron Highlands is another area that is completely different from anything else, and I really enjoyed my time there even if it was short. I met some more great people and saw some more amazing things! Love always

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