Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Landslides and Ticket Troubles en route Cameron Highlands

It was a folly to plan out a visit to the Cameron Highlands, a tea-planting resort village at the northernmost tip of the Pahang state of Malaysia. But it wasn't completely careless. I thought I had the right information. I was carrying with me some print outs of a Wikitravel article which said that it only takes 1 1/2 hours to get there, even an hour if you take this so-and-so route. Confident of my knowledge about malaysia's transportation system, it was "go".

I proceeded to the Puduraya Station, and within 30 minutes, I was on a bus along with several other backpackers. I was probably the single soul planning for a day-out, expecting to be back in KL before midnight.

As it happens, there had been rains in the region the last few days. The winding mountain roads of Cameron Highlands were fettered with landslides and the ride was agonizingly slow. Our 350-pound driver drove so slow - I was seated at his back - at 40-50 kph, and everysooften, he would stop somewhere and EAT! The whole ride stretched for hours until I realized it was going to be almost triple the amount of time I expected to get there.

Upon arrival, I hastened to get a return ticket, only to be told that all the transportation services headed back to KL have been cancelled for the day - EXCEPT the bus I took. BUT it was already fully booked! What was I to do? I wasn't ready to stay there overnight! I was just told to sit and wait with no guarantees for a ride. The bus was to leave at 4:30PM leaving me little time to gallivant the area. I resorted to the most basic maneuvers - begging! I had to literally beg the fat lady by the counter to just let me on the bus - I was ready to brave standing up the whole ride through. Finally, she looked at me intently - as if charmed by my smile - hehe - and finally relented. She pulled a bunch of tickets from under her table, then sold me one - at 23 RM (x14 = PhP).

The ride going to Tanah Rata, the main town was dazzling. You didn't even have to take local transport to see the famous tea plantations - it was on the road and stretches for kilometers of well maintained roads! Closest to heaven on earth! I remember seeing this same sight in the commercial blurbs of Jericho Rosales-Carmen Soo telenovela "Kahit Isang Saglit" (Just For A Moment).

My heart-pounding experience to get to the foggy, cool and picture-perfect Cameron Highlands was all worth the trouble.

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