Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cameron Highlands v.01 - In A Place Called Tanah Rata

Picture this. Undulating terrain of equidistant tea plants that stretch on for kilometers, fog that hovers in the early morning slumber, cool air blowing against your hair while you break into the mildest sweat as you hike around serene plantations, a kaleidoscopic spread of butterfly shaped petals, freshly picked strawberries that you handpicked yourself – and the corresponding juice delectably dripping down your chin as a bite lacerates the wounded flesh of your choice fruit. Add a dash of David Garrett playing Pablo de Sarasote on your iPod (or maybe a Jack Johnson or Metallica – whoever drives you to your Zen!) Heaven on earth!


Cameron Highlands (CH) has all the trappings of a perfect highland destination! Nestled on an elevation of 5,000 feet (1,500m) above sea-level in the state of Pahang, 121 km east of Ipoh, and 214 km north of the capital Kuala Lumpur, CH is Malaysia’s answer to Thailand’s Chiangmai and the Philippines’ Baguio City. (Nope, it’s not the very limited area of Genting Highlands.) Pine trees and rose gardens abound - and tea plantations blanket its land mass; Malaysia’s largest tea-producing region. Some areas also remind one of the quaint chalets of Devonshire. With a population of barely 35,000 despite its size that’s almost 3x bigger than Singapore, Cameron Highlands enjoys a laidback atmosphere.

There are eight towns in the Cameron Highlands. Brinchang (its biggest town), Tanah Rata and Ringlet are the three main townships among others such as Tringkap, Bertam Valley, Kuala Terla, Kampung Raja and Blue Valley. Tourist spots and shopping places are concentrated mostly in Brinchang and Tanah Rata.All buses arrive and depart in Tanah Rata which has the most number of varied accommodations. This is the reason why most tourists prefer to make Tanah Rata as their home base when in the area.

Pansies all over!

In 1885, William Cameron, a British colonial surveyor discovered the plateau during a mapping expedition. The fame of Cameron Highlands then grew when British capitalists realized its agricultural potential for growing tea, then a prized commodity. These days, the highlands sub for a major tourist destination.

Apart from the cool weather, key attractions in Cameron Highlands include a butterfly farm,strawberry farms, rose gardens and vegetable gardens. There are also the Brinchang Hindu Temples and the Sam Poh Chinese Mahayana Buddhist Temple. Other features include Cactus Point, Cactus Valley and theBOH Tea Plantation. There is Market Square, the Cameron Highlands Time Tunnel Galeria (at nearby Kea Farm) and accommodation at the Kampung Taman Sedia Homestay, Tanah Rata and The Smokehouse Hotel.

There is a minor problem with visits in Cameron Highlands: During the rainy season (November-March), intermittent landslides become a source of inconvenience as these bus schedules are temporarily cancelled to clear the rubble. During my visit, travels to and from this “town” were suspended for more than a day.

More importantly, one has to secure his bus ticket as soon as possible as busses that head back to KL aren’t as numerous as I thought they would be! I practically “begged” the lady at the ticket counter to give me a seat – a “space” – I was willing to stand all the way through the ride! The departing bus was the only bus leaving for the day. Others had their “holiday” to avoid landslide troubles. I waved my eticket at her face and with all the theatrics I could muster, I employed all the dramatics I could muster! Begged like I never had! After a 2 hour wait, she finally opened her cabinet! Gosh! She had several available tickets! I wonder why I had to beg! To cut the long story short, I got back to KL and hopped on a taxi to catch my flight back to Manila. Just in the nick of time!

More pansies!

I bought my postcards nearby! This is part of the strip of shops in Tanah Rata, Cameron Highland's backpacker country!

The main strip of shops at Tanah Rata. This small lane is also the main highway (Jalan Simpang Pulai). To the left is the Bus Terminal. Some 100 meters further ahead is the Tourist Information Office. Shops, restaurants, ATM machines, postcard and souvenir shops, a post office can be seen along this row.

A walk among tea plants. This photo only courtesy of www.backpacker.com.tw.

A view from a moving bus!

This map only courtesy of www.bjaya.com.

Up Next: The Road to and From Cameron Highlands (More Info!) - http://eye-in-the-blue-sky.blogspot.com/2010/02/cameron-highlands-v02-road-to-and-from.html

This is the Eye in the Sky!


Katlyn said...

Wow! The place looks gorgeous. I love cold weather and will definitely reserve at a hotel in Cameron Highlands for at least a week.

eye in the sky said...

Me too. Returning there in a month's time.