Monday, May 16, 2011

Tea and Trekking (Cameron Highlands, Malaysia)

The Cameron Highlands are Malaysia’s relief valve from the oppressive equatorial heat and humidity of the capital and the beaches. Gloriously cool and refreshing, the Cameron Highlands are gently rolling, misty hills, dramatic peaks and fertile soils filled with tea plantations, lush jungle trails, fruit and vegetable farms and weekend retreats.

Being the finest in natural air-conditioning, the Cameron Highlands are ridiculously busy and touristy on the weekends so two strong suggestions are to come during the week and to avoid the glitzy and clichéd tours.

Apart from the restful escape from the heat, the highlight of the area is the tea plantations (I’d recommend Boh Tea Estate). With sweeping torrents of emerald green tea plants smothering the hills all the way to the horizon, the plantations are a hive of activity. Strange aerial lawnmowers clip the leaves from the tops of the plants, gathering the valuable crop into a trailing sack. Others (mainly Indian and Nepalese immigrants) beaver away like manic barbers clipping the sides of the tea plants for further leaves. This process is repeated on each plant every couple of weeks giving a hedge-like appearance to the plantation.

The leaves are wilted (brings out the flavour), tumbled in trays, left for a time to oxidise, rolled and dried to produce the familiar leaves that make for the fine cups that many of us enjoy each day. Indeed, nothing is more relaxing than sinking into a comfortable chair, gazing over the highlands and sipping on a freshly brewed cup of tea.

Avoid the tours that ship visitors to an indigenous village (for a demonstration of blow-pipe hunting), a temple or two and a variety of honey, strawberry, butterfly, cactus and flower farms (but completely and utterly fail to capture the spirit and nature of the Malaysian highlands).

Instead, grab a map (the trail markings aren’t so good) from the main town of Tanah Rata and a rain jacket and follow one of the numerous trails. One good path wanders through lush and refreshing forests for around an hour to one of the areas tumbling waterfalls, Robinson Falls (where the trail continues onto the Boh Tea Estate).

Finish the day with a dinner of delicious satays and Chinese steamboat where you cook a mixture of vegetables, meat and seafood into a thin steaming broth at your table.

The Cameron Highlands is one of Malaysia’s best sights with a quaintly English feel to it. Enjoy the refreshing cool temperatures, lush greenery, the country cottages and discover the mysteries of tea making before sipping a delightful brew overlooking the sweeping hills and lush jungle vistas.

Photo Credit: Robinson Falls


Barbara Weibel said...

When I visited Malaysia last fall I was so mesmerized by Penang that I never left the island and missed the Cameron Highlands. But after reading this, it is officially on my list of "must sees."

Anonymous said...

Mmmmmmm, noting like a hot cuppa and a vista to soothe the soul.

meg said...

WOW! All that green refreshes me just looking at it! Wonderful imagery--I'd love to catch a glimpse of the ariel lawnmowers and manic barbers--great writing, as evocotaive as the images! Now on my list too. I am curious about your approach to travel Mark--have you done prolonged treks, or many one-off trips..,or both? Cheers, Meg

Mark H said...

@barbara: I personally like the Cameron Highlands more than Penang.

@anonymous: Indeed.

Mark H said...

@meg: I have done both long journeys and short trips. This was on an intervening day during a work trip a few years ago but more of the articles represent highlights from long journeys.

Travel Guide said...

Malaysia really rich in agriculture just like other asian countries. Nice Travel Trivia at Malaysia ^^.

Mark H said...

@travel guide: There seemed to be a lot of vegetables grown (esp the green leafy varieties) in the areas that I travelled.

Sendie said...

It's really a very beautiful natural scenery, is unimaginable how fun while walking amongst the tea trees.
It turned out that Malaysia does have a very beautiful nature ..

Mark H said...

@sendie: I think this is the best spot on the Malaysian mainland.

cottasofia said...

woe what a nice place it is!n I really want to go there. I liked all picks.

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Mark H said...

@cottasofia: A special place in Malaysia with its cool temperatures in sharp contrast to the rest of the country.

Bryan Norman said...

Thanks for promoting the awesome sport of trekking.

Trekking looks hard at times, but it's really just a matter of pushing through whilst enjoying nature treasures. If you slip and fall, just get right back up and stride on.

The feeling of victory, elation and satisfaction when you reach the summit will make it all worth it.

Once you've scored your first peak, you're hooked for life.

Gunung Arong next. It's in Tanjung Resang, Johor. I dare you to try it :)

Mark h said...

@bryan: I admire your enthusiasm. Good luck with your treks through Malaysia.

Bryan Norman said...

Thanks Marc. Ditto to you :)

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