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