Cameron highlands

Cameron highlands tea plantations
Tanah Rata, Malaysia


Despite barely any sleep in the arctic conditions of the ridiculously cold air conditioning that cannot be changed, I was up early for my bus to Tanah Rata – the Cameron Highlands. A perfect breakfast – condensed milk on toast. How have I managed the past 5 weeks without condensed milk?!

I left plenty of time to walk to the Pudu Raya bus station, which is on the other side of Chinatown. However, it barely took me 10 minutes! Looked a lot further on the map! I had already prebooked my bus, but lucky I still had plenty of time to spare; the bus station was awfully confusing.

The first confusing thing – getting into the bus station. There didn’t seem to be any entrances. The only one I could see, being from an over-the-road-bridge. So to get to that, I had to cross the road (surely the point of having a bridge is so that you don’t have people running across a busy road), but there were no entrances on my side of the road. Weird.

Next thing – getting my ticket. I have a print out that says is sufficient in itself to board the bus. However, I’m not convinced. A wander around the ticket counters and none have the same name bus that I am going on. And a check of the departures board, my 9.30am bus doesn’t appear to be there…..

After walking around for 10 minutes, still no luck. No information counter. So back up to the ticket counters. Then I spotted the tiny, tiny, tiny numbers on them – and I needed number 45. Which wasn’t even marked with the bus company name or destination. Can it get any more confusing?!

So I now have a more real looking ticket and apparently going from platform 15. Well, 9.30am came and went. And no bus showed up. At 10am, we were shepherded out of the bus terminal and back out onto the main road and halfway back along where I had just come! But finally, a bus! A really comfy bus! And we were off.

It’s a 4 hour bus ride north. I’ve made comment previously that road systems in KL look just like in England. Well, this journey was no different, on a motorway that, aside from the occasional palm trees, really could be in England. Except for the last 60km that were winding roads, up and up, round and round into the mountains. Passing through waterfall covered forests, farms and then finally the tea plantations. The scenery was really pretty.

The Cameron Highlands is a hill station and is the highest car-accessible point in Malaysia at 1,500m above sea level. The area covered is about the size of Singapore. There are several small towns dotted along the main road. I’m staying at the largest – Tanah Rata. And what this area is famous for – tea! There are many tea plantations dotted around, along with many farms. But I’m saving that for tomorrow.

1.1364688000.boh-plantation---sungai-palas

I went off insearch of lunch – met with restaurant after restaurant of amazing looking, cheap food. I had a banana leaf curry set and iced milo. It was so good!!! I love food in Malaysia. Makes a lovely change from the terrible food of the Philippines.

1.1364688000.banana-leaf-lunch

Being up in the mountains, it’s actually a bit chilly here!

Monday 1 April 2013

I started off the day with another of my favourites – roti pisang. And cheaper than I used to buy them in Semporna!

A day for exploring tea plantations!

I’ve never been to a tea plantation before. The beautiful green patches, stretching out over the hills. The Boh plantations are responsible for producing the largest amount of black tea in Malaysia. We stopped to look out over the hills of the Boh Sungai Palas plantation – so pretty. The guide explained the process for picking and processing the tea leaves, quite a bit of effort involved. The shiny leaves don’t smell like tea, it just smells of greenery. So pretty.

This plantation is over 80 years old and the tea plants are the original ones. The leaves are picked all year round, every 21 days from the same plant. At certain intervals, to prevent the plant growing too big (apparently upto 15m high!) they are pruned down. You could see the ones that had been pruned recently, they had no young bright green leaves on them, just dark leaves.

Mount Brinchang is the highest mountain in the Cameron highlands. At the top is an observation tower where you can look across to the tree covered Titiwangsa Mountains.

The mossy forest is so called because the floor and trees are covered in a layer of moss! We walked through a bit of normal looking forest before reaching the mossy forest. The ground was really springy and the trees totally covered in a variety of different brown and green mosses! Pitcher plants were everywhere – they look so cool! The bowl part growing off from the leaves – they varied in size from 2inches to the size of a normal waterbottle. And the forest was dotted with wild orchids. I love orchids and have never seen ones that look like these before. They were mostly small and apparently are quite rare and only found here in the Cameron highlands.

There were so many different types of plant around. The guide picked out many different species and explained all the medicinal uses. Many of the plants are used for medicines and various ointments – including tiger balm!

On the way back, we stopped at a butterfly farm. I’ve already been to several butterfly farms before, but I love butterflies! There were hundreds of them fluttering around and sitting on all the pretty plants! It was actually pretty good!

It was gone 1pm by the time we arrived back into the town. And I had an email from a supplier in KL stating that they are able to fix my underwater housing. But only if I visit their shop. Which is almost an hour out of KL. When will I have time to do that?! Well, the only answer being if I buy a new bus ticket and leave to head back to KL right now. With a bit of luck, there is a bus leaving in 20minutes. So after running back and forth, I have a ticket, have all my bags and with 5 minutes to go, I am ready.

So rather than finding myself enjoying a lovely lunch and visiting strawberry farms, I am leaving the cool highlands and heading back on a winding road to KL. Watching the terraces of tea disappear, slowly turning back into highways and then high rise buildings.

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