I have to admit, I am an Anglophile. I love the English countryside (hmm, not so much the rain), British films and their dry humour, and afternoon tea traditions of scones, jam and cream. Unfortunately, I live in South East Asia which means I do not get the opportunity to visit the UK as often as I like. Moreover, the exchange rates between Malaysian Ringgit and UK pounds are not exactly in my favour. However, just a month ago, my friend had invited me to his hometown, Cameron Highlands for the weekend and had arranged for me to stay at a hotel refurbished like a traditional English-style inn. I could not resist but jumped at the opportunity.
Cameron Highlands or “Camerons” is the largest hill station in Malaysia and is a popular holiday destination among Malaysians for its cool temperate climate, sprawling tea plantations, strawberry farms, flower orchards and pristine natural forest. Prior to independence, Camerons was the favourite hill station among the British colonial administrators and planters to escape the oppressive heat in the lowlands, therefore resulted in a number of Tudor-styled buildings and bungalows in the highlands.
I stayed at the Planter’s Country Hotel which was formerly a boarding school in 1934 for European expatriate children and school teachers from England. The school was a branch of the famous Tanglin School in Singapore. Many decades later, the property was bought over by Mr. K. Balakrishnan who converted the site into a hotel and named the hotel as Bala’s Holiday Chalet. Subsequently in 2013, Mr. Balakrishnan renamed the hotel to Planter’s Country Hotel.
Perched on a hill slope and overlooking the forest, the Planter’s Country Hotel went through several refurbishments but the property owner preserved and maintained the original Tudor concept with interiors complete with vintage finds, modest furniture with floral prints, a fireplace, reading and drawing rooms, and picturesque gardens, thus giving the hotel a quaint countryside charm.
My room, the Balmoral Room, is one of the Raffles Suite cottages accessed via a short steep walk up the hill. I absolutely loved my room as it encapsulated the very essence of a highland lodge – luxurious white pillows and duvet cover and cream-coloured walls contrast against dark headboard and wooden beams with red and white checkered curtains and cushion covers adding a splash of colour to the entire ensemble.
The room also has a short flight of stairs leading to the attic. I’m not sure if previous hotel guests who stayed in the Raffles Suite cottages actually spent time in the attic because ventilation is poor which makes the place rather stuffy. There are two day beds in the attic but I won’t recommend sleeping on them for they are a little dusty.
Guests will find that there is no air-conditioning in the rooms because there isn’t a need for it for the climate in Camerons is rather cool with temperature sometimes goes down as low as 12 degrees Celsius at night.
The bathroom is alright though a little damp, given the weather condition. The one thing I found slightly irritating was that the shower head was not installed on the wall which meant that I didn’t have the pleasure of hot steam while I lathered myself with soap. And it isn’t pleasant when the air is cold L I’m not sure if this is just my bathroom or all of the Raffles Suite cottages have this defect.
Planter’s Country Hotel is known for their tea and scones, and so it was essential for me to have afternoon tea in the Rajah Brooke Tea Room, tucking into scrumptious scones with homemade jam and cream. I did not dine at their British India Restaurant – apparently they serve delicious curries and their specialty is the Indian set dinner of chicken Kashmiri, biryani and masala fish or prawns.
Guests are also able to book guided tours via the hotel – jungle trekking day trips to Gunung Brinchang (Mount Brinchang at 2,000m above sea level) and Mossy Forest, and visits to Sungai Palas tea plantations, strawberry farms and village settlements of the indigenous people.
Initially I was worried that I might not be able to enjoy the hotel facilities or soak in the ambience of the hotel because I was only staying a night and my friend was whisking me around town to meet his friends and to visit a few vegetable and strawberry farms. But I managed to spend a couple of hours at the hotel on Sunday morning, catching up on writing. Surrounded by gardens and flowers, it was an ideal setting for me to write my articles peacefully, a muse so wonderfully inspiring.
I had the English lodge experience overlooking lush greenery of Malaysian rainforest, cool climate, afternoon tea with scones…and an hour before I checked out of the hotel, it rained. Now you can’t get any more English than that!
*My stay at the Planter’s Country Hotel was generously discounted in exchange for this review. Opinions expressed in this post are my own.
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