My friend had offered to take me to his hometown in Cameron Highlands over the weekend. It was in early March, and that was the best time to get away from the heat in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Cameron Highlands would not be heaving with tourists for it was before the school holidays.
However, with climate change and all, we have been experiencing rains in KL on and off since the start of the New Year. There was no need to escape the heat but I needed to escape from the city.
Cameron Highlands is one of our hill stations and is the largest in Malaysia with an area about the size of Singapore. The hill station is situated at 1,500m above sea level, the highest point in Malaysia accessible by road. The average temperature during the day seldom rises above 23 degrees Celsius and drops as low as 12 degrees at night.
Because of the cool temperate climate, Cameron Highlands or “Camerons” is a popular holiday destination among Malaysians. The main attractions are sprawling tea plantations, strawberry and vegetable farms, flower orchards and lush greenery.
Named after a British surveyor, Sir William Cameron who discovered Camerons in 1885 but failed to mark his discovery, the area was developed by Sir George Maxwell in 1925 for the British colonials, expats and planters who grew tea on the fertile mountain slopes. And that is why there are a number of Tudor-styled buildings and bungalows that were once occupied by the British to escape the oppressive heat and humidity in the lowlands. My 80-year old father still remembers his childhood days in Tapah, a small town at the foothills of Camerons – he used to see helicopters landing on the village green and children of British administrators and planters were whisked off in the helicopters to Camerons for holidays with their parents.
With remnants of British past of heritage cottages and Devonshire tea, along with pristine natural forest and cool climate, it is no wonder that Malaysians and foreigners find Camerons rather enchanting.
The distance between KL and Camerons is 200km; the journey took around 3.5 to 4 hours’ drive. It has been 20 years since my last trip to the “little England of Asia”, as such, I was eager to see if the hill station has changed or not. I didn’t really plan on what I wanted to see and do during that weekend but just wanted a change of scenery, fresh air and to experience Camerons with new perspective.
I visited a few farms and orchards in Brinchang, and later joined my friend and his former school friend for lunch.
I stayed at the Planter’s Country Hotel (also known as Bala’s Chalet) 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 hotel owner, Mr. K. Balakrishnan bought over the property and refurbished it into a charming guesthouse, preserved the original Tudor concept with lovely gardens and maintained the interiors like a traditional English-style inn. (I will share my review of the hotel in a separate post)
The hotel is known for their tea and scones, therefore it was a must for me to have afternoon tea in the Rajah Brooke Tea Room, tucking into scrumptious scones with homemade strawberry jam and cream.
The evening was spent with another group of my friend’s mates at a backpackers’ hostel. By this time, the temperature had dipped to 17 – 18 degrees but we were treated to a simple and yet warm food of mutton curry and rice, finishing off the evening with conversations, laughter and pegs of single-malt whiskey over a bonfire.
Hung over from the previous night, we skipped the morning drive to Sungai Palas Tea Plantation.
After sleeping in for a few more hours, I went for a morning stroll to the town centre, Tanah Rata which is 1.5km from the hotel. The fresh air and exercise was what I needed in view of the mutton curry and whiskey indulgence the night before 🙂
Tanah Rata is the administrative and commerce centre of Camerons. This is where you will find shops, eateries, banks, bus station, clinics and the police station. I had breakfast at an Indian restaurant, after which I explored the town and later walked back to the hotel.
I spent the next couple of hours at the hotel catching up on my writing. Surrounded by gardens and flowers, it was an ideal setting for me to write my articles peacefully, a muse so wonderfully inspiring.
Although it was a very short stay, I had a wonderful weekend. After 20 years, Camerons still felt the same albeit developments are happening in some areas of the hill station which in the long run might not be good for the environment especially for the farmers.
As of now, Camerons is still a laidback town where everyone knows everyone, and is a cool destination for Malaysians to escape from the tropical heat to enjoy tea and strawberries.
Will I return to Camerons? Of course, without a doubt! Now that I have a friend who visits his hometown every few weeks, it is more convenient for me to hitch a ride with him to the hill station for the weekend. I promise you, the next trip will involve jungle hiking, a visit to the tea gardens and the night market. And perhaps a small serving of mutton curry!
Are you planning a trip to Cameron Highlands soon? How about booking your accommodation here?
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