cameron highlands walk to tanah rata

Revisited Cameron Highlands After Twenty Years


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.

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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.

cameron highlands hill station

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.

cameron highlands tanah rata clock tower
Park and clock tower at Tanah Rata

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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.

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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)

cameron highlands planters country hotel balmoral room
The Balmoral Room

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.

cameron highlands afternoon tea planters country hotel

cameron highlands devonshire tea planters country hotel

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.

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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 🙂

cameron highlands walk to tanah rata
Walking down to Tanah Rata

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.

cameron highlands tanah rata
Tanah Rata

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.

cameron highlands planters country hotel rooms and gardens
The cottages and gardens of Planters Country Hotel

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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!

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Are you planning a trip to Cameron Highlands soon? How about booking your accommodation here?

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revisited cameron highlands after twenty years katpegimana

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20 comments

  1. You spoke about drinking whiskey, my mate and I will be up at CH, in the first week of June, all the way from Perth Western Australia. Can you buy whiskey at a bottle shop up there or should we stock up before getting there. We will be there for 6days then going to Taman Negara, its for jungle walks. But need to have few whiskies in the evenings,

  2. The Planters country hotel looks like a lovely place for a getaway. Must check it out, if I visit the Cameron highlands. Thanks for sharing #FarawayFiles

    1. Let me know when you’re coming to Cameron Highlands because the hill station is very popular especially during the weekends and school holidays, I can let you know which are the dates. Accommodations have to be booked very much in advance. Thanks for stopping by, Ahila, cheers!

  3. This reminds me so much of the Indian hill stations I visited when I travelled around India. Life seemed to go on at a completely different pace which made it so much more relaxing. Do go again, Kat – I’d like to read more about the jungle treks and the mutton curry! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    1. You’re right Clare, Camerons is almost similar to the hill stations in India 🙂 I did go back to Camerons a few weeks ago, another weekend escape and yeah did a little bit of jungle trekking too. Will share the post soon 🙂

  4. The Cameron Highlands look so lush and green. Combined with possibly the best export from Britain – afternoon tea! – it sounds like a lovely weekend escape. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    1. Haha, thanks to the British, afternoon tea is part of our Malaysian culture now though we may not have the biscuits, cucumber sandwiches or scones but our local cakes. Having said that, when in Camerons, and as a tourist, we must have scones for afternoon tea! 🙂

  5. Oh my, I think the photo of me swinging in this (https://mrssuvi.com/2017/03/06/where-were-you-in-the-80s/) post was taken at that clock tower park! And I’ve also stayed at that hotel as a kid. That’s the only place I’ve ever used a hot water bottle actually. And those scones – I still remember them. My parents had Bloody Mary cocktails in the evening at the hotel. I thought it was such a bizarre drink (and still do)!

    1. The clock tower park – many of my friends remembered that park for they used to cycle there during their holidays 🙂 Did you stay at Planters Country Hotel or Old Smokehouse? There are 3 Tudor-style hotels in Camerons – Lakehouse, Old Smokehouse and Planters. If it was indeed Planters, wow, what a coincidence hahah!

  6. That hill station looks so similar to the ones in North India! And, the story is exactly how Indian Hill stations were established, to offer a respite to colonizers from Indian summers.

    When I looked at that picture of market, I instantly could connect to the mall roads in hill stations back home. Plus, you had me at mutton curry. Whenever I travel to Malaysia I will visit Cameron Highlands and stay at that pretty hotel!

    Happy traveling, Kat.

    1. Hahah, in many ways India and Malaysia share similar history, I guess it was Great Britain that linked us together! That is exactly how I felt when I visited Darjeeling 2 years ago, and during the recent trip to Camerons, I realised the correlation between our hill stations 🙂

  7. Hi Kat
    What a wonderful getaway!It’s a beautiful place! Hill stations with carpets of tea estates is relaxing holiday on it’s own but with the addition of a little scone & cream pampering, it takes it to a whole new level!;)
    Glad you’re going to get to keep visiting 🙂

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