Cold Weather and Indian Food- Exploring the Cameron Highlands

When you think of Malaysia, I am sure cold weather and drinking tea isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. The Cameron Highlands is one of Malaysia’s most extensive hill stations. It covers an area of 712km², about the size of Singapore and it’s universally known for the growth of tea leaves and strawberries. The trip from Ipoh to Cameron Highlands is much like you would expect any journey to a hilltop area,  the road is windy and mostly uphill. Needless to say by the end of our bus ride ( a couple of hours or so) I felt a little worse for wear so I was just happy to be off the bus.

Our first reaction of what we could see of the Cameron Highlands (the journey was quite beautiful) was the weather. It had been since the beginning of Vietnam that Alex and I had felt weather that I could describe as “cool”. We got off the bus to a slight drizzle, and cool afternoon as the feeling of the heavens about to open washed over us we knew we had to find some accommodation. After a few different places ( either full or too expensive) we settled on a guesthouse called Eight Mentiji, it wasn’t too expensive and we had our own space ( which is always a bonus).

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Once we had found a place to place our things and took a minute to relax, our stomachs began to rumble which can mean only one thing. FOOD TIME :D.

As we walked up the high street on our way to find accommodation, we noticed several restaurants (it was the Indian with the tandoori oven outside that really took our interest). After scoffing down some lovely tandoori chicken and naan we both felt a bit more alive. Still being Ramadan, the food market was on however unlike other places we had been the market was in a walkable distance from our place. This meant we could savour different food things and easily walk back to actually eat it later when we were feeling hungry again.

The rest of the evening was mostly uneventful, Alex and I relaxed with a movie. We wanted an early night, as we had booked a tea plantation tour with Discover Cameron’s (we had booked before we arrived via the internet). Cue 5 am when suddenly the TV outside our room (in the common area) started BLASTING music. Groggy and frustrated I left the room to figure out what was going on. As I couldn’t see anyone, and the TV was on a digital radio station, I assumed that it was perhaps a timer on the TV that had been set so I turned the TV off and headed back to bed. I had reached the door, my hand outstretched as my bed called for me. Suddenly this shrill voice screeched at me. Without going into to much detail, an Indian/Malay woman (who had good English) started hurling abuse at me. I was extremely rude for turning off the TV, My parents should be ashamed of me, she was an ear doctor and there was no way that I could hear the TV from my room. I did the best I could biting my tongue (which Alex will agree wasn’t an easy task). After she finally told me her husband was in the government and I would struggle at immigration, she submitted for a bit and stormed to her room. I felt bizarrely that I had won that exchange and returned to bed. Several times later she turned the TV back on, the first time I turned it off and she would get angry again. Finally, when I had about enough and she turned on the TV for a final time we heard another room’s door opened. The exchange was more intense then I was willing to go (too early and I couldn’t really be bothered as she wasn’t really worth it) and the TV was off for good. Thank you other room (we think they were a Russian couple).

In the morning we had a quick breakfast (instant noodles- the breakfast of champions) and waited for our pick up. We were picked up by Apu in his beautiful old British racing green Land Rover. After a brief introduction, we headed to another hotel to pick up another couple (English couple called John and Rebecca) as well as another old Namibian Couple whom the name escapes us. The 6 of us (and Apu) headed towards our first viewpoint. As we spoke the funny realization that all 6 of us had gone traveling as we had all quit our jobs and decided to travel the world (is quite fun that we all had come to this decision at different points in our lives)

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The viewpoint was quite striking and easily photographically beautiful, whilst we stopped another land rover pulled up and we got brief introduced to the other half of our full group (mostly younger backpackers). The driver of the other group then gave us a speech about how the tea farm operates and started, which was interesting but did go on for quite a while.

We then were taken to the mossy forest. Most people when visiting the mossy forest are taken to the top viewing and walking platform, which is a boardwalk and isn’t all that interesting. We, however, snuck in (via a path which was owned by the guide) by sneaking around the fence. Once inside the interesting of why this place was called the mossy forest became very apparent. Quite striking in its beauty, however an extremely fragile eco-system. Our guide Apu couldn’t haven’t been better, knowledgeable and excitable about the forest and you could tell him loved showing it off and protecting it. One thing I should mention is there is some debate that this forest is actually the oldest forest in the world, despite not having the large trees (altitude affects this). We walked around the forest, carefully avoiding touching anything and ensuring that everyone had the opportunity to see all the fascinating things (such as wild carnivores pitcher plants).

Once we left forest our next stop was an another tea plantation, to have some tea. As you may know, I am and always will be a coffee man. Tea is fine…coffee is better. We arrived at a very touristy cafe in which we had a cup of tea (the suggested cup). We had expected the tea to come in lovely china cups, and feel a bit like a special occasion. Nope! How does a white mug with a teabag in it sound… sounds like a disappointment to me. Anyway after drinking our tea and all universally agreeing that “yes, that is tea”, we walked towards the factory which means we should be able to see production. Another disappointment as the factory wasn’t operating due low production yield of that moment.

The tour ended with a short visit to a strawberry farm, which was nothing more than two rows of strawberry plants which we could pick at (the main plantation inaccessible) and a small shop to buy strawberries from. However, even if everything else (besides the views and the Mossy forest) was pretty disappointing Alex and I really enjoyed our day and felt we had made the right choice in tour company. Would recommend!

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Later that afternoon, once we returned from the tour we (the six of us) went for lunch to a cheap Indian restaurant (one which our driver had recommended). The food was ok, however, our original choice of Indian restaurants was much better. We returned to our accommodation and wanted to keep going, plus we had heard/seen of a few coffee shops so as per the norm we wanted to visit them. Arriving at “my cake home” we had pieces of cake and a coffee each. The cake was underwhelming and the coffee was fine. As the rain started to look like it would reappear we hear a voice, which brings an element of horror to our day. On the table next to us, an older Indian woman was sitting down. OH NOOOOOOO.

Yes this was the same woman as before. She was complaining about butter… “ this is not government sanctioned butter” ?!?!?! One plus, is she clearly doesn’t recognise me, and she tries to explain to us that these people are trying to poison her. Alex and I really don’t engage in hope that she leaves, which she does. The people who ran the shop looked at us, we looked at them, and we all agreed that she was clearly insane.

The heavens opened, truly and utterly the heavens opened. So Alex and I sat, and waited for our time to walk back to our place. Afterwards, we went back outside to get dinner, which ended up being a variable feast from the Ramadan market, both stuffed we relaxed and watched the end of season two of Master of None (side note, Please watch this show!).

The next day, we went for a walk along one of the trails near us. It was short but pretty. We arrived at the falls soon after which we started to feel that drip of water, which we had come to expect for the afternoon. The rain started to fall heavily as we still had at least 20 or so minutes to get back, not ideal. But we did go for hot chocolate to warm ourselves up.

The rest of the day was doing the usual backend jobs, booking buses, packing, blog writing. We did, however, return for one last tandoori before we left which we both felt was completely necessary.

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

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