Cameron Highlands, Malaysia – The English and French colonialists built resort towns throughout their territories in SE Asia as escapes from the heat of the lowlands. Our destination was the hill station of Cameron Highlands, once home to vacationing English and Chinese vegetable farmers and now a popular stop on the Malaysian tourist trail.
The main street in the town of Tanah Rata is dominated by a Starbucks and littered with restaurants and souvenir shops, but the town still has a nice feel. Laid back and charming, and plenty of places to pick up a delicious strawberry shake.
The main draw of the highlands, besides the cooler weather, is the hiking. We set out one morning with Mischa and Ales, a couple from the Czech Republic that we met on the bus ride from Georgetown. Our hike took us up a steep and muddy trail to the peak of Gunung Brinchang for great views of the surrounding highlands and back down through tea plantations, strawberry farms and butterfly gardens.
We stopped at a strawberry farm where tourists, mostly Malaysian, picked strawberries and snacked on various strawberry treats. The cost of picking strawberries was way overpriced, but the owner of the farm kept calling Stuart “Boss” so we had to pick a few. Unfortunately they were no where near as good as some of the strawberries we have had back in California.
We continued on through the tea plantations, which cover the rolling hills in waves of green as far as the eye can see. They were quite impressive and I was surprised to see what tea leaves actually look like. I’m not sure what I expected, but surely not the waxy, shinny leaves that smelled nothing like tea that we encountered on the hillside.
We had some curry for lunch and then munched our way down the road on samples of chocolate covered dried strawberries looking for a taxi to take us the seven kilometers back to town. After a long hike, we weren’t too keen on walking the whole way but the taxi situation wasn’t looking too good.
After a couple kilometers we finally came across one but he wanted twice as much as we paid the driver in the morning. We balked at the exorbitant price, 15 Ringgit ($4.30), and demanded that he come down, but he didn’t, so we kept on walking with no other taxis in sight.
As we contemplated our 7K walk back into town we stared to wonder if we made the right move back there. Surely he was ripping us off and it was his fault for not budging on the price at all, but what was $4 really? That’s one buck each – and now we have to walk, exhausted, for seven more kilometers.
But, as luck would have it, a public bus passed us by and Stuart waved it down and we hopped on for the bargain price of 1.50 Ringgit (43 cents). Score! We celebrated our hike and our good luck at – gasp! – Starbucks with $4 drinks. Boy black tea lattes sure are tasty.