Cameron Highlands

After the recent long hot spell, we could not wait for a few day in the cooler mountains of the Cameron Highlands. To get there from George Town we took the evening train to Ipoh where we spent the night before boarding a bus to Tanah Rata. As the bus departs from a brand new station on the edge of town we had to get a Grab, but it was cheap and easy. We read a lot about how windy and nausea inducing the road is but we had a good driver and bus and were lucky enough not to get any problems. It was also much better than we expected.

A glimpse of Ipoh

We alighted in the centre of town and went on a search for some beds. Our choice fell on a small hostel which we had not had on our list, but it was and cheap and came with breakfast. Our plans for the afternoon sadly got washed away by prolonged heavy downpour; the first we experienced in a very long time. At least we managed to buy our onward tickets before resorting to cream tea and cafés. Between tea and dinner it was dry for long enough that we could stretch our legs and see some waterfalls.

Even the bollards have strawberries on

The next day looked much better and so we decided to walk up Gunung (mount) Brinchang. After making our way to the village of Brinchang we followed a steep road up to the edge of the forest. It ended at a water reservoir without any signs for the start of the path. It took us some time to find it but then we were off. The trail was steep and consisted of mud, roots and rocks and was exciting to conquer. Among the moss covered trees the humidity was quite high, but thankfully the temperatures weren’t and so it was still bearable. We were exstatic: we had finally found the jungle walks that we had been looking for in Cambodia and Lao. It was marked with plastic tape with the trail number written on it. And the best thing: it was all free and no guide was required apart from! The only bit missing was animals. We heard lots of different bird calls around us but could not see any. On the downside we discovered about halfway up that our stomachs did not agree with some of yesterdays food and so we had to have a few unplanned breaks.

Ted checking out the path
Matthias of the forest

Overall the path was short: only just over 2km from the edge of the forest to the summit with 400m climbing. We progressed slower than expected due to fallen trees and mud created by yesterdays rainfall. As we reached the top we were in for a disappointment: the entire summit was taken up by an antenna and radio station and we had to squeeze around along the rusty metal fence. Trees on all sides allowed only minimal views and therefore we marched on quickly.

We made it to the top

Two kilometers down the road (yes, it was an actual sealed road) we reached the car park to the famed mossy forest. Entry to this boardwalk was free so walked in to explore. The path was flat, easy and provided great views to both sides of the ridge. We walked to the lookout tower before turning back. The mossy forest is a one way path leading from the carpark to Gunung Irau. After our adventurous ascent, this walk was rather boring and so we turned around at the viewing tower.

Walking through the mossy forest

Our next aim was a strawberry farm and a tea plantation. The narrow road was pretty steep but there was almost no traffic and and could also enjoy some views along the way. We skipped the self-picking and went straight to strawberry ice cream and smoothie which were both yummy and refreshing.

How strawberries grow in Malaysia

After this quick refreshment we made our way to the Boh tea centre and factory. They had a museum about the company history, a shop and best of all a café. The last kilometre and a half of road went through the vast tea plantation. The place was really busy, but we managed to snatch a shady table on the terracce to enjoy delicious tea and some cake while overlooking the tea fields around us. The tea was definitely better than the cakes and neither was cheap but we still enjoyed it. The terasse provided great views over the vast sweeping tea plantation on the surrounding hills. We took our time partially to give Zoë’s sprained ankle a chance to recover from the misstep in a road ditch earlier. Since the tea centre sits at the end of a dead end street we had to walk up the hill away for 20min before heading down towards the road. The downhill road was not too steep and most of it covered by trees which made for a rather pleasant walk. It was already close to 5pm when we arrived in the village and back at the main road. From there it was 9km of boring and unenjoyable walking back to our hotel so we cut it short and took the bus which set us back a mere 7 ringit each.

Ted on the tea terrace at BOH
So much tea 🙂

After such a long day of walking our stomachs were feeling fairly neglected and so it was an easy choice to try the local speciality called ‘Steamboat’. It is basically a hot pot that comes with a lot of ingredients. We opted to have it with both chicken and tom yam soup and got a big plate of sea food and chicken plus two types of noodles, mushrooms, eggs and chips. It was a delicious feast and definitely what we needed.

When you are so hungry you eat a whole steamboat

The next day we took it easy and decided to go for a shorter walk up a lower hill. The trail was similarly adventurous as the previous day with plenty of fallen trees to climb over and steep sections where hands where required. Again we heard lots of birds but saw nothing but vegetation and butterflies. When we reached the summit we found it occupied by a Malaysian school group. Between that and the limited views there was nothing to keep us there and so we walked straight on. We found the downhill trail less steep even though some sections had big steps and cuts washed out by heavy rain. The forest was also lighter and soon we reached the road at the tree line. After suffering severely from the lack of cream tea the day before we had to go to ‘Ye old smokehouse’, a hotel and restaurant housed in a Tudor style building. It was all very British and despite the prices we treated ourselves to the full deliciousness of a British cream tea. The scones definitely were freshly baked and just the strawberry jam alone was so good it justified the 30 ringit. Once we finished our tea pot we even got a free refill. We were very lucky because as soon as we sat down the heavens opened and a heavy rain soaked everything for a good 20 minutes. That was perfect timing!
After our tea, we felt strengthened and recovered, so we walked back to Tanah Rata for showers and dinner.

The old smoke house with the bed strawberry jam in Malaysia

The next morning we had to get up pretty early to catch our bus to some super old jungle in Taman Negara.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the Cameron Highlands. Our hostel, the CH Travellers Inn was nice, well-located, cheap and had friendly staff and breakfast included. We were lucky to go there during low season. Avoid the area during Malaysian holidays! Our bus driver told us that during the big school holidays all hotels are jampacked (believe us: there are A LOT of them!) and driving 8km between villages could take you easily 2 hours! Prices are also about six times higher. Temperatures were very pleasant (mid 20s) which was a great change. The scenery is beautiful and hiking great. We would definitely go back!

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