I made it a personal goal to travel around Malaysia as much as I can. Why not, it is after all my second home now, and what better way to immerse myself in its wonderful culture than to do what I love best. So much that when I saw the cinema Ad of Emirate's campaign 'Be There,' that celebrates curiosity, wanderlust, and the adventure that comes with travel, I immediately felt like a soldier on a mission.
My recent solo trip to Penang was nothing but wonderful. Georgetown is bustling with interesting architecture, unique art and awesome food fusions. There's so much things to see and do so I was on the go 90% of the time. On the other hand, Cameron Highlands offers a sanctuary of peace and down time. One of Malaysia's most extensive hill stations, Cameron Highlands is most noted for its cool weather, 18 degrees Celsius on average, but can drop to as low as 13 degrees at night and high reaches. It was discovered by British surveyor William Cameron in 1885. The British who flocked to the area, mainly to escape the crushing heat of Malaysia, soon realised the potential of Cameron Highlands' fertile soil to grow tea which was then considered a prized commodity. Malaysian-British entrepreneur J.A. Russel founded the BOH Tea Company 86 years ago, and it still remains to be the number one tea in Malaysia today. I hope you like history!
If Penang's a girl, she would be the adventurous go-getter who likes to entertain people with her own brand of art and music. Her polar opposite would be Cameron Highlands, the zen sister who's a little shy and introvert with a profound oneness with nature. She's nurturing but feels perfectly comfortable alone and in silence. A friend asked me which place did I like better as she's planning a trip for the long weekend, but I can't name one. To me, you have to meet them both. Penang will fire up your senses while Cameron Highlands will provide a sweet cool down. It boils down to what you need at the moment.
Here's a list of Cool Down Must Dos in Cameron Highlands:
1. Breathe Easy. Silence your Heart.
I'm city girl by heart. I live in a building beside a mall and in front of a major highway. I'm used to the noise and pollution. But Cameron Highland's fresh air is a welcome treat for the lungs! Hearing birds chirping instead of tires screeching before bed is also a novelty that I absolutely loved.
2. Smell the Blooms
Cameron Highlands is peppered with beautiful flower farms. You can literally just stop and smell the blooms. I visited the Cactus Valley in Brinchang town which, aside from cute and weird cactus plants, also housed a wide variety of colorful pretty flowers that you can purchase. If only we had a car, I would have purchased flower pots for our veranda.
3. Eat Fresh
While Penang tops the list for the most popular food destinations in Malaysia, Cameron Highlands does not disappoint either. The night market in Brinchang is a haven for fresh and organic produce. From strawberries, honey, freshly cooked seafood and vegetable goreng (fried) to steaming Fish Laksa. Brinchang is also flooded with Steamboat restaurants. Steamboat is similar to Shabu-Shabu, where you boil and cook different goodies - from meat, noodles, tofu to veggies - in a base soup (herbal, Tom Yam, Chicken etc.) The only difference is that it's cooked in charcoal and not the usual electric pots. I'm not a fan but I get the appeal, and it's indeed a perfect choice for the cold weather! Usual Malaysian fares like Nasi Lemak, Char Kwey Teow and Nasi Kandar are also abundant. Plus, scones, pies and freshly brewed tea make the perfect 'Little England' experience in the heart of Asia.
4. Buy Organic
Aside from strawberries and flowers, the rows and rows of green, crispy lettuce also caught my fancy. I was tempted to just pick and toss them in a salad bowl. Luckily, you can just order freshly made salad from the farm café. Pair it with a glass of strawberry lassi, and your afternoon is complete. Tourists usually bring home organic produce back to the city. It's fresh and really cheap (i.e. 3 HUGE packs of strawberries only cost RM 20 or Php 240!), you have nothing to lose.
Cameron Highlands offers plenty of opportunities to empty your mind. I chose a good spot in the BOH Tea Plantation TEAteria with a stunning view of the hills covered in tea shrubs. It's tricky since the place is popular and hardly empty, but it's a magnificent place to meditate on a good day. Otherwise, get a hotel with a veranda and a good view, and you have the perfect backdrop for your morning meditations.
Some useful tips to remember when you're traveling to Cameron Highlands:
- Bus tickets sell fast especially on holidays. I suggest you buy online and just claim your boarding pass at the station. I booked via BusOnlineTicket.com (nope, this is not a sponsored post) and went to the Pudu Raya/Pudu Sentral Bus Station 30 minutes before departure.
- The nearest LRT station is Plaza Rakyat. Cost is RM 40 (Php 480) per way including insurance. Travel time is anywhere from 3.5 to 4 hours including a 10-minute restroom stop.
- Buses stop at Tanah Rata. You can take a taxi to Brinchang for only RM 10 (Php 120). Buses are not reliable so better hop on the cab, or if you are up for it, hitch a ride with caution.
- Taxis are regulated in Cameron Highlands. You can rent one for RM 25 (Php 300) per hour for a minimum of 3 hours. So plan your trip to maximize your money. I met a really nice taxi driver/tourist guide, PM me and I'll give you his mobile number. :)
- Most 2-3 star hotels do not have air conditioners. My friend K and I asked about it, the receptionist looked puzzled and thought we're crazy. When the sun set, we understood why. It was freezing!
- Jackets, leg warmers and closed shoes are recommended, depending on your tolerance. But no shorts and flip flops for sure!
- Places we visited, and you should too: Big Red Strawberry Farm, Cactus Valley, BOH Tea Plantation at Sungei Palas, Brinchang Night Market.
|Hello from me and my adventure bud, K :)|
On to the next adventure. Happy start of the week!