I’m impatient. And very curious. Whenever I arrive for the first time in a country like Malaysia, I always want to see everything immediately. The whole country all at once. Very unrealistic, I know. But anyway, I always try to plan my trips that I visit only a few, but different places to get a good overview. Not a problem in Malaysia, the peninsula isn’t that huge and the means of transportation are awesome. Whether by train, bus, car, plane or boot, everything is better organized then you might expect. After a weekend in Kuala Lumpur, I decided to continue my trip by bus to the Cameron Highlands or to Tanah Rata, to be exact. Straight into the mountains, between tea plantations and the most wonderful nature. The very opposite of busy Kuala Lumpur. And don’t get me started on the fresh mountain air! Such a great pleasure to breathe pure, fresh air after a weekend in the capital. By the way, the weather is a bit colder in the Cameron Highlands due to the altitude, so don’t forget to bring a sweater!
Quick & Dirty
Sunset in the Cameron Highlands: The Magic of Nature
I never thought of myself as an outdoor person, I grew up in big cities and spent most of my adult life there. But things are changing and I’m appreciating outdoor events like hiking more and more. One thing that really fascinated me in the Cameron Highlands is watching the sunrise! This was part of a tour I’d highly recommend! You have to wake up very early, but this view is totally worth it!
Malaysia’s Tea Paradise: The Tea Plantations in the Cameron Highlands
The tea plantations are the reason why the hills in the Cameron Highlands are covered in light green! For our tea, only the young and light tea leaves on top of the plants are used, while the darker one stay underneath. So the hills light up with the green of the young leaves! The tea plantations are part of the heritage of the British colonial era. When the British came to the Cameron Highlands, they found the perfect conditions for growing their beloved tea – a mild tropical climate, not too hot, not too cold.
But not only did the British bring the tea to the country, they also came with a big amount of Landrovers, the perfect car for the hill landscape around. Until today, even after the production is long finished, the Cameron Highlands have the largest concentration of Landrovers all over the world!
The Mossy Forest in the Cameron Highlands
The tea plantations are stunning, but in the Cameron Highlands you’ll also find a piece of rain forest, up in the mountains! It’s very rare to find rain forest in this altitude and that’s what makes the Mossy Forest so special: It’s mostly covered in thick green moos, which grows very slowly and must therefore be well-protected.
That’s also why only a part of the Mossy Forest is open to the public. The local government has even build a wooden boardwalk through the forest so nobody can step on the precious moss. If you do the sunset tour, your tour guide will most likely bring you here, which is a superadvantage! You’ll arrive in the morning and can enjoy the beauty and the calmness of the Mossy Forest almost all by yourself before all other tourists come in.
Tea, Hiking and Strawberries – The best tips for the Cameron Highlands
There are two big tea companies in the area: BOH Tea und Bharat. Both of them have visitor centres with information on their production and shops where you can try and buy their tea. Or you can use the opportunity and stroll through parts of their green fields which are also open for visitors.
Being an outdoor hotspot, there are numerous hiking trails around Tanah Rata. Most of them are not very well signposted, but you will find more or less accurate trail maps in your hostel or hotel. Just be careful, some trails are a bit more adventurous. It’s recommended to carry a small “survival kit” with water, cell phone etc. and to hike in a group or with another person at least.
A big tourist magnet are the strawberry farm, which might be interesting to some, but as I live in a region with a lot of strawberry fields in summer nearby, I wasn’t that excited about it. But the Butterfly Farm on the hand was more interesting. It’s small, but well kept, and you get a good impression on how diverse the flora and fauna in the region is. And I saw huge butterflies the size of a bat!
Tanah Rata: Where to stay – the best hostels
You’ll notice soon, that accommodation in Tanah Rata is more expensive and at the same time more simple than anywhere else in Malaysia’s touristy spots. But you’ll spend the whole day outdoors anyway, so it’s basically just a place to sleep. Two of the most popular guest houses in Tanah Rata are Gerard’s Place* and Father’s Guesthouse*, which belong to the same owner. These two guest houses are so popular that even my cab driver in Kuala Lumpur who took me to the bus terminal knew them!
Tanah Rata: Where to eat
In Tanah Rata, there’s a good selection of cafés and restaurants (there’s even a Starbucks, which was very odd considering the size of this tiny village). But I had the best breakfast ever at one of the tiny street food stalls at the main road. They look a bit shady with their plastic chairs and plastic tablecloths, but it tasted delicious. The food is, well, different: A lot of rice, hot chili, fried chicken and super sweet Nescafé. Try it!
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