Guest Author - Ciara Sampaio
My Lonely Planet guidebook states, "The Cameron Highlands of Malaysia are a cool and picturesque retreat from the tropical lowlands below." After several days in the humid heat of these tropical lowlands, I was more than ready for a cool retreat. I took a very long bus ride from Melaka to Ipoh, then hopped another bus to take me the remaining 20 km to Tanah Rata of the Cameron Highlands. As my rickety, non air-conditioned bus makes its way up the windy road, I notice the lush green vegetation blanketing the towering mountains surrounding us on all sides. Patches of fog hang low, giving the illusion of being among the clouds.
After finding a hotel and some dinner, I went off to find myself a tour for the following day. Other than hiking, many day activities up here are easier with a guide that doubles as a driver. I found a tour that included a jungle trek, a tour of the tea plantations, and a visit to the highest point in Peninsular Malaysia.
The jungle trek was fun, although I didn't really feel like we were in the jungle since we pulled over on the side of the road, started crashing through the bush, then emerged on the other side where we were met with the jeep. However, we did get to climb a "rope" that was actually a branch of a very old tree. Our guide said it was his favorite part of the hike. Afterward, we drove up a windy semi-paved road to the highest point in Peninsular Malaysia.
At the top of the mountain was a three story iron outlook that looked precarious and old. We nervously climbed the metal stairs to the top, where we were rewarded with an amazing view. The white gauzy clouds swirled beneath us, barely kissing the top of the dense jungle canopy. We felt like we were on top of the world.
The visit to the Boh Tea Plantation was better than I thought it would be. We got to wander through the factory and witness and learn about all the steps the tea goes through in the refining process. Afterwards we got some delicious tea and pastries from the café and enjoyed another fantastic view of the rolling hills covered in tea plants.
All in all, the Cameron Highlands were definitely the cool and picturesque retreat I was looking for. Time seemed to stand still up here, and it was at least much cooler than the rest of Malaysia. However, it rained every afternoon, and the cool humidity seeps into everything, causing every surface you touch, from the table to your pillowcase, to feel wet. Maybe next time I’ll visit during the peak season instead of the rainy season!