‘You’ll LOOOOOVE the guesthouse’ he said
‘It’s completely surrounded by nature’ he said.
This is like that time he told me: ‘Oh, you’ve never ridden a big motorbike before? Only a scooter? Aaahhh…don’t worry…it’s same same!’
And then I am the one with trust issues…
Chris was last in the Cameron Highlands 18 years ago and although that’s not that long ago – you know, if you’re a Galapagos Giant Tortoise – it’s apparently an eternity if you’re one of Malaysia’s most up and coming tourist destination.
This sux. Our guesthouse, the only one in our price range with a lock-up garden for bike parking, is completely surrounded by construction sites. Wherever you look, someone is building something. Something quite ugly, I must say.
The Cameron Highlands is Malaysia’s most famous hill-station. Named after some British ‘Sir’, who apparently ‘discovered it’ in the late 1800s (how does one just ‘discover’ a hill, may I ask?), the Cameron Highlands were developed as a tourist destination in the 1930s, primarily to cater for the Brits who were no doubt looking for a reprieve from the brain-melting heat and humidity of the capital. The tablelands are blanketed by farms, nowadays, with tea and strawberry taking front honours. Bizarrely enough, afternoon tea with home-made scones and strawberry jam is a totally Malaysian thing to do, up here.
Along with farms came farmers, and a hefty number of construction workers given the task to build towns. The ethnic mix up here is awesome, as it is in the rest of Malaysia. I love how, after so many decades, everything is completely fused into one, amalgamous ‘nationality’. Locals have Indian rotis for breakfast, washed down with Chinese tea and complemented by Thai coconut boiled sweets. To them, this constitutes an ‘authentic Malay breakfast’.
For quite a few weeks, we also become Malay, until we discover the local’s obsession with palm oil and frying, so we’re forced to bring that little culinary indulgence to a halt. Damn cholesterol. I knew getting bloodwork done ‘for the heck of it’ was a really bad idea…
A phenomenal British influence in this region is the incredible number of old Land Rovers that litter every street and every second driveway of Tanah Rata, the main town.
Chris is in Landy heaven. matilda would have loved it up here…
Miraculously, we’ve found a construction site which operates 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Right next door. WTF? Where I come from, construction workers work at snail speed, take 15 coffee breaks a day and heaven forbid they work past 5 pm or on weekends.
Australia, you gotta stop paying by the hour. Seriously. This is ridiculous.
PPPPPRRRRRR BANG BANG BANG PPPPRRRR BANG BANG KAPOOOOW!!!
It’s 6 am, pouring bucket loads, and these guys are already friggin’ drilling and hammering.
Weary-eyed, I drag myself out of bed and fill the kettle. Yawn.
I look outside our window and can’t believe this is the day we booked out Cameron Highlands day trip adventure. It’s not often we join one of those all-too-dreaded organized tours, but this time we really, really couldn’t be bothered taking the bikes out and exploring on our own. We’ve been in Tanah Rata one week already and both Pixie and Puck seemed to have grown roots cementing them to the ground of our hostel’s garden. The fact that they are completely surrounded by a wild garden bed (that’s lazy speak for can’t be arsed to keep the garden looking nice so we’ll just call it wild and that’ll be that) I fear those roots may have grown, quite literally.
Because I know us oh-so-well, I thought a fixed date with a tour company would be incentive enough to actually get out and explore. For the grand bargain price of $10 for the whole day, per person, you really can’t go wrong.
Tanah Rata is not the most inspirational place I’ve ever seen, to be brutally honest. I am told it’s much more natural ‘over there, beyond the hills’, but now I just don’t believe anything anybody tells me. Re-read the beginning of the post in case you’re wondering ‘why?’
Three hours later, as we’re taking a relaxing stroll under the still-timid sun, through the largest tea plantation in Malaysia, my faith is (somewhat) restored. Yes, it is quite pretty, although ‘wilderness’ and ‘agriculture’ are two quite separate things, IMHO.
Still, sure as hell beats the construction sites.
It’s lovely to get out of the bustle (and pollution!) of the town and we spend a nice day admiring the views, visiting the tea factory (which was surprisingly interesting) and even stopping by a cute butterfly farm. Alright, so it’s not a blow-your-socks-off riveting kind of excursion, but we’d still recommend it (the half day tour).
That’ll do, pig. That’ll do…
Back at our hostel we indulge in that one aspect of travel which makes every place, just that little better. We spend time with new friends, share meals, endless discussions about world problems (sometimes, we even find solutions), play cards and drink red wine. Ahhhh….that’s nice.
The highlight of the month would have to be the fact that I’m wearing my jacket and scarf for the first time this year. The temps hover between 12 and 18 degrees and OH MY LORD how nice is that after all the sweltering, humid heat we’ve been enduring??!!
It seems that everyone here has the same idea. Weeeeell, it’s not all that nice, here. But at least it’s cool! Everyone needs a reprieve from the tropical heat. Chinese construction companies could even (almost) set up a rubbish dumping ground next door, and we’d probably all still hang around, for those few evening hours, in particular, when you even suffer a case of the nipple freeze. Oh, how I missed those…