On Monday morning we returned some of the stuff mum had bought from M&S because she didn’t need it anymore. We then went and collected the hire car. I didn’t realise how long it would take… We got there at 11am and we finally drove off in our hire car at 11.50am. Anyway, after making a slight wrong turn trying to get out of the city, we were finally on our way to the Cameron Highlands.
The Cameron Highlands were ‘discovered’ in 1885 by an Englishman who was under a commission by the colonial government. However, the area lay untouched for forty years until a British Administrator took charge of its development and hotels, schools, homes and a golf course appeared. Farmers and tea planters also relocated to the highlands as they found the soil and weather perfect for growing. Today, the Cameron Highlands support a local population of around 50,000 people (mostly Chinese). The main towns – Tanah Rata and Brinchang (we stayed in a lovely hotel between the two) – are relatively developed. There are still some traces of Cameron’s colonial history but this is largely European stone mansions that have been converted into hotels.
I’m really happy that we decided to do a road trip around Malaysia. It was great to see the lush, green landscape of the east Malaysian coast. It was really easy for us to drive round because there is a main road that runs down the whole of the west coast. We knew we were approaching the highlands as soon as we were dwarfed by the mountains that we drove towards (unfortunately no photos captured the epicness of the height). The mountains were extremely vast and we felt tiny in comparison.
We had been told by two separate people in the morning that our map was old and that there was a new road that was much easier to drive along (they both labelled the other way as ‘dangerous’) just passed the exit that we were going to take. We decided to take this advice but with hindsight we wish we hadn’t deviated from our original plan. Our original plan had us driving up through the mountains, stopping overnight in the centre and then making our way through the rest of the highlands and back onto the main road on the second day. However, as it turned out we travelled the same roads twice.
To be fair, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because we had AWFUL weather on the way there… At certain points we couldn’t even see out of the front window because the rain was so heavy. Just as the rain started, we stopped at a strawberry farm but it wasn’t a very good one so we were only there about 5 minutes. We then made our way through the crazy weather. We didn’t really appreciate our surroundings on the first day because it was extremely overcast and with the seriously windy roads and horrific rain mum, and backseat driver me, were too busy concentrating on the roads. We were also concerned that it seemed to take a lot longer than we expected to reach our hotel. We were surprised by the fact that there was absolutely no signs of any development for most of the way through the highlands before we reached the small towns. I think we were just driving very slowly and were being unobservant because of the weather as the next day there appeared to be more signs of life.
We ended up travelling for most of the day, arriving at our hotel at about 4pm after another stop at a different (and better) strawberry farm. We were pleasantly surprised by the hotel, which was very welcoming and had a lovely room. We took half an hour to chill out and made peppermint tea and enjoyed our strawberries, which unfortunately weren’t as good as they looked. We decided to eat at a local restaurant next door, which didn’t have a very big menu but the food was so good. Mum had nasi goreng (traditional rice dish) and I had mee goreng (traditional thick noodle dish). We then had a very early night.
The second day we woke up very early to beautiful weather hurrah! We enjoyed our breakfast at 7.30am and then hit the road. The day was so different. We really took in our surroundings and realised just how beautiful the highlands are. We stopped numerous times on the way down: first at a butterfly farm, secondly to look out over the tea plantations, thirdly to look out over the vast expanse, fourthly to view a mini waterfall and lastly to observe some traditional housing. At one point mum broke suddenly because something had started to make its way across the road. We both thought it was a cat but it was actually a monkey with a baby clinging to her belly! She quickly scooted away as we got closer so we didn’t have time to take a photo. It was a great morning and even with the stops, it didn’t take half as long as the day before and we were soon on our way up the coast to the island of Penang…