Green rolling hills – Cameron Highlands
I was heading to the Cameron Highlands from the super hot and humid Penang. I travelled with Deborah, whom I met in the hostel in George Town. We didn’t sleep much the night before and it didn’t have to do anything with the travel excitement. One of our roommates in the dorm was actually testing the patience of all of us. He got back to our room totally wasted and when he struggled for 10 minutes with taking off his T-shirt – his head and arms got stuck in the T-shirt – I already guessed to have an eventful night. He fell off the bed four times that night. Well, yes, he slept in an upper bed, and no, he didn’t really hurt himself. He meant to leave to the bathroom several times, but not always managed to get there, that resulted in a complete floor cleaning… I guess, this is already more than enough detail about that night. I never sleep in party-hostels not to have this experience. But it is hard to avoid, when the neighboring hostel have the offer of “drink as much beer as you can for 65 ringgit”. (This is about 16 USD, while a can of beer in the supermarket is 2,3 USD.) The guy was Australian, in his twenties. Shall I say more?
Thanks to these events I don’t really know how is the landscape between Penang and the Cameron Highlands, as I immediately fell asleep after the bus left the terminal. I only woke up on the windy roads in the last hour of the six-hours trip. As we got closer to Tanah Rata, the central village of the Cameron Highlands, I got more and more worried. I was dreaming about the sight of the beautiful green tea plantations, and all I saw was ugly agricultural land, plastic greenhouse buildings, dirty little villages and plenty of huge hotels in between. I was not sure what to expect, maybe all the photos I saw about this aria were the result of hard photoshop work. My energy level allowed me only a short walk, but when I spotted the ‘waterfall’ that supposed to be the hit of the trek I chose, I seriously started to worry about the experience of the following day and the half-day program I booked.
So, what is the Cameron Highlands? This area in Malaysia is about the size of Singapore, is located 200 km north from Kuala Lumpur, at 1100-1800 meters above sea level. It has a mild, never too warm climate, with perfect conditions for tea production and is also the home of a unique rainforest.
Our guide of the day was Appu, a loud, passionate, good-hearted guy. He didn’t stop talking for a second, and how great it was! People like him keep me believe, that there are still some great guys with values in the tourism industry. First we visited Gunung Brinchang, the highest peak of the Highland and the home of the oldest mountain rainforest of the world. This place is known simply as Mossy Forest. The amazingly rich flora is like a fairy tale, the trees have thick moss grown all around them. Except where you can see the damage made by us, visitors. Since massive tourism reached this place, there are always some idiots, who know better than keeping the rules, they leave the wooden paths and disregard the signs, they walk up and down in the delicate forest, climb up the trees for a good insta photo. They simply don’t care, that the delicate moss layer dies and falls down from the trees because of the pressure of the body weight. No wonder the government completely closed the area. But tourists kept coming, and as official visits were not allowed, they sneaked in without guides having less control, making more damage. So the government decided to reopen the area for tourism a couple of months ago. Appu passionately shared his experience, told us about the efforts to protect the area, and shared infinite information on the unique plants of the forest, filling the ‘biology class’ with super interesting stories. I wish everyone could see this place undisturbed and intact before it disappears. But I am not too optimistic, because of the planned visit of the Malay prince they build a new road and got approval to build a food stall as well.
After the visit to the Mossy Forest I finally got my dream realized, the endless view of the tea plantations. We visited one of the BOH plantations, out of the three big plantations on the Cameron Highlands. It turned out, that this is the only farm, where the visitors are actually allowed in to take photos, where we could walk among the plants enjoying the green overload, taking selfies and group photos and we could visit the tea factory as well. The locals are very proud of the tea harvested and processed on the Highland, as this is the only place in Malaysia where good quality tea is produced.
We closed the program with a visit to a strawberry farm (I missed you Reka!). The strawberry farming looks way more effective here, than in our little garden at home. I guess I should introduce some new methods to my parents.
Luckily we got back to our accommodation before a huge storm hit the Highlands. Some of the reckless left for trekking, but I personally didn’t find it appealing to walk in the rain in 15 degrees Celsius, especially after the hot days of Penang. Well, I may got a little lazy.