Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Cameron Highlands

From KL we rode the train north to Ipoh. It was a comfortable 2.5 hour ride in a nearly full, newish coach.

Our first goal in Ipoh was to buy our onward train tickets from Penang (Butterworth Station), to Bangkok. And our anxiety level was a bit high. It's a 22-hour journey - no bus for us. There's one train per day, No. 36. Tickets cannot be bought online, only by phone, email, or at a station. And our first choice of travel day is Sunday Feb 22, the last day of the long Chinese New Year holiday weekend in Malaysia. Fingers are crossed.

"Sold out," says the young woman behind the ticket window.

"Monday the 23rd?" I ask without a quaver.

"Sold out".

"Tuesday the 24?" Not so boldly.

"Upper or lower berth?

Woohoo! We expected Sunday to be sold out and maybe Monday, so not so bad.

We get an upper and a lower and are all set. Now we need to find a place to stay in Penang. Yikes! A quick check of available rooms on booking.com and agoda.com (owned by Priceline) does not look good. Stay tuned.

Second goal in Ipoh: Hop straight on the 3 pm bus to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. Typical of a tropical hillstation, Tanah Rata it is located at 1500 meters (6000ft) elevation and was built into a resort by the British during the Colonial Era as a place to escape the lowland heat.

We were not sure what to expected in Tanah Rata. Tacky tourist town or no? Rich folks playgound or no? Out of control developement or no? Terrible hotels or no? Overrated hiking or no?

Well, turns out to be mix of all the above but we stayed in a great hotel, the Arundina, had 2 awesome walks in the surrounding tropical highland forest, met some nice folks, were not cheated by taxi drivers, and enjoyed the mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay cultures and food that is found all over Malaysia. We would return.

UPDATE: Left out of the original post: Sun-Ling pointed out that our first day of hiking in the Cameron Highlands was our most unproductive day of hiking ever: a total of 9 kms in 9 hours with 3 of those kms on flat roads, no scenic views, and one very tame stream crossing, and only 500 meters of elevation game. ;-) Unproductive but still a great day!

From the train, we saw the usual palm plantations; however, as we approached the highlands on the bus, it was nothing but high altitude vegetable farms like these.
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Highlander, the Indian restaurant nearest our hotel, is also one of the best in town. We ate there twice.
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

The weather at Tanah Rata was perfect for hiking; sunny and 70's, so we were able to walk up and down the hills all day for two days without wilting.

Trail 5 was poorly marked but easily followed.
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

A wild ginger flower.
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

The top of Gunung Beremban at 1841 meters - not much of a view.
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Descending. The trail was very steep at the top.
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

These purple flowers liked to be next to the trail in a bit of sun.
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Restoran Suria Bunga - the 2nd best Indian resto in town. ;-)
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Our hotel at back.
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Day two: Up Gunung (Mount) Brinchang. Yes, that's "on trail".
Gunung Brinchang, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Gunung Brinchang, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Our new friends Lisa and Toby on the watch tower at the top of Gunung Brinchang.
Gunung Brinchang, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Instead of descending G.Brinchang on the same trail we ascended, we opted to walk down the "sealed" road passing numerous tea plantations. Quite a view.
Gunung Brinchang, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Gunung Brinchang, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Gunung Brinchang, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Gunung Brinchang, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Not all tea, there are some strawberry farms and this Chinese-speaking lady had 13 hectares of cabbage.
Gunung Brinchang, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia


6 comments:

Shirley H. said...

Hi Sun Ling and John - What fascinating places and activities today and the last couple - and COLORS. All very exotic, at least to me, and generally cheerful. The orchids are spectacular! Having a little trouble with the piercings. Is this any relation to acupuncture, current or historical? I have heard this before about Malaysia, but everything in these pix seems so clean. Is that true. Heat and humidity would be much appreciated long about now. We're cold and "sleet-y" here in Raleigh, with a predicted low of THREE Friday morning. Think it's going to be too cold for me to hike this week! HAPPY NEW YEAR to you both! Love from Ed too.

WQZ said...

Happy New Year!

Sun-Ling said...

Thanks for the CNY wishes. Happy New Year to everyone! We are certainly having the hottest CNY's day, in the middle of the hottest summer.

Sun-Ling said...

@Shirley, the idea of Thaipusam is like self-flagellation, except Thaipusam is about giving thanks instead of punishment. The tricky part of Thaipusam as we gathered later is that it is more about showmanship rather than real pain.

john said...

Shirley, Singapore usually gets the "clean" moniker; however, Malaysia does seem to have the same "clean quotient" as Singapore. Although IMO cleanliness is for the most part in the eyes and nose of the beholder. ;-)

That said, these two countries are not as clean as North Carolina, or Japan. Not even close.

Anonymous said...

The orchard is beautiful!