The Misty Mountains of Cameron Highlands

The Misty Mountains of Cameron Highlands

Discovered in 1883 by William Cameron on a British mapping expedition, Cameron Highlands is now one of Malaysia’s top vacation spots; enriched with an abundance of flora and fauna and an aromatic scent of tea pervading the air.

More Than Meets the Eye

Rolling hills covered with tea plants
Rolling green hills as far as the eye can see
  

Cameron Highlands is more than just a cool retreat to withdraw from the hot tropical weather; it is a place for nature lovers, birdwatchers, shutterbugs and food connoisseurs. A haven for those bitten by the travelling bug, the Highland is a rich ecosystem—a microcosm of incredible flora and fauna; dazzling birds, elusive animals, rare species of plants and lush verdure. But perhaps the most discernible feature of Cameron Highlands is the rolling hills swathed by tea plantations for as far as the eye can see. Boasting serene atmosphere coupled with a rich profusion of flora and an unmistakable scent of tea in the air, Cameron Highlands is ideal for one to sit back, relax and thoroughly detox from the drudges of life.

The Telegraph: Kuala Lumpur and Cameron Highlands: Where to Go and See has even featured Cameron Highlands in their Travel Destinations article!

Apparently, Cameron Highland is also one of the destinations of Le Tour de Langkawi held annually in Malaysia! The allure of the misty mountains and its challenging slopes have given it quite a reputation among professional mountain bikers. Read SBS’s Taking a Fling at the Cameron Highlands for an account of what it feels like tackling the climb at the jungle-clad, mountainous area.

The Gateway to Heaven on Earth

This beautiful nature haven will forever remain a mystery if you don’t know how to get there! Lucky for you, getting to Cameron Highlands is a simple endeavour. If you decide to travel via public transport, get yourself to KL Sentral—easily accessible via buses or LRTs. From KL Sentral, take the bus bound for Cameron Highlands; one at 08:30 am and the other at 1 pm. It will cost approximately RM35 to RM45 depending on the season. Note that the journey would likely take 3 hours or more and is subjected to traffic conditions.

Unsolved Mysteries: The Jim Thompson Case

Part of what made Cameron Highlands popular was the disappearance of Jim Thompson, the American millionaire whose name was synonymous with the Thai silk industry. His disappearance one afternoon spurred the largest manhunt Malaysia has ever seen, one that involved hundreds of people—soldiers, police officers, trackers and even a psychic investigator! Decades later, the case is still a mystery and as with most mysteries, it has been made into an attraction of sorts such as the regular “Murder Mystery in the Misty Mountains” event and numerous other things named after him, ranging from burger dish to structures and even a nature trail—which doesn’t sound half as bad.

Read more about Jim Thompson’s puzzling disappearance and other Cameronian attractions at CNN Travel: Cameron Highlands: Malaysia’s Enduring ‘Little England’.

A Vista of Undulating Tea-Swathed Hills

Beautiful view from the Boh Tea Plantation
The view from the Boh Tea Plantation 

If you have had a cup of Cameron Boh tea elsewhere in Malaysia and find yourself pondering its origins, all doubts would be banished once you are here. The Sg. Palas Boh Tea Centre, situated not far from the Ee Feng Gu Honey Bee Farm—on the way to Mount Brinchang—steals the show as the centre of all attention here in Cameron Highlands. Not only do you get to embark on an educational tour around the processing plant where you’ll learn all about tea processing, you will also get to enjoy the serene atmosphere, enjoying tea and scones on a patio overlooking the 8000 acres of tea plantation. The road up to the plantation is not without its own excitement too. Navigating the narrow bends while honking to alert other drivers of your presence can sometimes be nerve-wracking. If you’re not too focused on the roads, the scenic rolling green hills is a sight for sore eyes!

Sg. Palas Boh Tea Centre // Add: Jalan Gunung Brinchang, Brinchang, Cameron Highlands // Tues to Sun 0900 to 1630 (Tours provided every 30mins) // Tel: +60 5-496 2096 // Website: www.boh.com.my // Admission: Free


A Surreal Mossy Forest

Mossy trail in the Mossy Forest
A blanket of moss and dewy mist 

Aside from the plantation, there is another natural attraction that further adds to the allure of Cameron Highlands; so captivating and serene that one would never forget to have stepped foot on its paths. The Mossy Forest was so named because of overhanging mossy growth and the profusion of moss that covers almost every surface except for the well-trodden paths. The tranquil atmosphere and almost surreal quietude, as well as the apparent “shifting” of the mist, will make you feel like you are in another world altogether. Being on an elevation so high up in the heavens will leave you in awe of the beauty and majesty of nature. If you are still brimming with energy, begin the trek to Mount Irau (the highest mountain in Cameron Highlands) on muddy paths. Be warned that your shoes would mostly be caked in mud after that!

As you may guess from the name—the Mossy Forest—it is blanketed with dew-covered moss that, creating a beautiful contrast between the damp, brownish dirt and brilliant green and yellow hues of lichens, ferns and other epiphytes including orchids. Take deep breaths as you tread on boarded walkways or be more adventurous and venture out onto muddy paths to glimpse more of the forest’s hidden treasures. 

Rafflesia flower in full bloom
The 'World's Largest Flower', the Rafflesia in full bloom

Contrary to popular belief, the Rafflesia flower can be found not just on the island of Borneo but also in Cameron Highlands! It takes an approximately 45 minutes' drive to the starting point and a further 2 hours trek through the lowland rainforest to see the flower. However, the Rafflesia is increasingly rare and you'd have to depend on the locals to find out if it's in full bloom. The infamous flower can weigh up to 10 kg and span 106 cm in diameter but has a relatively short lifespan—just 5 to 7 days. Named after Sir Stamford Raffles (the British adventurer and founder of the British colony in Singapore), the flower is said to have the stench of a "boiled cabbage" or "decaying corpse". 

If you are looking to kick start your Mossy Forest adventure or discover the rare Rafflesia flower, check out Adventoro’s Cameron Highlands Rafflesia & Mossy Forest Adventure tour. Unconvinced? Read about the forest and other reasons to love Cameron Highlands at Vagabond Baker's 6 Reason Why I Love the Cameron Highlands!

Prickly Beauties - A Great Photo Opportunity

A vista of cacti
A beautiful cactus farm with an assortment of cacti
 

The trek through the mossy forest could easily take an entire day, depending on how far you decide to trek. Assuming that you still have time to spare or have no other commitments, a trip to the Cactus Valley is in order. Boasting an assortment of cacti some as old as 60 years, the cacti here are well kept and impressive in its variety and numbers. Nestled on a hill slope that is close to the Brinchang town centre, you will spend an hour or two walking around the area and snapping photos of bizarre cacti and beautiful foliage.

Cactus Valley // Add: Pekan Lama, 39100 Brinchang, Cameron Highlands // Daily 0800 to 1800 // Tel: +60 5-491 5640 // Admission: RM5 Adult; RM 2 Child


Soak in the Scent of the Lavender Garden

A beautiful field of Lavender
Fragrant lavender fields with numerous photo opportunities 
 

As Malaysia is located in the tropics, the only exposure the locals have to lavender is through processed materials—soap bars, teas, essential oils. This makes the Lavender Garden all the more remarkable. The flowery aroma is palpable as you walk through the entrance, greeted by the sight of a confined field of beautiful lavenders; dazzling in shades of purple and of different varieties—a soothing sight to behold. On the left, there is even a stall selling lavender flavoured ice cream, a little pricey, but paid little heed once you’ve tasted it; delightfully fragrant, flavourful and smooth to taste. Aside from enjoying the scent, you can also stroll along rows and rows of flowers such as sunflowers and hand pick them yourself!

Lavender Garden // Add: Tringkap, 39100 Cameron Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia // Daily 0900 to 1800 // Tel: +60 5-496 1208// Admission: RM8 Adult; RM5 Child // Website: http://cameronlavender.com/todo.htm


A Berry Berry Good Time

Strawberries ripe for picking
Sweet, juicy strawberries for you to pick and eat

When in Cameron Highlands, it is a must to visit the strawberry farms. One of the more systematic and larger ones, Big Red Strawberry Farm is easily distinguishable by its giant strawberry statue at the entrance of the farm. The strawberries here cannot get any fresher, with a delicious deep red colour that promises a burst of sweetness with every bite! If you have tasted the scones or cakes in Cameron, you’d now know why the desserts taste so good—they farmed and harvested it right at their backyard. Aside from strawberries, there is a tomato farm, a small flower and cactus nursery as well as a small cafe for you to kick back and relax.

Big Red Strawberry Farm // Add: Brinchang, 39100 Cameron Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia // Daily 0830 to 1800 // Tel: + 60 5-491 3327 // Admission: Free // Website: http://bigredstrawberryfarm.com/index.htm

Hiking Trails Ranging From Easy to Tough

One of the many hiking trails at Cameron
Gorgeous hiking trails for you to experience nature and appreciate the scenery 

Offering a little something for everyone, Cameron Highlands is also a network of interweaving trails throughout a mishmash of summits, barely visible dirt paths and natural obstacles which are boons for nature lovers, avid hikers and the adventurous traveller. With around 14 trails to attempt, you will be spoiled for choice but it is advisable to do your research beforehand. Check out Cameron Highlands’ Jungle Trekking Trails Guide Page to determine which trail you would like to attempt, what you will see on the path and the starting point for these trails. Many recommend going for Trail no. 5,7,10 and 14 and to avoid Trail 9 and 9a as there have been reports of robberies. Trail 10 leads you to the summit of Gunung Jasar and it ranks from Moderate to Tough. However, if you’re looking for an easy-going and well-paved trail, Trail no.4 is the one for you. 

A Charming Little Cafe With World-Class Scones

Golden-brown scones flecked with sugary coating
Delicious, buttery goodness coupled with a cup of Cameronian tea

While the Sg. Palas Boh Tea Centre stole the spotlight for scones and its wonderful scenery, it is The Lord’s Cafe at Tanah Rata that has stolen the hearts of its patron. It isn’t just the buttery scones that crumble deliciously in your mouth; or the warm, tingling sensation you get as you sip the hot cocoa on a cool day; or the tasty pie and savoury cakes threatening to draw a satisfied ‘oomph’ from you, but also the conviviality and helpfulness of the staff. Charming and cosy, it is an ideal place to rest your feet and spend the afternoon reading or just watch the people below in silent contemplation.

The Lord’s Cafe // No.4, 1st Floor (Above Marry Brown), Jalan Besar, 39000 Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands // Mon to Sat 1100 to 2200 (Closed on Sun) // Tel: +60 19-572 2883 // Budget: RM5-10 // Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Lords-Cafe/137158096352703 // Recommended: Scones, Lemon Cheesecake, Fruit Lassi

In a Nutshell

It is no wonder tourists and travellers are invariably drawn to Cameron Highlands. Its cool climate and structures echoing colonial designs and architecture, as well as a diverse range of attractions to accommodate just about every kind of traveller make it the ideal Highland getaway in Malaysia. If you’re looking to get away from the stifling heat, make your escape to Cameron Highlands now and enjoy its cool, crisp air while sipping a cup of Cameronian tea.

If you’re planning a trip here soon, take a look at Lonely Planet: How to Plan a Trip to Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands on what to see, do and enjoy. If you have been infected by the travelling fever, take a look at Adventoro’s tour package for Cameron Highlands to get started immediately!

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