How to get to Cameron Highlands?
We chose to travel by bus! This is a good option having in mind the well-developed infrastructure in Malaysia. We booked our tickets online (link below) and it is definitely the better option. A friend of mine told me that buying tickets at the bus station should be much more appropriate, but by doing so we had to wait in a queue for hours! Getting tickets online was really unproblematic and easy! You only have to pick them up at the bus terminal “Bersepadu Selatan”.
The official and expected travel time from KL to Cameron Highlands was 3.5 h by bus or car but thanks to the upcoming weekend we travelled about 5 hours. I can totally recommend this travel route as you’ll see so many beautiful places, as well as some of the last indigenous people of Malaysia who live in the rainforest region. After 5 hours of travelling and 10 different weather conditions. we finally arrived at Tanah Rata and our lovely family-run hotel “Arundina”.
A short History of Cameron Highlands
In the year of 1885, the mountain region of Cameron Highlands was found by the British colonial government bounder and explorer – William Cameron (the reason why this area sounds rather European than Malaysian). During his mapping expedition of the Titiwangsa Range, Sir Cameron stood on the summit of Mount Pondok Challi as he saw a beautiful plateau at an altitude of 1.800m above the sea-level. But not only the unique nature was the reason why Cameron fell in love with this place, but also the fact that the average temperature ranges between 8° and 25°!
Unfortunately, without “Starred Places” and “Favourites” in Google Maps, Sir Cameron’s maps and its discoveries went lost for the next 40 years! George Maxwell, another British explorer and traveller, rediscover the highlands in the year 1920. Five years later, Sir Maxwell suggested the highlands as a hill resort due to its calm climate. Additionally, the Highlands was a perfect place for growing tee, having in mind the sunny and fertile slopes which are located close to the rainforest. In the year 1929 another Brit, John Russell, invested in a tea plantation which is still the most famous tea plantation and factory in Malaysia – the Boh Tea!
During the 20th century, Cameron Highlands was the most favourite place for British diplomatic agents and officers in Malaysia. Nowadays, the mountain region has become a must-visit destination as well as a major supplier of tea, legumes and vegetables to Malaysia and Singapore
We had 2 nights and 1,5 days in the Cameron Highlands but the time was enough to explore the must-see places of this mountain region. Due to the restricted time, it was easier for us to book a private tour, as we did. If we had much more time to spend here, I would have definitely chosen a hiking tour on our own. But I try to make the best of any situation…!
The must-see places in Cameron Highlands lie within the major townships of Brinchang and Tanah Rata. We started the day at the Sam Poh Chinese Temple in Brinchang, than we headed to the “Time Tunnel” (a heritage museum showcasing the colonial history of Cameron Highlands). The next stop was the BOH Tea plantation, mount Gunung Brinchang and the Mossy Forest. Later in the afternoon we visited the “BOH Tea” factory, the local market and the butterfly farm. Our last stop was one of the many strawberry farms in this region and of course we enjoyed some self-picked strawberries. Here are my top recommendations:
Sam Poh Temple
The Sam Poh Tempel of Brinchang is a well-groomed Chinese temple complex with formidable golden warrior statues within. It was built 3km away from the town of Brinchang in the year of 1970 and since then it is the most important Chinese temple in Cameron Highlands. This temple cannot compare to the temples in Penang e.g., but it is a nice place to visit in the mountain region anyway!
Time Tunnel Gallery
If you want to learn more about the history of Cameron Highlands I would recommend you to visit the Time Tunnel Gallery which is located in Brinchang. This place is something like a museum, but definitely has nothing to do with all the museums I have visited in Europe. All in all, here you’ll find tones of items from the period between the ‘40s and the ‘80s, many artefacts and historical photographs from the colonial era, rare things with sentimental value, etc. Time Tunnel Gallery is opened from 9 am to 6 pm and the tickets are priced at MYR 5.00 (adult) and MYR 3.00 (child).
The Tea Plantations
The stunning view over the tea plantations in Cameron Highlands was the reason to put this destination on my Malaysia Bucket List. But the “life” breath-taking view over the mountain slopes cannot compare even to the most beautiful photo of the tea plantations ever taken.
Cameron Highland is the largest tea producing region in Malaysia and South-East Asia. Nowadays, you can find several plantations which dominate the valley, but the “BOH Tea” company is still the most prominent tea plantation and factory in the mountain region. This place looks like an HD animated scenery, as the colours remain something that cannot really exist in this reality … You don’t really want to miss this view when travelling to Malaysia, right? Just try to escape the “rush-hour” between 09:30 am and 11:00 am. We came here at 11:30 and as you can see we were the only guests to enjoy this stunning and refreshing nature!
The “BOH Tea” Factories
We headed to the “BOH Tea” factories (entry free) where we learned a bit more about the tea production during the (free) educational tour. In spite all visitors in the factory, the BOH tea was refreshing and my very first green-tea tiramisu delicious! Afterwards, we spent another 30 minutes in the “BOH Tea Shop” where we checked enough small-tea presents for our homies.
With its 2.031 m, the Gunung Brinchang is only 159 m lower than the highest peak (Gunung Tahan) in Peninsular Malaysia. The best hiking time is in the early morning and provides a stunning view of the sunrise. Unfortunately, we visited the forest in the afternoon, so it was pretty foggy and the view was not the best. The visit was interesting anyway! Gunung Brinchang is a very popular viewpoint that provides a scenery view over the rain forest. It was so unbelievable quiet – the only thing that you’ll actually hear is the wild animals.
My second favourite part of our stay in Cameron Highland is the Mossy Forest! This surreal forest is 200.000 years old and nurtures ancient trees and rare flower. As the name says, pretty everything is hugged by thick layers of moss, lichen and drape of ferns. The humidity in the forest was nothing I have ever experienced in my life as my clothes got wet after 30 minutes of walk!
The Mossy Forest of Gunung is a very unique ecosystem and biotope that looks like a magical world from the fairy tales! Here you can spot some of the most exotic floras like carnivorous plants, pitcher plant, other insect-eating plants, rafflesia flowers, epiphytes, wild orchids, numerous primitive ferns, spices and medical plants. The mossy nature is also a perfect place for numerous creatures like insects, frogs, snakes, birds, butterflies, etc. The forest is very muddy, slippery and mysterious! Additionally, everything looks like a snake … and this was my “chief” problem! I asked our guide, if we are going to see some snakes today and his answer was pretty legendary: “No. But they will see You.
The Butterfly Farm
Another touristy attraction in Brinchang is the “Butterfly Farm” where you can comb through thousands of live butterflies, insects, reptiles and other small animals from this region. Regardless of the name, this place has nothing to do with “farming” butterflies but is rather a small zoo. There is a garden section with all different kind of butterflies and flowers, and a reptile section with lizards, snakes, insects and different mammals.
The “Butterfly Farm” is opened daily from 8 pm to 5.30 pm and the tickets are between MYR 5.00 (adult) and MYR 2.00 (child).
The Local Market
The local market in Cameron Highland is a good and very cheap place for shopping! For example, I found several t-shirts of great quality (3.00 € each), magnets (5 magnets for 2.00 €) and other bargains. Here you can also try a lot of tropical fruits which look like nothing that I have ever eaten before and interesting variations of Cameron Highland’s local cuisine.
There are soooooo many strawberry farms in Cameron Highlands! But why? The strawberries are not typical fruits for South-East Asia, but the English men brought them to Malaysia in the 20th century. The conductive climate environment in this region allows the growing of strawberries all year round (and not only in June like in Europe…). The most famous strawberry farms are: Blueberry Earthouse, KL Strawberry Farm, Big Red Strawberry, Raaju’s Hill Café and S’Corner Market. Make sure you ask about the price before picking your own strawberries as it might be expensive – an entry fee, strawberry box, rate for picking, etc.
The most complicated cuisine we had during our stay in Malaysia, was the Steamboat, also known as Hot Pot and Shabu Shabu – a very traditional dish of Cameron Highland. Steamboat is a fondue-like experience and it “can” be a ton of fun (if you know how it works…). The steamboats were introduced by the Chinese during the colonial era of Malaysia.
What is all about?
The steamboats often come in spited pots with two sections for two different kinds of broths e.g. normal and spicy. You can chose different kinds of meat, vegetables, noodles, eggs, seafood which you have to put into the soup for several minutes or even seconds.
To be honest, I was pretty overstrained with the information about how long should I cook this or that… and I didn’t even know what kind of stuff lies on the plate in front of me … The summary looks like this: pea shoots, watercress, shiitake mushrooms, chopped chicken and pork, fish balls (I didn’t like those!), random meatballs, tofu cakes, fish cakes, eggs, squid pieces (thanks, but no thanks), fresh ocean shrimp (which I exchanged for chopped chicken) and one thing that tasted like nothing. The last one was actually jellyfish.