We recently spent a few days exploring the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. First we traveled from Melaka ,which we liked very much, to Ipoh. We spent two nights there. It was pleasant enough but fairly unremarkable. It was marred by me (Andrew) being extremely ill. Fever, headache, achy body, diarrhea, the whole bit. We're fairly sure it was due to the chicken I ate at a stop on the bus to Ipoh. Don't eat the chicken at Malaysian truck stops. Lesson learned.
From Ipoh it was only around 2 hours to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. Its a very windy road. Between the twisting and turning and the recycled air a little nausea was understandable. Bags to throw up into were freely available. None were required on our bus but I suspect they see a lot of use. There's something about the air conditioning in very old buses that can make you feel ill even if the bus is sitting still.
Once we arrived in Tanah Rata we sorted out our accommodation and made arrangements to go on a tour. Unfortunately everything is a bit too spread out to make walking practical. Its not a big place in terms of population but its all based around one main road that goes for miles and miles (which doesn't help the traffic).
In the dry season, if you manage to avoid the traffic, I could see it being a lot of fun on a motorcycle. In the wet season however and during a long weekend when the place was packed with tourists a bike would not have been much fun. So a minivan it was! The tour took us around a tea plantation, a strawberry farm and some other bits and pieces. It was quite pleasant. The Highlands are certainly very pretty.
Click this image to see it larger.
It was interesting to see the huge numbers of Malaysian tourists. They looked to outnumber foreign tourists by about 10 to one. A lot of countries, Australia included, have very little domestic tourism so its kind of unusual to see a lot of people exploring their own country. It was also fairly amusing to hear our driver/tour guide complaining bitterly about Malaysian tourists. Foreigners arrive by bus while Malaysians drive their own cars into the mountains. The problem with that being that a lot of the roads are steep, winding and narrow. In particular the road/dirt track through the tea plantation was frequently not wide enough to accommodate two way traffic although traffic did, in theory, flow both ways along it. The local drivers were able to navigate this by using a mixture of car horn Morse code to communicate with drivers on the other side of blind corners and pin point car maneuvering. A terrified out of town Malaysian driver at the wheel of a family sedan having to be directed by local drivers as they attempt to reverse back around a sharp corner while traffic backed up in both directions was a sight that was repeated several times.
Once we'd been to a few farms we felt like we'd done everything we wanted to do in the Cameron Highlands. We wanted to visit a tea plantation. Done... It didn't help that we were having trouble finding good food. The food seemed to be quite expensive and generally not very good. There were a few fancy restaurants that I'm sure would have been lovely but they were way out of our price range. We encountered some truly appalling food that was somehow served to us with a straight face.
One bright spot was meeting a group of Dutch ladies who convinced us to break our lengthy stretch of not drinking. Not that it took much but somehow we just never got around to going and having a drink when it was just the two of us.
Given the poor food and our general lack of desire to hang out in Tanah Rata we quickly decided to move on. Our next stop is Pulau Pangkor. Bring on the tropical island!