We went to the Cameron Highlands as the promise of tea and strawberries sounded too tempting. I remember my first words when stepping out of the bus were “Finally clean fresh air!” The less humid and colder climate were a blessing after a week in sweaty stuffiness!
We stayed in the town Tana Rata, which is a tourist friendly town in the highlands with a main road with guest houses, shops, and restaurants.
We reached our accommodation after 15 min of walking from the bus station and although it was situated a little off the main road, we would totally recommend the place to anybody who is planning to visit the area!
The Cave House is a very new (< 6 months) place that offers dorm beds as well as apartments with double rooms with shared and private bathrooms. The best things about the place are their incredibly friendly hosts, the Chinese Malaysian couple Soon and Sha Ron, and the home made breakfast they were serving each morning. We couldn’t get enough of the freshly baked sweet potato bread and home made jams and peanut butter! I am still getting a watery mouth thinking about it (despite the tea and cookie I am enjoying as a snack while typing)! They even offer a Chinese tea ceremony for 10 MYR, which turned out to be super weird but entertaining and definitely a good story to tell. We did the tea ceremony only with Soon and our theory is that he, sensing his opportunity without his wife, went a little over board with his crazy stories about Siberian tigers, German pork and french wine. Only one negative remark about the guest house is the wifi, which left us more than a couple of times to grind our teeth…
Scooter and trekking paths or organized tour?
Wherever you go, you will stumble over tourist agencies offering one day tours to explore the tea plantations, the mossy forest, guided jungle trekking, and various strawberry or other farms. We were contemplating for a while whether we should do our own program or book an organised tour. We first rented a scooter but eventually ended up doing it all. Here’s why:
Exploring the Cameron Highlands on a scooter
Renting a scooter is very affordable and a fun way to go around the tea plantations. The main road is hilly and curvy, nevertheless wide and well maintained, so that safety should not be a concern in particular. The tea plantations and farms are easily accessible by scooter, so if your main objective is to see the plantations, we would definitely go for the scooter. However, you won’t be able to take the scooter up to the mossy forest as the track is steep and will require a 4×4.
Organised tour with travel agency
As we wanted to see the famous mossy forest, we decided to take an organised tour. We were picked up in the morning by a 4×4 and were joined by another tourist couple and a Malaysian family vacationing in the Highlands over the weekend. The tour brought us first to a less touristy BOH tea plantation, then to the mossy forest, to the famous BOH tea plantation and tea factory, and lastly to one of the strawberry farms. Although the mossy forest was only accessible through a wooden pathway and not open for free walking around in the forest itself, we enjoyed the tour very much as it gave us a lot of background information about the history of the tea production in Malaysia and about the flora and fauna in the forest, and brought us in touch with locals. Spending an entire day with a local guide and, in our case, a Malaysian family was a good way to learn about the people and culture of the place.
Jungle trekking with trekking path map
The Camerons are surrounded by jungle and there are many trekking paths available from easy to moderate to hard and very hard levels. You can find a short description of possible trekking paths on cameronhighlandsinfo.com. We didn’t want to miss this experience either and tried four of the many treks, walking in two days approximately 17 km in total. Although some of the trails have nice parts in them, we have to admit that it was not one of our favourite hikes. This has to do with the fact that parts of the trails are not very well maintained so that it’s not always clear which way to go, especially in case of rain before or during the trekking.
Secondly, we (and especially I) didn’t feel most comfortable with being ‘stuck’ kilometer deep into the jungle with no immediate way to exit in case of rain, darkness, or simply not feeling up to the challenge.
Lastly, it’s fun to see the jungle but to be honest the scenery is pretty much the same throughout and we had sometimes the feeling of walking for the sake of walking without clear ‘reward’ of spotting interesting sights or viewpoints. They have waterfalls but these are mostly at the beginning of trails and not too spectacular. If you are going, we would highly recommend the trekking app mapp.me. It definitely helped us with navigating through the jungle and saved us from getting lost!