DAY 1 So Penangwas now over, it started off rough but was in fact quite rewarding in the end. We had to have a bit of an earlier wake up as Lauren was insistant that we walk to the port to catch our free ferry back to Butterworth. Beginning our walk I began to feel not so good….. South East Asia tummy problems you know… which for me was a massive problem because the quality of toilets you come across during travel days at bus stations and train stations are less than average – and average in this region was way below desirable! Anyways, arriving at Butterworth off I went in a hurry to find a toilet whilst Lauren sorted out our transfer to the Cameron Highlands.
Finding the “toilet” I was shocked and astounded to find an old Malay lady sitting at a desk charging me 60MYR cents to get access to the toilet in my desperate state. Knowing full well that the Malay’s have a keen sense of entrepreneurship, and like to set up tables and chairs outside public toilets to charge you, I luckily came prepared with some money. Long story short – I left the toilet even more dumbfounded at the simple fact that I had paid for a pretty rank (meaning disgusting in my lingo) toilet and wasn’t even given toilet paper. The restI leave up to your imagination…
On top of it all, my visit to what some people in Malaysia call a “toilet” was rushed by a hasty bus leaving to Ipoh which we had to catch to get our transfer to the Cameron Highlands. Now the bus ride to Ipoh would have been pretty uncomfortable for me travelling alone struggling with stomach problems, but the beauty of it all was travelling with my wife. Not feeling very well she took hold of the reigns and managed to book our ride to Ipoh (20RM pp), do shopping for some food and put our packs in the bus all in the space of about 3-5 minutes. Then getting on the bus I was met by my beautiful wife ready to get me settled to try and make the bus ride as comfy as possible. To those people contemplating travelling with a significant other, the positives far out way the negatives, believe me!
Arriving at Ipoh a couple hours later we were pleasantly surprised to find it a pretty clean and impressive small city.A quick stop at the impressive Ipoh bus station meant a short trip to the bathrooms, which I can say were actually really nice and I didn’t even have to pay! Lauren, taking the lead bought our transfer to the highlands for 18RM each.Aftera small panic at the ATM,thinking it had swallowed my card, followed by another minor panic trying to locate my wife and the bus, I was thankfully ensconced in its’ warm embrace (wife AND bus) and on our way to Cameron Highlands.
The bus trip to Cameron Highlands was high and windy – for those who get car sick easily I recommend packing a plastic bag or two, as the bus doesn’t stop anywhere between Ipoh and the Highlands.Arriving, after what seemed like an interminable trip, at Tanah Rata (a main town in the Highlands) we jumped off the bus and decided to grab some food before heading to our accommodation. Wanting to look up how far Gerards Place was from the bus station I realised I had left my IPhone on the bus and lucky for me it was still there when I ran back… I seem to have developed quite a knack for leaving things in seats on different forms of public transport, in fact I seem to have a special ability to lose or leave things behind, period.
Upon arriving at Gerards Place by taxi (8RM) we were greeted by an incredible lady, by the name of Jay, and her son, who were both extremelyfriendly. Her son, who is autistic, checked us in within a matter ofminutes, and Jay quickly filled us in on all the ins and outs of Cameron Highlands and the town of Tanah Rata.
NOTE: Although Gerards Place is slightly pricier than the otherscarce accommodation in the Highlands (100RM per room per night with shared bathroom) we believe it is well worth the money and we would definitely go back there. It was recommended to us byFathers Guesthouse, which we initially looked into but are frequently full.We subsequently met a few couples who had stayed in Fathers Guesthouse,because it is the cheaper alternative,and they all said that they preferred Gerards Place.
Our day ended pleasantly with a short 10 minute walk into town,dinner and some fresh fruit to sustain us, and spending the night drinking Milo and sharing travel stories and information with the other couples in our small “apartment” at Gerards Place.
Today was an “office day” – and judging by our blog backlog was well overdue.Blogging is hard work people, but well worth it in the end we believe. Spending a day writing about the privilege we have of travelling parts of the world, experiencing different cultures and having these incredible experiences was something we treasured. Sometimes you take it for granted, but when you sit down and put your experiences into words it makes you realise just how blessed and privileged you are to be doing what you are doing. Our hope isthat reading our blog, and following our experiences,will give you some insight into what an amazing thing it is to be travelling.
After a long “business” day (they were becoming the epitome of stress during our trip), off we went into town to grab some dinner. We had read, and received a recommendation by Jay,that trying a Steam Boat in Cameron Highlands is a “mustdo experience”, so off we went to Mayflower, which apparently did the best Steam Boat in Tanah Rata. What an interesting and rewarding experience it was!
It is kind of difficult to describe but basically a small portable gas stove is placed on your table with a pot of your choice of soup. We had half Chicken and Tomyam soup to split the spicy, because Malay people know how to do spicy food! Your pot of soup is then placed on top of the small gas stove and on the side you are served a massive plate of raw meat, vegetables, noodles and tofu. Our plate consisted of 2 eggs, two different kinds of noodles, tofu, fish balls, prawns, mushrooms, beef, chicken, jellyfish, soya beans, crab sticks, fish, squid and various other vegetables. Whilst feeling a little unsure of what to do, one of the local waitresses, sensingthis, gave us a crash course on the correct process to follow.This is how it goes –you throw whatever it is you want toeat into the pot of soup wait about 3-5 minutes for it to boil/cook and then pull it out, using the various utensils you are given, and enjoy!
What an amazing culinary experience it was for us, we thoroughly enjoyed it and the food was GREAT! Lauren and I definitely ate our fair share, and feeling super stuffed there was still more to eat so don’t stress about quantity – one is definitely enough to feed 2-4 people! The good thing was we walked a little of it off on the short incline back to our apartment.
Upon waking up for our tour Jay bought us a traditional Malay Breakfast, I forget the name but I distinctly remember it being surprisingly good and resembling what many of us call creme caramel. Then there was ashort wait outside our apartmentto beuplifted by our guide, Raju, in a 4×4 Land Rover to begin our tour.
NOTE:On arriving at Cameron Highlands Jay talked us through a few of the tours we could do in our short stay with the company she owned called Cameron Secrets. Look them up on Tripadvisor as they are quite reputable and our experience of their Mossy Forest tour was amazing.
Our first stop was the BOH tea plantation, which is the largest tea plantation in Malaysia. Here we were allowed to walk around the fields and just enjoy the clean air and the breathtaking views of the highlands. A short walk down the road we were met again by our super friendly guide Raju who gave us a brief explanation about the tea plantation and the process of making tea. His love for nature and wildlife, and his extensive knowledge and sense of humour, made the tour extremely interesting and our experience of it all was heightened because of it.
Our next stop was a drive up to Mount Binchang, which is the highest peak in the highlands. Starting our drive up we quickly came to realise the need for a 4×4! As soon as we began to ascend we came across a Proton, driven by a bunch of tourists,struggling to get up the hill. Raju, making his jokes about “stupid tourists”, ended up having to reverse the car back down the hill and insisted that they wouldn’t be able to make it in that vehicle and they had to turn around. Shortly after that, a tour in another Land Rover burst a tyre trying to get back on the road. We of course found this all pretty hilarious, but after a few photos to commemorate the moment we began to sympathise. Finally, off we went on our steep drive up to the peak. Unfortunately for us it wasn’t a clear day due to cloud cover and haze, but apparently on a clear day you can see an amazing panoramic view of the Highlands and the Straits of Malacca as well.
NOTE: At the top of Mount Binchang it gets pretty cold so make sure to take some extra layers with you, a warm Jacket and perhaps a beanie will suffice.
Next stop, the Mossy forest. Feeling pretty desperate to visit the bathroom we did a short trek through the Mossy forest which was really incredible. Again Raju’s vast knowledge of nature and the eco system within the highlands came into play making the tour that much more interesting and insightful. The Mossy forest wasn’t what I had expected but was still beautiful and well kept, and will hopefully stay that way if tourists pay attention to its value and are careful when trekking through it.
Our final stop was the BOH tea plantation to see how the tea process was executed, and a much needed bathroom break. After our amazing tea and cake that Lauren and I enjoyed at the tea shop we met back at the Land Rover and headed back to Tanah Rata.
NOTE:The only downside of the BOH tea plantation was the massive influx of tourists, locals say it is best to go during the week as it is incredibly crowded on weekends and sometimes you will have to wait 2-3 hours before getting in.Heading back to Gerard’s Place quickly to catch our mid afternoon bus to Kuala Lumpur we were thankful for our visit to Cameron Highlands. The climate is vastly different to the rest of Malaysia and it was the first time we got to wear long pants and jackets to keep us warm and not to protect us from leeches.
Cameron Highlands was an amazing break from the hustle and bustle of travel life, the vibe is really relaxed and it really is a place to go for some peace and quiet, breathtaking views, and some interesting information about something that is a part of the Malaysian culture.
Now we head back into city life at Kuala Lumpur so keep following us to find our more about the Malaysian capital city!