So beginning of this year 2020, we originally planned to visit either Hong Kong or Seoul. And then in end January, the unfortunate COVID19 started in Wuhan, China; and quickly spread to Hong Kong and Japan.
Still wanting to have a trip (and thank goodness we did one just before the Control Movement Order started in Malaysia), we decided to just stay put in country, and hence we did a road trip north to Cameron Highlands and Pangkor !
I have always wanted to visit Cameron Highlands, but I guess I took it for granted since it is only 3 hours drive from home. So, we made it happen, I took one week off, and we started our road trip with Cameron Highlands our first stop !
Getting there & around
You can reach Cameron Highlands by either bus or car. From KL, the drive is about 3 hours (4 hours if you are taking the bus). Getting around, if you don’t have a car, you can either call for a cab, or hire one with a driver for RM 50 (10 EUR) per 2 hours.
If you are like us, planning to include Cameron and Ipoh in one trip. You must take the Second East West Highway (Federal Route 185) connecting Cameron Highlands and Ipoh. We did Ipoh after Cameron, and took this scenic route descending the highlands. You get this gorgeous view of the valley (regret I didn’t stop to spend more time/ take photos), and there’s this long stretch of driving in between cliffs and never ending greens ! It is definitely one drive I never thought I get to experience in my country, and yes, I am proud of our rainforests.
When to go
You don’t want to visit Cameron Highlands when it is wet season. Nothing beats reaching there, and not being able to walk the tea plantations ! The best time to visit is February and March, with the lowest rainfall and lesser tourist crowd.
Tip: It does get a bit chilly at night, so do pack along a light jacket if you plan to do some night walking.
If you can, visit during weekdays. We were told by our guide that weekend crowds can be a bit overwhelming. And avoid school holidays if you can ! Cameron is one of the school holiday favourites.
As for how many days, I say best is to stay a minimum 2 nights, maybe not more than 3 nights, unless you plan to hike all the trails.
Where to stay
I am very fortunate that my company owns two bungalows in Cameron Highlands, for only employees to lease. For 2 double bed rooms, I only had to pay RM 100 per night (RM 200 if on weekends). It is a great bargain and hence not the easiest to get a booking.
Otherwise, there are plenty of accommodation options in Cameron. If you are looking to spend a bit more, the Cameron Highland Resorts (CHR) is gorgeous ! It does come with a hefty price tag of about RM 600 (130 EUR) per night.
As for location, the options are either Tanah Rata or Brinchang. Tanah Rata is kinda the town centre, where the bus terminal and taxi stand are. Brinchang, which is further up, has more restaurant options.
What to do
It goes without saying, the first thing you must do is visit a tea plantation ! We joined a half day tour with Eco Cameron Tours, which covers BOH tea plantation and Mossy forest. It costs RM 50 for adult, RM 35 for child.
Sungai Palas tea plantation is one of BOH’s four estates in Malaysia. It spans across 234 hectares, and this estate alone produces 800k cups of tea per day ! Seeing this in person beats all the beautifully photoshopped photos I have previously seen online !
Tip: Start your journey early if you want to avoid the crowd in your photos.
The Mossy forest is another unique feature here, close to the summit of Mount Brinchang. So we were told, there are only a handful of mossy forest in the world, because it requires very specific conditions to grow, i.e. right altitude, temperature, humidity, and just the right amount of sunlight.
Be warned, it is not possible to walk here ! We saw maybe 2 backpackers hiking up, it must take 2 to 3 hours to reach from Brinchang ! The road conditions are quite bad too, the terrain is uneven, and the passage very narrow. I would not drive my own car on that road too. As such, I highly recommend joining a tour, of which we were transported on a 4X4 Land Rover.
Entrance fee is RM 10 for Malaysian, RM 30 for foreigner.
Our stay in Cameron was 3 days 2 nights. We originally wanted to do trail #10 up to Gunung Jasar, but we drove to the entrance and I gave up after seeing the muddy trails. I was not going to feel sorry for not wanting a clean and relaxing holiday away from work.
However, if you are all in for a sweaty hike. You should check out the trails.
There are plenty of strawberries farms, it almost feels like a tourist gimmick. You pay a fee to “pick” your own strawberries grown on trellises inside a green house.
Cactus point was a rather surprise discovery for us. It is basically cactus on wholesale ! You can visit for free, and not buy anything. And you should ! The giant varieties they have are pretty cool !
What to eat
Besides tea, Cameron Highlands is famous for two other things, i.e. scones and strawberries.
I love eating scones, but at the same time, I am really bad in baking. I always long for the scones from Fortnum & Mason (London). And so, we set out to try as many scones as we can while at Cameron !
So, we tried The Lord’s Cafe (highly recommended by Tripadvisor), Smokehouse Hotel (recommended by my friend), and Jim Thompson Tea Room (in CHR cause we wanted something fancy).
And the verdict … The Lord’s Cafe was our least favourite, it was a bit bland, served with store bought whipped cream and strawberry jam. They have a “special” Strawberry scone, which was not better than the plain scone.
Our favourite is Jim Thompson Tea Room‘s ! The scones was served warm, has a nice crust on the outside, and the inside is buttery and slightly crumbly. It is a bit pricey, but it is seriously good !
Steamboat is another popular item in Cameron, which makes sense to have when you get chilly evenings.
- Best to visit during weekdays. Avoid school holidays.
- Must visit tea plantation.
- Hire a guide/ join a tour if you plan to visit Mossy forest.
- Best scone is from Jim Thompson Tea Room.
Check out this other blog I have been referencing when I was planning my trip !