The Cool, Calming Cameron HighlandsThe Cameron Highlands were discovered in 1885, with development of the area starting in 1925. With temperatures that rarely go above 21°C and below 10°C, it was deemed by the British settlers the perfect place to escape the heat and humidity. Aside from the attractive temperatures, the Cameron Highlands is a wonderland for those interested in flora and fauna. We were keen to get a hit of some clean (cool) air, check out the blue peaks and cloud forest. Unfortunately there was still some haze, but it was much lighter than Kuala Lumpur.
The cloud forest is a specific type of forest in a tropical or sub-tropical setting, characterised by persistent, low lying cloud (usually at canopy level). Due to the low cloud cover, the forests are moist and evergreen, and often called mossy forests due to the high moss content. There are very few countries with cloud forests, as it takes very special environmental conditions for the forests to develop. The Cameron Highlands has the most accessible cloud forest in the world making it a star tourist attraction. At 1,800m above sea level with a constant cloud and mist cover, it is the perfect place for a cloud forest. The main part of the mossy forest has recently been closed (indefinitely) to allow moss regeneration due to the extent of irreparable damage to the forest.
ACCOMMODATIONOur accommodation in the Cameron Highlands was incredible. Father’s Guest House is located in Tanah Rata, one of the main townships in the Cameron Highlands. It was clean, fresh and the staff were extremely knowledgable and helpful. Easily the best place we have stayed to date. There were many other travellers doing similar trips to us, which gave Father’s a really social atmosphere.
FOODThe high quality of food has continued to amaze us. About 200m from Father’s was a set of Malay markets. We had lunch here each day, incredible noodle and rice dishes for only RM5-7 (approx $2 AUD). I still can’t get over the high quality of food for such a small price.
We also went to a local South Indian restaurant. The first time I asked the man what his best dish was; next thing he had whisked away our menus and was starting to feed us. Chicken tandoori, multiple different curries, naan bread, fish and rice were all placed before us; a feast fit for a king! All the food was delicious, we waddled away perfectly content and extremely full.
ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONSOn our arrival we were told a festival was being held at the Chinese temple up the road. It was only held once a year so well worth going, mainly because part of the tradition is to walk across burning coals. With that in mind, we naively wandered up to the temple without much thought as to what would greet us. I was shocked as we got closer we could hear Asian pop music blaring above all else.
When we arrived at the temple there was a stark contrast between the young girls singing Asian pop and dancing in full costume (it was so loud I could feel the vibrations through the ground), and the men praying in the temple preparing to walk over the coals.
What I now know is it was the Nine Emperor God Festival, a nine-day Taoist celebration that starts on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month. The festival starts with the gods being welcomed to the temple. They are then worshipped over nine days before being sent back off. Devotees believe the Nine Emperor Gods bestow wealth and longevity upon worshippers. To show their dedication, devotees practice some self-mutilation that includes placing skewers through their cheeks and fire walking.
After the devotees had crossed the fire pit, it was open to general population. It was about this stage (with the pop music still blaring) Jimmy decided it was his turn to walk on fire. Naturally, I held his shoes and took some photos. Reports afterwards informed me “it wasn’t even hot”. I’m still a bit dubious, I could feel the heat from where I was standing meters away.
Luckily Jimmy didn’t burn his feet and we were able to go on a half-day tour the following day with Cameron Secrets. This took us up to the highest point in the Cameron Highlands, atop Mount Brinchang, 2,032m above sea level. Unfortunately, the haze limited our outlook from the viewing platform (which was extremely rusty and made safety questionable). The tour also took us into the mossy forest (our guide took us along a secret track) that was incredible. The forest floor is made completely of compost and as it is constantly damp there is a springy element to it. Everything was covered in moss, which gave the forest a fairy-tale quality. Our guide, Navin, was extremely knowledgable and was telling us all about the forest and the medicinal purposes behind many of the plants.
The last stop was the Boh tea plantation. In 1929, the tea plantation was founded (by a British businessman) and has been producing tea since. The climate is favourable for producing tea and Boh now has 1,200 hectares of tea trees. We had the opportunity to look around the factory to see how the tea is produced; it is an interesting process, one they continue to complete with the original machinery today. We tasted a couple of different teas, both were awesome. The tea factory concluded the tour, and we opted to walk back to town through the forest.
Our last adventure for the Cameron Highlands was trail one; a bush walk that is famously the hardest in the area. The trek is only 2.3km but is up the side of Mount Brinchang and was reportedly very steep in places. Prior to our trek Jimmy did some research on snakes found in the Cameron Highlands. It was not reassuring to know King Cobras live in the mountains. It also didn’t help we heard from others they had seen a 3m long snake on the trail the day before. This all added a fear-factor (especially for Jimmy). The trail was really good, extremely steep in parts (you needed 4-points of contact) and through a network of tree roots, it was definitely a challenge.
Once at the top you have two choices, either wave down a local for a ride or walk back into town. We took our chances and waved down a local who was happy to give us a ride into town. This saved our legs the 15km walk and the kind local man seemed happy with our company. He even offered us strawberries he had picked!