I have always wanted to visit a tea plantation. We are not planning to go to India or Sri Lanka on the trip so I figured that the Malaysian Highlands was a must-stop. I knew basically nothing about the Cameron Highlands except that there were tea plantations and it was in the direction of Penang, which was our next destination. We planned a three-night stop (again against our rules of one-week minimum) because there did not seem to be a lot to do in the Cameron Highlands beyond the tea plantations. I also struggled to figure out where to stay as there seemed to be only expensive and cheap hotels with little in between -and everything seemed poorly reviewed. So we opted for an Airbnb in the town of Tanah Rata.
We got there via local bus, feeling proud that we ventured to the KL bus station instead of taking the easy route and booking a private car (like we had from Singapore to Legoland). Upon arriving in the highlands, we realized that the area was a hotspot for local tourism – Malaysian tourists (often from KL) coming to experience “nature”. There were a lot of hikes in the area including multiple-day jungle treks, but the most our family managed was walking a few kilometres from one town to another. The area was once covered in dense jungle and some jungle does remain but most of the land is now covered in vegetable farms and tea cultivation. Nevertheless, it is green and very different from the urban areas we were coming from. Especially popular in the Cameron Highlands are the hydroponic strawberry farms where tourists use shears and cut strawberries hanging from pots and planters. You can imagine that the girls were excited to partake and actually picked strawberries twice.
Visiting the tea plantation itself was everything I dreamed of. We saw the table-pruned bushes and got our picture frolicking in the fields (until the guide warned us about the snakes). We tasted tea and learned about tea production. Julie will forever be loyal to the BOH tea company whose fields we visited. We found their tea throughout Malaysia and she always pointed it out to us. Hopefully, Thailand also carries the brand or she will be so upset.
We also introduced the kids to streetfood in Tanah Rata. There were not a lot of restaurants open (seems Cameron Highlands is a weekend desitnation and we were there midweek) so rather than visit mediocre places, we visited the bustling hawker stands. We tried our first Roti made on the street (albeit with banana and sugar instead of the traditional daal and mutton curry).
We also did a tour with a bunch of Spanish people and our guide Nasir . He took us to the tea fields and we visited the famous Mossy Forest which was beautiful, albeit not as unique for us (having spent 5 nights camping this summer in Pacific Rim National park on Vancouver Island). A forest covered in moss seems normal to Canadians but we were intrigued by the giant carnivorous plants that he showed us and wild orchids. He also made crowns for the girls which pleased them.
All in all, the Cameron Highlands were an interesting few days but it is not a place that I say is a must on your next Malaysian itinerary. The tea field photo in the books…. we now headed to Penang which is known as the #1 food destination in the country.
Where we stayed (5 words or less)
Tanah Rata Airbnb : Super clean, tiniest shower
By the Numbers:
- Number of minutes we spent at the Mossy Forest after guide said we had one hour to explore: 25
- Number of Strawberries each girl was allowed to pick on our first visit to a strawberry farm: 14 -They ate them all before their dad got any (I had 2)
- Number of minutes the girls worked on their tea homeschooling presentation: 60 minutes
- Length of time Mike spent in the hallway after the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night: 24 mins (3 females remained asleep)