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Escape the heat in cool, scenic Cameron Highlands

Escape the heat in cool, scenic Cameron Highlands

Where is Cameron Highlands?

Cameron Highlands is about 200km or 3,5h drive from Kuala Lumpur and 2.5h from Ipoh, the closest airport. On most days, a fairytale mist covers most of the valley the tea plantations and the thick jungle forests that the British explorers discovered. The jungle has been significantly destroyed in the last decade as a result of heavy development but can still be appreciated on nature treks.

This is a 3 day itinerary of Cameron Highlands, but if you only have 2 days to spare, fret not! Here’s our guide to 2 days in Nusa Lembongan, Bali.

Day 0 in Cameron Highlands

Arrive on Friday evening and make sure to have organized your pick-up. By the time you make it to the hotel it will be dinner which is best with a warm steamboat, a tradition at Cameron Highlands as the weather is always closer to 20 than 30 degrees Celsius.

Day 1 in Cameron Highlands

Strawberries for breakfast

Get up for a wonderful strawberries breakfast. Strawberries are a particular specialty here. Cameron Highlands Resort has a lovely a la carte breakfast, be sure to get some of the strawberries.  Then start the weekend off by taking tours from this resort that’ll enable you to truly explore Cameron Highlands.

Organic Cultural Journey

Start off with the Organic Cultural Journey tour that includes a visit to the farms that have made Cameron Highlands such a popular spot. You can learn more about organic farming methods and the famous hydroponic systems that use just water to grow vegetables. Then watch the chef make a cooking demonstration at the farm with a three-course meal that you will get to taste.

Afternoon Tea

Head back to the hotel and enjoy an early Afternoon tea at Jim Thompson’s Lounge at around 3pm and get yourself into the mood for the afternoon’s trail. The lounge is set on the ground floor of the hotel, with views over the golf course through the large windows. Even in the ever-present Cameron Highlands rain, the plush velvet chairs and the sound of the piano will make you feel as though the British have never left.

Trails to Pos Rantau

At 2:30pm head back out for the Trails to Pos Rantau, a rare opportunity to see the oldest Semai Tribal village in Cameron Highlands. You will visit a Chinese farming village and get to know more about the Semai.

This takes 5 hours so by the time you are back, you will be happy, tired and ready for a hearty British dinner of roasted meat, vegetables and potato pure at the lounge. Then maybe a glass of whiskey or port wine by the fireplace.

Day 2 in Cameron Highlands

Signature Picnic Experience

We continue on with the tours offered by Cameron Highlands Resort today. At 10am embark on the Signature Picnic Experience, a visit to the famous Boh Plantation is a great way to kick off the weekend. Boh Plantation was the first tea plantation to open in Cameron Highlands over 80 years ago, and, at over 4 million tea bags, it produces 70% of Malaysia’s tea.

The journey starts at the visitor center in Sungei Palas which offers guided tours. If you don’t get there on time, you can also follow the placards and information cards available for a self-guided tour of the tea brand “with an umph!”. Boh Plantation is one of the most popular places in Cameron Highlands so it is always packed.

At the end of the visit, enjoy a tea tasting on the hanging cafe platform which has 180 degree view of the sea of tea bushes, waving to the wind. You will be able to see the workers picking leaves in the plantation. The center is a working factory, this is not just for show.

Complete the morning with a picnic lunch on the resort’s private platform atop the plantation. What a beautiful lunch spot.

Strawberry picking

After the picnic, head to one of the farms which allow you to “Pick your own strawberries”. Signs advertising them are everywhere and your driver can suggest one. You can set out into the greenhouses through the rows of strawberries and get to pick the ones you will take home. This is slightly more expensive, ironically, than getting them pre-packaged ones, so you are effectively paying to work, but it is such a joy! Picking your own should only be possible during the peak season from May to August, but is usually available off-season too.

Shopping break

On your way back to the hotel, stop at the market in town and marvel yourself at all the strange fruits and vegetables, maybe even do some weekly grocery shopping to take back home. Don’t be confused by all the plastic souvenir shops and look for the hidden flower shops, fruit stalls and lovely store owners.

Jim Thomson’s Mystery Trail

Fully recharged, nature is next on the agenda at 3pm. Jim Thomson’s Mystery Trail is a two hour walk in the Cameron Highlands jungle with an experienced naturalist and fabulous storyteller, Madhi. Native of the Cameron Highlands, Madhi is an expert in the forest, the trails and the tales surrounding Jim Thomson’s disappearance. Going on a walk with him is a treat, not least because of his wealth of knowledge of the area but also because he has been in Cameron Highlands long enough to remember what it was like before the tourists arrived, in the 60s.

The Jim Thomson’s Trail follows the disappearance of the army captain turned silk trader and rumoured double-spy. He was last seen in Cameron Highlands where he was visiting friends on Easter Friday 1967, and Madhi knows a few of his family members and friends as well as several of the people who interacted with him. He even built the trail you can walk on himself.

You know what the best part was of the trekking? Madhi kept repeating that we needn’t worry about our shoes, that he would make sure they were cleaned. After walking on muddy terrain and slippery slopes with mud almost up to my ankle, we certainly got back to the hotel to get a pair of slippers and a trash bag to place our dirty shoes. They were returned the next day squeaky clean. Quite impressive.

Nocturnal view

Back at the resort, and ready for an early dinner at around 6,30pm to make time for the nocturnal trail at 7:30pm where you can catch animals and sounds that are hidden during the day.

Day 3 in Cameron Highlands

This is your last day and you have earned some me-time. If you are keen to continue trekking, the Gunung Brinchang Trail is a great option. Fantastic views over the mountains from the highest point in Cameron Highlands. This is a slightly tougher trek as it involves jungle and steep climbs.

For those who are happy to take it easy, Cameron Highlands Resort has a fabulous Spa Village where the 3h journey with a bath, a wrap and a massage will leave you as good as new. We tried the strawberry journey which included a strawberry tea bath soak, a strawberry yogurt wrap and a delightful massage. All products used at YTL Spa Villages are made in-house by the therapists and are 100% organic and natural so you are sure to get chemical-free treatments.

After the treatment, you can have a leisurely lunch, time permitting and depending on whether you are departing from Ipoh or KL. if not, the hotel can also pack your lunch to take-away.

Where to stay in Cameron Highlands

The only way to organize this itinerary in a fabulous and perfect way is by staying at Cameron Highlands Resort. Run and owned by Malaysian Hotel Group YTL, this is a gem and very reasonably priced for the quality of service and genuine hospitality you get. There are many details and elements of this trip you couldn’t enjoy without a stay there, like the private picnic or Madhi’s amazing story-telling, so make sure to book with them and organize all the tours and excursions in advance.

Can’t travel to Cameron Highlands? Well, there are luxury resorts just a ferry away in Bintan for a quick getaway!

Getting to Cameron Highlands

Take the 3pm Firefly or the 3:10pm Tiger Airways flights on Friday evening, return Sunday at 5:10pm with Firefly.

The flight takes 1.5h and you will land in Ipoh where a 2.5h drive awaits you through the mystical and magical mountain road. If you have tendency to get car sick, bring tablets, this road make even the toughest road trippers ill.

If you have to return on Sunday but want to make the most of the day and not return on the 5:10pm flight, you have two more options in addition to the direct Tiger Airways flight. Either you drive back to KL and fly out from there on Sunday night, or you spend the night at KLIA2 and fly out on Monday morning. KLIA2 has a great cheap and easy Tune Hotel that is convenient for those airport nights. The drive from Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur is 3.5h and the Resort can organize the transfer for you.

If you want to return to Singapore on Sunday evening, Tiger flies at 9,05pm and at 10,20pm and Malaysia Airlines returns at 11.05pm guaranteeing your time in Cameron Highlands until at least 5pm.

Other things to note in Cameron Highlands

Traffic Jams

The road through Cameron Highlands gets regularly jammed with large buses and traffic. It is not that it is crowded but that the road is generally just one lane and it is easy for it to be packed during the weekends so allow extra time to get to and from places.

Weather woes

It can get chilly in the evenings, that’s right, bring a sweater for when temperatures drop below 20 degrees.

Cameron Highlands is fertile and great for farming and this is because of its high rainfall. Rain is almost unavoidable but it gives it that extra green, lush and fabulous look. Bring a rain jacket and boots for trekking so you don’t get stuck in the mud. Ponchos are provided by the resort if it rains and you didn’t bring your own. The staff will pick and clean your muddy shoes when you get back from jungle treks.

Bring repellent. The jungle is lush, green and teeming with wildlife, of all sorts. A good repellent, ideally strong and suited for the jungle, is essential.

What we would leave out in Cameron Highlands

If you can only come for the weekend, stick to the day 1 itinerary and choose between more trekking or the spa journey for Sunday morning. Consider the alternative flight options mentioned in the Flights section.

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