29 October 2012

Cameron Highlands

Time flies by when you're enjoying yourself, they say. This was certainly true for us – the first two months of island bliss had come and gone, and it was time to start packing for the first visa run. Destination: Malaysia. So we said bye to our lovely home and the scooter, arranged the plants so that they'd hopefully get some water and still be alive when we return, took a taxi to Thong Sala and soon we were watching Koh Phangan get smaller and smaller behind the Raja ferry. Even though the idea of a short holiday in a new place was nice, it was still comforting to know that in two weeks I'd be back (S a bit later), swinging in the hammock and waging war against ants.

The first pit stop in our Malaysian journey was still in Thailand, as we had to spend a night in Surat Thani. We reached the mainland after an uneventful 2,5 h ferry journey and rode another hour on the bus from Don Sak, where the big Raja ferry docks, before reaching our destination. There isn't much to say about the town – tourists go there in order to go somewhere else. There was a nice night market, though, where we enjoyed a very delicious Pad Thai, some very Asian-tasting super sweet lime drink and a couple of pretty interesting coconut cakes, one of which decided to spill its piping hot innards right on my shirt. Nice.

A random tempel in a transit city

So the following day there was more travelling to do: first a bus ride to Surat Thani airport, then a short flight to Kuala Lumpur followed by more sitting on the bus. First we made our way to KL center and managed to find the Puduraya bus station after some head-scratching. Until now I've never undestood why some people find the subway confusing, but after the signage, or lack of them, in KL, I now know why. Then the task was to find the correct counter on the bus station, which was also more baffling than any building I'd ever been before. Luckily there was a helpful dude to take us to the ticket counter floor. So hey Kuala Lumpur, you'd better improve your game before we return, as the first impression really wasn't all that awesome.

But we managed to get our tickets, got on the bus and were on our way to Tanah Rata in Cameron highlands. The trip took about 4,5 freezing hours (the temperature in any public transport in Asia never ceases to amaze me. Word of advice: you can't pack too many warm clothes/scarves in your carry-on luggage) and we stepped off the bus to a surprisingly busy Tanah Rata main street. We had unknowingly stumbled upon a super high peak weekend as a muslim holiday of some kind was taking place, but we were lucky enough to still find a room (although a more expensive family room) in 8 Mentigi guest house that I'd found in Päde's blog

Our digs

So what's there to do in Cameron highlands? Well, first off, you can puzzle over the weirdness of the place. The temperature is like Finnish summer (the two weeks when it's actually warm ;)) and there are conifers growing peacefully beside the palmtrees:

 The buildings look like you could be somewhere in the Alps:

There's scones and tea to be had in the cafes, so now you'd think you were in England:

But you're still on Malaysian soil. When you get over the strangeness of it all, you can for example go see the views on Gunung Brinchang, the second-highest mountain in Malaysia (2000 m), taste the local strawberries (there're a gazillion farms everywhere), drink the local Boh tea and go see the tea plantations, or hike on some jungle trails. Or gorge yourself on some superbly excellent Indian food (go to a place called Kumar's. You won't regret it and neither will your wallet)

... or have some herb brew and dessert in Dynasty Tang house of dessert.

We decided to do a couple of tours with Cameron Eco Tours, which really paid off, as the tour guide was a biologist and told us loads about the jungle plants. We went to see the views from Gunung Brinchang, visited the mossy forest and took photos of butterflies on a butterfly farm on the first day. Tomorrow there's going to be a visit to the tea and strawberry farms as well as some other activities. Then it's bye bye Cameron highlands, as we're off to Penang (to eat even more ;)).

Hobbit hills or tea plantations?

Kunung Brinchang

Mossy forest

So, to sum up the Camerons: it's nice to breathe some cool mountain air for a change, and the sights are worth seeing. There's enough things to do and stuff to see for a few days, but I wouldn't spend a week here. And I'll be super happy to change my sneakers and long pants to flip flops and a dress again as we reach Penang and the tropical climate again :)

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