Everything You Need to Know About the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
After spending 10 days in a kick ass AirBnb in Kuala Lumpur, we decided to head up to the Cameron Highlands for a couple of days. The Cameron Highlands is known for its cooler temperatures, tea production, and hiking. After spending 3 weeks in big cities, we were excited to get out of the big cities and get back into nature.
Getting to + From CH
The bus to and from the Cameron Highlands is both efficient and affordable. Buses leave from the TBS terminal many times a day through a couple of different companies. CS Travel + Unititi seem to be the most popular companies, so we went with CS Travel and had a just fine experience (it wasn’t amazing, but it certainly wasn’t bad). They are also quite affordable — around 35 RM each way, which is about $10.
The trip to the CH took longer than we expected simply because of traffic. Traffic seems to be a consistent problem in the CH, which is confusing considering it’s not that big of a place. Be warned though — if Google Maps tells you it will take 3 hours, it’ll take more like 4 or 5 hours. Oh, and if you get motion sickness, take something beforehand. The road is extremely windy!
Getting a lay of the land
Our bus dropped us off on the main street in Tanah Rata outside of the CS Travel Office. Usually, when we arrive in a new place, there is a moment of “where do we go from here?!”; however, it didn’t take long to get our barrings in Tanah Rata. There is literally one main street, with a few streets surrounding the main street where you can find additional restaurants and many of the hotels + guesthouses.
The CH is made up of two main towns: Tanah Rata + Brinchang, which are located only 5km from one another. The walk between the two towns is nice + easy and makes for a pleasant afternoon adventure (see below for more details!). Tanah Rata seems to be the more popular of the 2 for food + accommodation, although most of the activities are closer to Brinchang.
We were surprised by how run down both Tanah Rata and Brinchang are. After reading about the CH, we had expected it to be nicer than it is. The buildings look like they’ve seen better days, and it almost seemed like tourism had peaked a couple of years ago. Although there was wifi almost everywhere in town, it was pretty atrocious. For you digital nomads out there, don’t expect to get too much work done while in the CH! This was the worst wifi of our entire trip so far — even worse than the Philippines!
Perhaps it was just the fact that we went to CH over Deepavali weekend, but booking accommodation was tough because we didn’t plan too far in advance. And, it seems like most places to stay are expensive for what they are. We ended up booking in at the Cameronian Inn through Agoda, and we had a great stay. It was basic accommodation for an affordable price.
When you are looking at places to stay in CH, we would would suggest staying in Tanah Rata. Tanah Rata has a ton of good restaurants, coffee shops (including a Starbucks), and seems to be the most popular place in the CH to stay.
Unless you are paying the big bucks to stay at one of the fancy hotels with the nice spas + restaurants attached, keep your expectations low. As mentioned above, the CH is pretty run down, and this includes the hotels + guest houses. Nevertheless, it is quite possible to find somewhere clean and comfortable to stay, and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters, right?!
What we did
We visited the CH during rainy season, so each afternoon it dumped down buckets of rain. After spending our first afternoon experiencing this, we planned our days around it. Word to the wise — if you are visiting in rainy season, be sure to have a water proof jacket!
We had 2.5 days and 3 nights in CH, which was enough time for us. It gave us time to experience both Tanah Rata + Brinchang, get 2 massages, and do some hiking.
On our first full day in Tanah Rata, we wanted to visit Brinchang to check out the strawberry farm + cactus valley. We wandered down to the taxi stand to be told that the taxis wouldn’t take us to Brinchang because of bad traffic. OK then (raises eyebrow). So, we took the jungle walk from Tanah Rata to Brinchang, which is about 5km. The walk was an easy, pleasant walk through the jungle.
Brinchang itself wasn’t too much to write home about, and we found ourselves continuing to talk about how surprisingly run down the CH were. It seemed busy enough, so why wasn’t the upkeep there?
Anyway, we arrived in Brinchang to discover that Cactus Valley is more of a big greenhouse for cactus’ so we skipped that and went to the Red Strawberry Farm. The strawberry farm was also more of a greenhouse on the sit of a hill, but we went in to get a strawberry lassi + strawberries with cream. It was totally worth it!
When we had finished up at the strawberry farm, we attempted to get a taxi back to Tanah Rata, and were once again told that the taxis weren’t running because of traffic. This is a common occurrence in the CH and can be a MASSIVE inconvenience, so plan accordingly.
On our second full day in the CH, we planned to do some hiking, which is really what we were there for! We took a taxi (finally!) to the starting point for Genung Brinchang and set out for the trek. It’s only a couple of kilometers, but it is straight up a mountain. We were surprised by how unruly the terrain was (think climbing over massive roots, and struggling to avoid thick, deep mud).
After 1–2 hours of trekking, we arrived at the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, the mountain was in a cloud, so we couldn’t see a thing! We began to make our way down the other side of the mountain, stopping to visit the Mossy Forest.
We continued trekking for a number of hours, making our way to the Boh Tea Plantation. Unfortunately, we did our trek on a Monday, which is the only day that the tea plantations are closed. We were pretty bummed out that we had traveled all the way to the CH to see the tea plantations to have them be closed, BUT the views of the lush, rolling hills made the trip completely worth it.
By the time we arrived at the Boh Tea Plantation, we had been trekking for a number of hours, and were ready to be back home. There were no taxis in sight, so we used our convenient data plan to call one. We called 3 times, each time being told that the taxi wouldn’t come. We walked about further to an area with a mall to get some food and figure out our plan for getting back (there was still 9km to get back to Brinchang).
When we asked customer service at the mall, the woman advised us to hitch hike. So, we walked out of the mall, stuck our thumbs out and hoped for the best. Fortunately, a nice Malaysian man with a truck pulled over and we hopped in the back. Hitch hiking is often the only way to get around in the CH, and it’s quite safe.
After a bumpy ride down the mountain, we made it back to Tanah Rata, exhausted and ready for a big meal!
We prefer to do things on our own, but if the idea of walking aimlessly and / or hitch hiking doesn’t appeal to you, there are a ton of tour options in the CH.
Where we ate
Because Tanah Rata is so small, it is easy to find places to eat. We ate a few meals at Cameron aa Curry house, which is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We ate a delicious dinner at Barracks, which is a tad more expensive, but some of the best food we ate on our entire CH trip. We trip hot pot at Rosette, which is a must while in the CH, and drank all the coffee / tea at Starbucks.
Overall, we enjoyed our time in the CH, and would recommend a visit for a couple of days.
Has anyone else visited the CH? What are your recommendations?
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Originally published at www.theworldwanderers.com on November 15, 2016.