From the cultural and foody Penang, we joined a minivan transport to the crisp cool region of Cameron Highlands. After travelling there in the morning, we were dropped off at our hostel, Gerard’s Place. This cool apartment style hostel is a sister hostel to the more popular Father’s. The place was very modern and clean and mostly quiet.
Later that same day, we took the option to do a half-day tour with the company that transported us from Penang. Our first stop was a Chinese temple with a pond full of huge coy fish.
One of our favorite stops of the day was to the Boh Tea Plantation. We’ve been to a few coffee plantations, but this was our first tea plantation. It was wonderful and educational to see the entire process – the tea plants in the fields, the crushing process, drying, sorting, oxidation and packaging.
And it smelled so good!
We had a nice cup of tea on the beautiful veranda which overlooks the tea plantation.
The tour also included a stop at a honey bee farm where we got to see many bees and learned about the honey process, and a butterfly/insect farm.
Because of the crisp cool climate in Cameron Highlands, it is the perfect place to grow strawberries year-round. During our stop at a strawberry farm, we got to see the modern way they have developed of growing strawberries with a raised platform type system which has a complex irrigation system and involves long white plastic bags to contain moisture and keep out pests.
This variety of strawberries is not as sweet to the ones we eat back home, but after adding a bit of sugar, the fresh strawberry juice we shared really knocked our socks off.
The local rose and orchid farm was full of beautiful flowers blooming in bright colors. This gave Erik a great opportunity to test out our new SLR Pentax camera. I wanted to get a Canon, but after some serious research, he decided on the Pentax; we shall see.
After many steps up a hill at the rose garden, we were rewarded with a panoramic view of the surrounding lush green mountains.
The next day, we joined a half-day tour of the cloud forest. The view at the lookout point was stunning. On our walk, we saw this incredibly strange leaf that twisted continuously and even after stopping it, it started up again in the same strange motion. Bizarre!
The rainforest walk was very short and a bit lame, I must admit, but it was neat to see the carnivorous pitcher plants up close and get some nice photos. Pitcher plants contain an open cavity which holds a sticky acidic substance. Small insects and even rodents are lured into the pitcher plant by this sweet nectar and once they climb inside, there is no way out! These creatures are eventually digested by the acidic substance. Crazy, but also kind of cool.
Like Penang, many parts of Malaysia contain a mix of cultures, religions and foods due to the coexistence of many different ethnicities. While in Cameron Highlands, we decided to try the famous Chinese steamboat or hot pot. A steamboat is a huge pot of steaming broth into which you cook your own meats, fish, chicken, eggs, noodles and vegetables.
At the recommendation of the host at Mayflower restaurant, we went with the combo chicken broth and Tom Yum. Excellent choice! When we cooked in the chicken broth, we found the food to be quite bland and flavorless. But the Tom Yum was delicious.
With no instruction, we were left to fend for ourselves and just threw stuff in and tried our best not to overcook things. It was very difficult, though, as the broth is extremely hot and things cooked very quickly.
We left a huge mess on the table, but thoroughly enjoyed our first steamboat. If you ever find yourself in Cameron Highlands, stop by the Mayflower Restaurant and order the steamboat with Tom Yum broth. You can read all of the write-ups about the famous Mayflower steamboat as you wait. Well worth a try!
A few days in Cameron Highlands was just enough to enjoy the crisp cool breezes and all of the interesting products this area produces.