Capturing our love for art, adventure and learning
PART 3: Chasing Mountains
We've been chasing the cool weather and mountain top experience for the past 2 weeks on this road trip. Rolling for more than 800km and finding ourselves above the clouds at more than 5000ft, we find solace in the quiet and beauty of our surroundings. If you missed out on the start of our journey, read it HERE!
After an exciting time in Genting in Part 2 of our journey, we drove on towards Cameron not knowing what to expect. I remember taking the arduous journey to Cameron Highlands as a child with my parents in a 40 seater coach on the hundreds of bends. I remember that it was a beautiful place but after more than 2 decades, it has become fuzzy. Debra and the kids have never been to this part of West Malaysia.
We descended Genting and took the highway up towards Brinchang via Tapah. We were a little flustered on the way down because Gwyneth was car sick and vomited on herself. We were stuck behind a VERY SLOW driver who constantly used his brakes haphazardly. My anxious mind went into overdrive worrying about how both the kids are going to cope with the hundreds of bends up towards Brinchang in Cameron Highlands. Debra calmed me down and we took a break at a nearby supermarket carpark. We cleaned up the mess and changed her into new clothes before stocking on some groceries. The bottle of Lysol (hospital grade disinfectant spray) came in handy.
My fears and anxiety was unfounded because all my passengers are champions! We conquered the bends up towards Brinchang over tarmac that has been patched so many times it is almost like the moon's surface. The Malaysian truck drivers we met on the way were nothing less than legends. They drove MASSIVE trucks round tiny bends and were so thoughtful towards those stuck behind them. They looked out for traffic on the opposite side and gave us the right indicator light as a signal to safely overtake.
Enjoy some of the bendy dizzy parts where the roads were still smooth enough to get a video recorded....
Our first reward midway through was this waterfall. Everyone's spirits were lifted by the majestic sight. At this point we had no idea what awaited us at our final destination. This was going to be our 3rd AirBnb apartment since we started the trip. The first one in Johor was dusty, mouldy and nothing like the pictures. The apartment in Genting was clean, spacious but was plagued with loud vehicles racing up the hill on the weekend.
The apartment up in Brinchang, Cameron Highlands exceeded our expectations!
This was the view that greeted us...
We took the rest of the day off after the eventful journey! I'm so extra thankful that the two little ones quickly adjust to new environments and new beds. They haven't shown signs of difficulty adjusting to being 5250ft above sea level nor complained about the weather being 16-20 celsius. In fact, we've all been restful and happy in this climate. In fact, the climate is the reason why we've been chasing mountains.
The only thing struggling with it is our little hatchback on inclines because air is thinner at altitude. This affects the fuel-air mix and reduces performance of the engine. Grateful for the little electric motor helping us scoot along when the engine struggles.
We woke up to smells of espresso in the apartment because we packed our machine and capsules in the boot. Debra and I are unapologetically addicted to our coffee. Haha! Road school continued and Matthias had Tamil lessons, tackled models for problem sums and read the BFG. Gwyneth perfected her upper and lower case letters, practiced reading aloud and basic Tamil vocabulary.
We visited the local markets/Golden Hill night market and got REALLY fresh and tasty groceries! Debra cooked tasty home cooked meals for us! All of us have got gluten/wheat intolerance and it really isn't that easy to get gluten free meals in this part of the world. Even in the major cities like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, we struggle to find affordable gluten free options. Debra will be adding her touch to our blog on a post about FOOD this week! (Food makes her smile wider than her husband can LOL!)
We chose not to pluck our own strawberries because it costs 4x more to get the same amount of strawberries. We bought them at the market instead. Just look at how red they are!
One thing we always do on our trips is to intentionally choose to travel slowly. We can pack our itinerary and return needing another holiday but we choose to weave our lives in with our journeys and take it slow. It allows us to take it in fully and really make lasting memories of it.
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
You cannot visit Cameron Highlands and not visit the tea plantations. This place is just steeped in history and....TEA.
Fun fact: A DRINK was a driving force behind colonialism.
Tea was a powerful driving force that drove British colonialism in India and beyond. It brought great wealth to the empire because the British/Europeans were CRAZY about tea. To think that one would travel halfway around the world to ensure supply of a drink is unthinkable. In 1929, a British entrepreneur surveyed Cameron Highlands and started tea growing and processing. He changed the landscape of this amazing place forever. 93 years later, his company Boh Tea still thrives here. In more recent history, Communist terrorists once hid among the vegetation during the Malayan Emergency.
We spent a morning each at Cameron Valley Plantation and Boh Tea Plantation. The views just blew our minds. It reminded us that West Malaysia is beyond the glitzy cities and exciting resorts. For those of you who are old enough to remember, the rolling hills/clouds reminded us of the Windows 97 wall paper....haha! But honestly, it is way better. It is comparable with the rolling hills in New Zealand.
I thought I should warn city drivers who are less aware of the "wilder" roads here. As with many roads in the Cameron Highlands, it can be dangerous to drive in wet weather because of reduced visibility, slippery roads and possible landslides. Landslides are a natural occurrence anywhere with cliffs, mountains and valleys but it is made worse by deforestation/human developments. We do see the authorities are making great efforts to mitigate these landslides through reinforcing cliffs with rocks, concrete or plants. I hope people will continue to make efforts to sustainably develop the Cameron Highlands because it will be such a pity to lose this precious gem in peninsula Malaysia.
Cameron Valley Plantation (Teahouse 3)
We visited all the plantations in the morning (9/10am) to avoid crowds and traffic. If you are able, come on weekdays that aren't school or public holidays. The roads in Cameron Highlands are mainly one lane for each direction so it can get quite congested. We temporarily ignored our gluten/wheat intolerance and indulged in scones with cream and jam. Of course our guts weren't very happy after that but we all had BIG smiles!
We decided not to pay RM3 each to walk through the plantation and opted for the 4X4 tour through the plantation in classic Land Rovers. Adults pay RM18 each and kids below 110cm pay RM12 each. Oh the landies just brought back memories bouncing behind an SAF Land Rover in my Army days. The quintessential diesel fumes + smell of burning oil will be something of the past as we all start to drive hybrid and electric cars. The kids were absolutely THRILLED bouncing behind the landie. The driver was one with his machine and could probably drive through the plantation blind and FAST. The food and experience here was better than the Boh Plantation.
The views weren't the best but even the carparks are picturesque. You can build Gardens By the Bay 10 times larger and more impressive but nothing beats the raw beauty of nature.
Boh Tea Centre
The plantation is situated deep away from the main road. A bumpy small single lane road leads to the plantation. You have to be vigilant and slow down at bends because many sections of the road are only passable by one vehicle at a time. When in doubt, just give way and let others pass. You go over the edge, it is a long way to tumble down. After about 10 minutes down this mountain road, you'll see a huge carpark where you'll definitely spend time taking many photographs like we did!
To get to the Tea Centre, one will have to climb 100+ steps up the side of a hill before you'll be rewarded with incredible views and tasty food.
We didn't manage to have a factory tour because of maintenance works. Another reason to come back again! We did however get amazing shots of the place. As an avid photographer, i still feel that the best photographs cannot substitute seeing it with your own eyes. The fresh cool air, warm sun rays on your skin and just feeling really small in the wondrous vastness of the landscape. Simply priceless.
We have one last leg of this amazing grand tour. Having chased the mountains, we are all kind of hungry. So that's your clue! Caught a really sweet moment between these two. They are such darlings when they aren't bickering!
If you have young children with allergies or are planning a June holiday road trip, we'll be sharing more about cooking on a holiday and our favourite food places in the next two instalments!
We are happy to connect and share in detail about our trip if you have questions! Click on the red chat button and we are happy to chat!
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