Cameron Highlands

Last weekend I brought my family for a short trip to Cameron Highlands in Pahang. Cameron Highlands with its cool climate and beautiful rolling hills dotted with lush green tea plantations is a major tourist attraction for locals and foreigners alike.
There are 3 different ways to get to Cameron Highlands. The most popular one is through Tapah (exit 132 PLUS highway) using route 59 to Ringlet and then Tanah Rata. Another one is further north via the Simpang Pulai exit and visitors from the east coast can use the Gua Musang - Cameron Highlands road.
Coming south from Kuala Lumpur, I chose the quick and convenient Tapah route which took about 2 and a half hours drive. The road quickly goes uphill from Tapah along the small and narrow road hugging the hill slopes. Minor landslides is a normal occurrence round these hills but that doesn't seem to stop the vehicles including these lorries from speeding down these roads endangering people's life.
Along the way you will find the Lata Iskandar waterfall followed by Ringlet before arriving to Tanah Rata. Tanah Rata is located before Brinchang and it is a relatively smaller town too. However I find Tanah Rata to be a lot cleaner, better organized with more pleasant environment than the former. You can find dozens of shops and restaurants in the vicinity including a few banks and even a Starbucks outlet.
Brinchang is a little further north about 9 kilometers away from Tanah Rata. Maybe because of the permanent day & night market, Brinchang to me looked a lot cluttered and not very clean with rubbish strewn all over the place. That said, you can find a lot more shops, hotels and accommodation here compared to other places in Cameron Highlands.
There are many different types of accommodation available in Cameron Highlands, catering to different budgets and preferences. You can choose from Guesthouses, chalets, hotel rooms, apartments, bungalows and even an English cottage. We opted to rent an apartment within MARDI's Agrotechnology Park near Tanah Rata during our last trip.
Situated 5,000 feet above sea level, Cameron Highlands certainly is quite chilly especially during the evening. Temperature can drop down to 18°C at night. The same cannot be said during the day though because the temperature can go up to a steamy 28°C in the afternoon, thanks to global warming and deforestation of the surrounding area.
The three storey apartment comes with 3 rooms equipped with queen sized beds each, 2 bathrooms with hot water, living room with settees, Astro, a dining table and a kitchen area. There's no cooking stove here but there's no stopping you from being creative and bring along an induction cooker or two. The apartment is limited to 3 units only though and you'll need to book and pay for the deposit a few weeks in advance. Rental is only RM200 per night and you can call MARDI Agrotechnology Park at 05 4911255 for reservation or more info.
One advantage of staying at MARDI's apartment is you can just stroll along to the Agrotechnology park next door - free of charge (regular visitors is only charged RM1.50 anyway).
The agrotechnology park is a major agricultural research center for temperate fruits, vegetables and also tea, surrounded by beautiful flowery gardens some of which are also up for sale.
In the evening we visited Tanah Rata town for dinner. There's several mamak and western restaurants to choose from and there's Starbucks. In the end we stopped by Tanah Rata food court right in the middle of town and had dinner at Emida's Restaurant which served a reasonably good local food with competitive (read: acceptable) rates.
Next we went for a short drive to Brinchang town to do a little shopping at their famous night market. They have everything you'd expect to find in Cameron Highlands from souvenirs, fruits, vegetables, honey, strawberries and even more strawberry related souvenirs.
A visit to Cameron Highlands will not be complete without visiting any one of its famous tea plantation. For me I always wanted to visit Boh's tea plantation in Sungai Palas near Brinchang so that's where we headed on the second day.
The road to Sungai Palas tea plantation is really small and winding which can barely accommodate 2 vehicles passing at once.
At the center of the Boh Sungai Palas tea plantation you will find the Boh Tea Centre. Here you can learn about the history of Boh tea and tea plantation.
The walk up to the Tea Centre is only 200 meters and you can choose between the regular tarred road or using the planter's bush walk. The breath-taking scenery alone is enough to make your trip there truly worth your while.
You can also take a tour of the tea factory and learn more about tea processing.
Afterwards you can hang out the Tea' Ria for a cup of freshly brewed Boh tea best enjoyed with some scones, cheese cake or apple pie.
At 712 square kilometers, Cameron Highlands is quite a large area and you certainly won't be able to visit all the places of interest in a single weekend. So far I can say I had a really pleasant experience visiting Cameron Highlands for the first time. Shall I come back in the future? A definite yes!

'Boh' Sungei Palas Tea Centre

One place you should not miss visiting while in Cameron Highlands is one of their renown tea plantations. Boh's Sungei Palas tea plantation is one of the more famous tea plantation in Cameron Highland, the other being Bharat tea plantation.
The Boh tea plantation is famous for its tea center. You can find the entrance to the plantation just after the big Equatorial Hotel on the left side heading north to Kampung Raja. The signboard is placed perpendicular to the road and quite easy to miss especially when you're driving fast. I missed this little signboard and end up 15 kilometers away near Kampung Raja before finally stopping to ask for direction.
From the entrance, the tea center is about 2 kilometers in and you'll have to negotiate a very narrow and winding road barely enough for two vehicles to pass at once. Honking if you're horny around the bends is advisable to warn incoming traffic.
Here you can already see the beautiful scenery of of the tea plantation.
The car park is huge and parking is plentiful (and free of charge).
There's also plenty of restrooms for your convenience.
The tea centre is situated way up the plantation and you can choose to either walk up the tea planter's trail...
Or the regular tarred road way. I'm not really sure whether you can drive your car all the way up but I did see a lot of cars up there, many without stickers so I guess you can after all but parking space up there is rather limited though.
The old and rusty Kedai Teh Boh shop is now replaced by this shiny new and modern Tea Ria shop where you can enjoy several different types of tea served hot or cold with cakes and scones.

This place is quite popular with the visitors so finding an empty table is rather difficult at times.
Having scones with butter and strawberry jam here with my family is one of those things I must do before I die thing.
Although the food here like so many other touristy place is quite pricey, the view from up here is simply priceless.

At the Boh Tea Centre, you can learn everything about Boh and their history in Malaysia.
Stop by the Tea Shop to buy some tea and souvenirs for your loved ones. Except for the teas, the stuff here are not exactly cheap.

And while you're there, why not take a moment to visit their tea factory and learn how tea is processed.
Someday, your friends will use this to make fun of you my son.
Here you can see Adam trying his hand at tea-picking.
I can say he has got potential.
If you're really interested I can always send you here to work during the holidays you know.
This is what tea leaves look like from up close.
The road to the tea centre is also the same road you need to take to get to the top of Gunung Brinchang and a little strawberry farm nearby which we would have visited if only we had more time.

Narrow road and expensive food aside, the Boh Sungei Palas tea centre is a must visit for the breathtaking scenery alone. Remember though that this place is closed on Monday.
Of course we would love to come here again some time in the future.