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  • Writer's pictureRick

West Malaysia Day 21: No Bookings from Taiping to Cameron Highlands

I was awaken at 6:30am in the morning by someone leaving his/her room and shutting the door loudly, which had been happening for the last two mornings. I was expecting it and using that as a wake-up call. As usual, I packed my stuffs for check-out, left my backpack in the room and headed out for breakfast. It was not yet 8am.

I must have hor ga sai (虎咬狮), a Taiping special coffee where Milo chocolate powder was added to traditional kopi-o, before leaving Taiping. And one of the places to find that coffee would be Tai Chien Coffee Shop (大千茶餐室) — I believed other places would have it too but I could only think of Tai Chien offhand.

I had Thai-style mee rebus (泰式吉灵面) from one of the stalls, a very different kind of mee rebus which was delightful in taste and texture, and non-spicy. Sambal chilli could be added separately to spice up the noodle dish. After finishing the noodle, I got a popiah, from another stall, that was not very big. It had a pleasant taste and the turnips were not overly sweetened.

Tai Chien

I was back at the hotel before 9am. There was an ETS train at 9:47am but it was albeit rush so I aimed for the next train at 11:52am.

My next destination was Cameron Highlands. However, there was no train or direct bus from Taiping to the highlands, I needed to transit in Ipoh. I could not find any express buses from Taiping to Ipoh on both Easybook and BusOnlineTicket. It could be that Taiping and Ipoh were within Perak, thus, only inter-district buses were available but also from Kamunting Express Bus Terminal.

However, I would prefer using the train since it was closer to Taiping old town. It would take me about 22 minutes to walk to Taiping Train Station from Knight Alley Hotel but I did not want to work out a sweat, especially after adding about 1Kg of coffee products to my backpack. I would need to use a Grab car…

I checked out at 10am, with about 2 hours to go before the next scheduled train, I decided to have early lunch and walked to Restoran Kakak (家家茶室). That shaved off about 9 minutes from the total time I needed to cover later.

I tried the dry-style “mouse” vermicelli (老鼠粉) this time with Kakak peng, which was Kakak’s iced version of their special coffee with barley. The fat “mouse” vermicelli made the noodle dish seemed like a very large bowl. The iced coffee was as nice as the hot version and better suited for hot days.

Restoran Kakak

Time to cover the last lap to the train station and I chose to walk. It was not a difficult walk as the sun stayed hidden behind some clouds till the last 5 minutes. And I broke out a sweat.

I reached the train station at 11:10am, and true to my premonition, seatless tickets were not available on all ETS trains (except for trains heading to Butterworth Station). But there were KTM Kommuter trains and the next available train was at 1:14pm. It would take about an hour to Ipoh as compared to 43 minutes by ETS trains.

I could have Grabbed to Kamunting Express Bus Terminal and catch a bus there to Ipoh Amanjaya and transit directly to the next bus to Cameron Highlands. But I had no way to get the bus schedule and availability status of Taiping-Ipoh buses — I found out later there was another application named "redBus" that had bookings for Taiping to Ipoh buses. Just how many apps would I need to download just to travel in Malaysia?

Interestingly, or oddly, Kommuter train services from Taiping to Ipoh was actually part of the Kommuter Utara line, which was specified as just “Padang Besar ⇄ Butterworth” on KTMB app, but actually included services between “Butterworth ⇄ Ipoh”. If I had known better, I would not be at the train station for 2 hours. And, adding fuel to fire, washrooms were available only after entering the departure gate.

The train arrived on the dot at 1:14pm and departed at 1:16pm. It functioned like a metro train, free-seating, etc.

Taiping Train Station

Exiting from Ipoh Train Station at 2:20pm, I hailed a Grab car to Ipoh Amanjaya Bus Terminal. I could have walked to Medan Kidd Terminal for Bus service T30a to the express bus terminal but it might be another 30 minutes or an hour till the next service and travel time would be another 30 minutes. No way!

It took about 10 minutes for the Grab car to arrive due to the long train of cars coming in to pick up arriving passengers at the train station. And another 15 minutes to Ipoh Amanjaya Bus Terminal, also known as Terminal Meru Raya — if it wasn’t confusing to foreigners.

2:45pm, I tried booking the next Ipoh to Cameron Highlands bus on Easybook app but it showed all slots as “fully booked”. Again, not believing it, I went to the ticket counter and was told seats were still available for 3pm, 3:30pm, etc. It was a Sunday, most people should be leaving the highlands instead of heading towards it. I bought a ticket for the 3pm bus and boarded it immediately.

The half-full CS Travel Liner bus departed at 3:05pm. With assurance that I was able to get to Cameron Highlands, I booked my accommodation for 2 nights in Tanah Rata, somewhere near Tanah Rata Bus Terminal.

30 minutes into the journey, the bus started meandering slowly up the mountains. Another 30 minutes later, the air started to get cooler and it rained — I realised I was not geared for cool weather. Another 30 minutes, my stomach started grumbling and my bladder was sending out alerts — I forgot to visit the washroom before boarding the bus. Another 30 minutes, the bus started descending to Brinchang. Another 30 minutes, the bus reached Tanah Rata Bus Terminal and I rushed to the washroom.

Tanah Rata town

It was a mere 400 metres' walk to Highlanders Hotel, which was located among a row of hotels, cafes and eateries. Opposite Highlanders Hotel was Avillion Cameron Highlands, a hotel siting above a shopping mall called Cameron Fair (Tanah Rata).

I got a “windowless” double room on the 3rd floor — but a window faced the inner corridor. The room was very clean and all were good except for a dislodged clothing rack. No air-conditioner but a super powerful electric fan — at level 1, I shivered.

Highlanders Hotel

I was famished. I don on my long sleeve hiking tee over another t-shirt and left the room. In Cameron Fair mall, I came across Boss Taste (波士号), a cafe that served western, Malaysian delights and Nanyang kopi. I went in, but no coffee for me before bed. I might come again for breakfast before leaving Cameron Highlands — I did not realised it opened at 11am every day except Tuesday, it’s off-day.

I ordered one of the chef’s special sets, a fried rice with crispy salted egg chicken chop that came with hot pu’er tea. No cold drinks to chill myself in a 19°C atmosphere. The salted egg chicken was pretty aromatic and I cleared the whole plate.

Boss Taste

After dinner, I tried taking a stroll around Tanah Rata town but did not go beyond the small town centre. The Avillion Hotel (top-left) was probably the tallest building in Tanah Rata. Most of the buildings in the town were of the black-and-white English Tudor Revival style. I walked past Medan Selera Tanah Rata, or Tanah Rata Food Court (top-right), to the bus terminal, called Terminal Freesia (bottom-right), where I arrived earlier.

Night scenes of Tanah Rata

How long has it been since I was last in Cameron Highlands? 10 years? This place had changed a lot. The town had expanded for sure, more residences, more food options and a ton of hotels. But, more people were also driving to the small towns, creating traffic issues and also warming up the air with car exhausts and heat radiation from the metal shells. The night air was cooling, but not as cold and misty as it used to be and it smelled of smog than fog.

9pm, I was back in the hotel and showered. I disliked taking warm shower in a chilling bathroom, but it was common in places like the Cameron Highlands. I kept in mind to shower before nightfall.


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