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  • Writer's pictureRick

West Malaysia Day 22: Tea Plantation & Waterfalls in Cameron Highlands

Most often than not, homestays, guesthouses, budget hotels, etc, were setup in existing buildings that were built previously for other purposes other than hosting guests. So, there would usually be some undesirable pre-existing designs, such as wooden floors instead of concrete, poor ventilation, etc. In the case of Highlanders Hotel, a ceiling or ventilation outlet that allowed pigeons to build nests.

It was the pigeons cooing outside my room that woke me up this time. And it was not yet 7am. Well, that was the price of staying in a budget hotel at discounted rate and given the worst room possible. But, as a matter of facts, other than pigeons cooing, noises made by guests closing their doors loudly and the dislodged clothing rack which I dare not used, there were no other issues.

At 8am in the morning, Tanah Rata was still asleep, places that opened for breakfast were very limited. A handful of cafes were already opened but I wanted simple local food. Aside from a couple of roadside stalls, there was also Medan Selera Tanah Rata (Tanah Rata Food Court) with three of the stalls opened. A number of locals were having their breakfasts here.

I decided on Pusat Makanan Istimewa (优美美食中心), which served a long list of food that included noodles, rice, toasts and beverages. More importantly, it served traditional kopi. My order was a breakfast set, with toasts, two eggs, a sausage and baked beans, and the usual kopi-o kosong. Erh… I thought I was looking for simple local food? Anyway, this would give me energy for the trekking later. It was not too heavy as I planned to have morning tea at a tea plantation later.

What to do in Cameron Highlands? Other than visiting the agricultural farms and buying local produces, trekking and seeing natural sights were probably the other reasons to be here. With one full day, I planned to trek to the nearest tea plantation, then Grab to Brinchang for lunch and trek back to Tanah Rata, checking out some places of interests along the way.

I was ready to start the day after breakfast. At 9:07am, I walked past CS Travel’s outlet at Cameron Fair Mall, took a photo of the schedules of their express buses leaving Cameron Highlands for Ipoh, Penang and Kuala Lumpur. I would be heading south towards Singapore.

I had yet to decide on how to execute the return journey without staying over in Kuala Lumpur again. It was something to think about as I followed the meandering road towards Ringlet.

Trekking 4Km to Cameron Valley (CV), a tea plantation by Bharat Group, on the gently down-sloping road was easy. Just had to watch out for large trucks and buses at sharp turns. I kept to the more opened side of the road so drivers could see me clearly — i.e. on the right side when going down (left side when coming up).

At 9:47am, I arrived at Cameron Valley’s Tea House 2, skipped it and continued to the main entrance about 800 metres further down the road. It was a mistake. First time to the tea plantation, I had no idea what would be the best way to explore the tea estate. Naturally, I headed for the main entrance, which was at Tea House 1.

10 minutes later, I reached CV Tea House 1. It was less than an hour’s walk from Tanah Rata town — or just 40 minutes to CV Tea House 2. I bought a cup of CV flavoured tea with lemon flavour along with a blueberry cheesecake from the cafe, took a seat and enjoyed the view of the estate below while eating the cake. I tried the tea without and with some sugar later to experience both flavours — a little sugar actually tasted better.

The waterfall was visible from the cafe and not very far away. After the tea-break, I entered the tea plantation. There were two types of admission, touring on foot was RM4 and taking the buggy shuttle would be RM15. I came on foot, I continued on foot.

It took less than 10 minutes to the man-made waterfall — could not be a natural waterfall in the middle of a plantation. I also climbed the steps to the large “Cameron Valley Tea” words on a nearby hill but the newly constructed platform was not opened to public yet.

After spending about 20 minutes here, it was time to head back. Instead of going back to Tea House 1, I trekked up the hills to Tea House 2, taking in the sights along the way. Trekking in the plantation was not tough but it was hot.

It would have been easier if I had entered the tea plantation via Tea House 2, walked downhill to the waterfall, then exited via Tea House 1. Then, I would not have forgotten to visit Sky Farm Agro Highlands, less than 100 metres from Tea House 1, for its strawberries.

I exited the tea plantation via Tea House 2 and tried e-hailing a Grab car to Brinchang, no driver picked up. It seemed like there were really no Grab drivers on Cameron Highlands, which were the same observations made by netizens who came in recent years. I would never use non-metered taxis if I could help it.

Anyway, I walked back the way I came. It was not that tough walking upslope to Tanah Rata, as the gradient was pretty gentle. 30 minutes later, I came to a residential area that I passed by in the morning, saw a cafe named “Uncle Chow Kopitiam” within the area on Google Maps. I went to the cafe and took a seat outside the shop as I was sweating profusely.

I tried two of Uncle Chow Kopitiam's best-sellers, a curry mee and a peanut mochi bun with a cup of kopi-o. The curry mee was a big bowl full of ingredients. The broth was slightly spicy but nice. I should have finished the noodle before deciding to order the bun but I did not regret it. The bun with peanut, mochi, kaya and rich butter was very nice.

Since there were no Grab services on Cameron Highlands, I dropped the idea of visiting Brinchang. I used to hike to Brinchang from Tanah Rata many years ago, visiting the farms and the smokehouse. That was when the climate was cool, misty and lesser vehicles. I had no intention to repeat those again because of the warmer atmosphere these days and not wanting to breathe in too much vehicle exhaust.

It was only 2:30pm when I returned to Tanah Rata town. Not wanting to retire to the hotel too early, I decided to visit two waterfalls near the town. The closest would be Parit Falls. I walked to Century Pines Hotel, the starting point for "Trail 4" to Parit Falls was just beside it.

Following the paved trail, I came to a campsite. I could not see Parit Falls but a gushing water sound at the other end of the campsite led me to the little waterfall. The weather might be hot in April but there was still quite a lot of water running down the fall, which was about 3~4 feet high — yup, first-time visitors would be disappointed.

I retraced my steps back to the start point of the trail. And continued further down the road to "Trail 9A" for Robinson Falls, which was not far away but still some distance to cover. The road signs to Robinson Falls were not clear, and I missed a turn. After checking Google Maps, I found the turning. The hint should have been "get to Highland Steamboat Cheese & Grill and follow the trail beside it to Robinson Falls".

The trail was steep, slippery and in a pretty bad shape. Some parts of the trail were gone and I had to walk on muddy grounds or tree trunks. The trail started at the top of the waterfall, winding its way downhill to the bottom in order to see the water falling off an edge, but I did not reach the bottom of the waterfall.

My worn-out sandals caused me to slip a couple of times and I decided to give up — better to be safe since I was the only soul on the trail. I returned to Tanah Rata town.

I had no intention to revisit Gunong Brinchang, Mossy Forest and BOH Tea Plantation as I had done all those before with CS Travel, a tour agency with expertise in Cameron Highlands. They had brought me to see the endangered Raffesia flowers then — how many years ago was that? Frankly, I might consider to join the tour again if there were sightings of some Rafflesia flowers in bloom.

Back at CS Travel's outlet at Cameron Fair, I booked the 11am bus to Kuala Lumpur TBS on the following day. It would be a 4 hours journey — 3 hours was still acceptable, more than that would be stressing my back and butt. But I would not be stopping in KL. I was thinking of going back to Malacca since it would be just another 2 hours away. Heading straight for Johor Bahru would take another tormenting 4.5 hours. There were other options as well such as Tangkak, Gemas, etc, but they would not be able to entertain me for 2 days. Where should I go?

When night closed in, the air turned chilly. With no desire to hunt for food, I went back to Boss Taste again — I finally understood why animals, such as bears, preferred to sleep through winter.

Boss Taste was really a nice cafe and I returned for their local dishes. I tried Kung Fu Kway Teow this time, with a cup of hot honey lemon — reminded me of the wonderful honey lemon of Hygge Cafe in Malacca. The Kung Fu Kway Teow — similar to Singapore’s seafood hor fun (broad noodle) — was really good.

With nowhere to go after dinner, I continued with dessert. Boss Taste had scones as one of its pastries but sold in two pieces per order. I could not have two so I got a muffin instead. The staff heated up the muffin before serving it making the crust crispy and inside still soft. Not bad.

The scones reminded me of Cameron Highlands' tradition. Having tea with scones was a British tradition that had became a culture here due to historical reasons and most cafes and hotels still continued that tradition. Thinking back, I should have ordered scones at Cameron Valley Tea House 1 instead of the blueberry cheesecake. I would look for scones the next day before leaving the highlands.

9pm. I retreated back to the hotel after leaving the cafe. The sky looked like it was going to have a heavy downpour.


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