There are basically two places that most Malaysians can drive to in order to escape the pressing heat of this country and to pretend, if just for a moment, that they are not actually trapped at The Equator…and The Cameron Highlands is one of them.
This is a popular weekend retreat for many a Klang Valley city slicker in search of a scone, some unimpressive steamboat dinners and essentially to frolic among the tea hills and be with nature… alongside, that is, one and a million other city slickers who all share the same intention.
TIP: If you can wrangle it, book your Highlands trip outside of the busy Friday, Saturday and Sunday peak period as the traffic jams are horrendous from any point A to B along the length of the hills and the restaurants (even the bad ones) are packed to the rafters with hungry weekenders jostling for a table.
In fact, if you can avoid the place entirely on a school holiday or long weekend (a timing that’s the absolute peak for the Highlands), you will be spared the frustration of inching along those hilly roads, getting nowhere and feeling generally angry at why you didn’t heed my advice and visit on a Tuesday instead.
The other destination for the same intention (but more likely, a punt) is Genting – home to what must be one of the most outdated casinos in the world and what was also the location of the saddest and most un-amusing amusement park that I’ve ever had the misfortune to visit.
The good news is that this dastardly outdoor theme park is now closed for a major overhaul (about time!) and apparently the rumour is that in a few years time a spanking new Fox Studios will sprout in place of that intolerably ancient not-so-fun park.
Incidentally, Genting is one of my least favourite places in the whole of Malaysia because I neither gamble nor like ramshackle rollercoasters and that, in my opinion, is pretty much all there is to Genting besides being the feeling of being shrouded in a morbid blanket of fog and bad chi that seems to hang over it all year round *shivers*.
On a particularly foggy day, Genting makes one feel like an extra in a scene from The Mist. So spooky! But I digress, it’s The Cameron Highlands we’re talking about today.
This visit to The Cameron Highlands was a first for me and I was surprised at how horrible and sick-inducing the car journey up was. I can only chalk it down to the Caveman’s driving because I’ve never heard of any one else complaining about the ride up before. It was pretty bad for me but, I confess, I am a hopeless traveller.
To get to The Cameron Highlands, the only option for us non-helipcopter blessed folk is by road and the Caveman opted, without consulting me, for the very scenic but winding route from KL.
For the life of me though, I couldn’t enjoy the views at all given that I was busy turning green from all the freakish spiraling of this said road.
The good news is that if you’re prone to carsickness like me and don’t fancy a rollercoaster experience on the winding road up, a new highway is available that does away with the curving uphill roads but be warned, this alternative route from KL adds an hour or two to the overall trek. Always a catch, I’m afraid.
If you’re after some serious directions on how to get to The Cameron Highlands, here is a pretty comprehensive set of directions at this link – Getting To Cameron Highlands.
By the way, this post isn’t at all a list of what you should do while you’re in The Highlands but just me giving myself a break from the daily grind.
Pekan Lama, 39100 Brinchang
Tel: +605-4915640/ 605-4915641
Admission Fee: RM4 Adult/ RM2 Children
Opening Hours: 8:00am – 6:00p, Daily
Bharat Cameron Valley Tea House & Plantation
Although not as well-known as the Boh Tea Company , the Bharat Group are another of Cameron’s key local growers and processors of Ceylon-variety tea with some impressive plantations and several tea houses under their wings.
The tea houses owned and operated by the Group fall under under the Cameron Valley Tea brand and dot several locations along the highway leading up to the CBD of the Cameron Highlands so chances are you’re bound to come across at least one of these outlets as you zip your way around the hills into the main business strip.
The Cameron Valley Tea House on Jalan Besar flanks a plantation owned by the Bharat Group and is a popular tourist pit stop for an afternoon tea followed by a brief jaunt among the tea leaves too.
Entry to the plantation itself is completely free of charge with easy access via the cafe but many enjoy making an afternoon tea of it and opt to sit down for a cup of tea or two and to gaze upon the breathtaking view of the rolling tea hills below.
Service at the cafe is basic and cafeteria-style. Line up, order and pay…and be prepared to carry your own tray. Nothing fancy but prices aren’t too steep and despite the simple setup, pastries and cakes were unexpectedly tasty and fresh.
The brisk trade at these Tea Houses from the steady flow of tourists and local weekenders ensures the cafeteria’s bakes are sold long before they have a chance to stale but don’t worry, this place is ready for the hordes and stocks are frequently replenished to cater to the constant queue.
The English-style scone is to The Highlands what sushi is to Japan. It’s the region’s must-have ‘dish’ and you’ll find many a visitor indulging in this simple tea cake across cafes and restaurants all around this hilly town.
To give you an idea of how iconic the scone is in this part of the world, let’s just say that even a local Japanese restaurant had this very non-Japanese food item as a dessert option. When you think about it, it is quite a rare and rather bizarre thing to find a scone in a Japanese restaurant, don’t you think?
That said, be as it may, the scone experience is still hit & miss despite The Cameron’s enthusiasm for this humble shortcake and there aren’t too many good scones around so if you do know of a place that serves a hit, let me know and I’ll keep it just between the two of us 😉
To their credit, The Cameron Valley Tea House serves up a decent but cakey scone.
Unlike the hockey pucks most Malaysians have come to know as scones, this one was one of the better scones I’ve had in Asia and as far as store-baked scones go, it was cakey but fluffy and thankfully not priced too unkindly for a bite at an obvious tourist hub.
I came prepared for some level of wallet-slaughtering in this tourist-heavy spot but the prices at the Cameron Valley Tea House are really no more ( and perhaps a little friendlier) than what you might expect to be charged at your local Starbucks.
My only real criticism of this Bharat scone set would be the lazy but common substitution of whipped cream in place of the traditional clotted but this issue is chronic in Malaysia and I have never come across a scone served with clotted cream in all my years here so yeah, no surprises.
Of late, the Bharat Group has endeavoured to bring their Cameron Valley Tea experience down to us in the Klang Valley and have set up a shop at Jalan Telawi 5 in trendy Bangsar along with an outlet at the Publika Mall for the benefit of the big city folk.
This means that it is now possible to enjoy their Tea House fare without a Camerons trip at all.
The company has also been branching out steadily into other retail points since 1994 so boxes of tea by the same brand are available at some supermarkets across Malaysia should you feel the need to recreate the Cameron Valley tea experience in your own home…sans tea fields, of course.
In all fairness though, it is actually the joy of being able to overlook those luscious green tea hills in person that elevates the standard tea-drinking experience for me so yes, I’ll be back despite the pain of getting there.
Tea hills aside, the best thing about The Cameron Highlands remains being able to soak in the region’s cool air and it is worth the insufferable few hours it takes to get there to enjoy a few days in these naturally chilly surrounds.
Bharat Cameron Valley Tea House
Batu 34, Jalan Besar,
Pahang Darul Makmur, Malaysia
Other locations – here
Have you been to The Cameron Highlands? Did you have a great time or did you find it not worth the trip? I’d love to hear all about it.
I’m definitely heading back because I’ve found a couple of things I’d like to do again and I’ll talk about those in the Cameron Highlands sequel post to this one. Catch you later!
[Note: This was a private trip fully funded by me. Images in this post are all by me and remain the property of me and this blog. Please do not republish.]