A Little History
The Cameron Highlands of today is a popular tourist site for foreigners and locals to trekk, visit tea plantations and get away from the coastal heat.
The Cameron Highlands was discovered by government surveyor William Cameron on a mapping expedition in 1885. However, it was George Maxwell, Chief secretary during 1920-1926 who established the plateau by installing a hill station, a community prospered shortly thereafter.
BOH Tea Plantation
The Boh Tea Plantation was founded by J.A. Russell in 1929 during the great recession. Unlike other commodities that fluctuated with the market, the price of tea remained relatively constant: A safe investment. Russell acquired the rights to land 5000ft above sea level and started his first plantation, BOH. Today, much of the same technology is used to process the tea, however picking it has been greatly mechanized.
My experience: Oh my, oh my! Walking along the mountain roads with tea plants on either side was lovely. The green! More bright green than I’ve ever seen! I hitched hiked with a kiwi and a polish lass, down the hill from once we’d trekked, in the back of a pick-up filled with cabbage. We gazed out as we raced down the windy mountain roads all the way to the gate of BOH.
The rows upon rows of plants all trimmed to perfection is man made nature, and it is beautiful as a feat of mankind. Off the side of a nearby mountain is the Boh tea house overlooking the plantation, a gift shop and a museum in tea processing (fully operational).
The tea gift are cheaper than at the market! 1.40 MR/50g!
I must recommend a visit, I could have strolled among the plants and relaxed with tea high up in the sky all day, but alas the trails called my name one last time.
Flower Technology Centre
One of the lesser known attractions in the Cameron Highlands is the Mardi technology centre. At 3MR, the gardens are a display of the power of modern agriculture technology. They had a cool edible garden, an apple orchard, and a scary SCI-FI esk plant farm! Again, not nature but agricultural engineering.
Sam Poh Temple
Pitched on a hilltop just outside Birmchang is this Chinese Buddhist temple. Students were in session performing group prayer as I arrived. The temple is colourful and grand, I stayed along the outside chambers so as not to disturb the later afternoon session. Worth a visit!
Unfortunately, my arrival into the Cameron Highlands coincided almost exactly with a national holiday for students in Malaysia. All the hostel prices went up for a couple days, which is partly why I stayed in four different hostels over four nights.
- 8meetings Hostel (21MR/dorm): No security at all, free coffee and tea all day plus access to a small kitchenette, comfortable patio and lounge inside. Staff not as funny as they think, complained a lot about the guests.
- Twin Pines (15-20MR/Attic room): funny little private attic rooms that have just a mattress on the floor. Nothing included, although the breakfast at the restaurant was rather tasty. I had French toast and tea for 6MR. There is a large patio by the gardens to talk with other guests and use the Wi-Fi if it’s working.
- Orchid Gardens (25-30MR/dorm): The dorm was the most comfy with a thick mattress and fluffy blanket. They provide towel service, free coffee and tea all day and free toast for breakfast. I had access to the full kitchen which I used to boil up some sweet corn on the cob purchased at the local market in Birmchang. The Wi-Fi was reliable and the small lounge was a good spot to relax, watch Malaysian TV and make small talk after hiking. This Hostel is family friendly.
- Cameronian Guest House (20MR/dorm): Bed and blanket, that’s it. The guest house offers a variety of breakfast options for purchase, including scones! The Wi-Fi was terrible, however the owner was really kind and helpful! There is also a TV room with cable and comfortable patio.
You can’t go wrong with any of the hostels above, they are all pretty good. I spent most of my time in the forest on trails and visiting the tea plantations so the cheapest options worked out well for me. I did like having access to a kitchen to cook up my own meals, a nice treat after months on the road.
One day I will return to this mountain town where daily life seems to go on as usual. The trails were great, the accommodations were decent and the views were magnificent!