A Short Stop in the Cameron Highlands

by Michael

The Cameron Highlands in Malaysia are known for cooler weather, tea plantations, strawberry fields, and a great system of numbered hiking trails. We initially booked only two nights in the small town of Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. We thought we might stay longer if the weather was good enough for hiking. Well, the weather was good enough, but the authorities had closed most of the trails because of the rainy season. We made the most of our full day (we had arrived at night) but with the risk of getting a ticket for hiking, we moved on to Kuala Lumpur on the second morning.

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The path less traveled. Because it’s closed.

Tanah Rata has several numbered trails around town. Once again, maps.me came to the rescue and showed each numbered trail (we also found this website to have a helpful description of the various trails). We attempted Trail #7, but encountered a sign at the trailhead telling us it was closed. We asked an attendant at a local hotel and a travel agent, both of whom confirmed that most trails were closed for the rainy season and we risked getting a ticket. So much for hike at your own risk.

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All Closed.

We found that Trail # 4, which runs close to town, did not have a closed sign (probably because it was largely paved). We continued along a trail that joined it for a slightly longer (and somewhat muddy) walk, but the uncertainty and risk of a fine kept us watching out for a ranger. Not the most fun way to hike.

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Trail 4. Not closed. Maybe.

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Maybe still on Trail 4.

After we finished we paid a visit to the Sungai Palas Boh Tea Estate. It was a slow taxi ride along a traffic-filled narrow road, but ends with a great view. There was no tea production work going on when we visited (it may be a mostly non-Christian country, but the week between Christmas and New Years is still slow) so we just walked through a short self-guided tour. Not much explanation. I thought it was worthwhile for the view but not for much else.

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Nice view from the tea plantation.

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More tea.

Eventually we heard that Trail #10 — which is on the opposite side of town from most other trails — was still open. We walked to it and found no sign telling us it was closed and a local helped us find the start. So we did an afternoon hike, up to the top of the local hill and back down. When we reached the end of the trail, it dropped us at an electrical substation at the end of the road. There was a lengthy road walk back to town, which required us to cross a mudslide and a construction site. The construction crew seemed amused with us. And it rained part of the way back.

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View from the top (or close to it).

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Under Construction. There is no way a construction crew in the US would allow random tourists to walk through this, but it wasn’t a problem for these guys!

While we enjoyed cooler weather than we had in Penang, the reality of rain and closed trails made clear that we should be on our way soon. The Cameron Highlands were a good break from tropical heat, and in better weather (or more permissive authorities) we might have stayed longer, but it’s quite easy to hit the highlights and get a feel for the place in a single full day.

And of course… Food

The Indian food we had in Penang was mostly South Indian, meaning it was either rice-based or if it was a curry, it was thin like soup. Having some Indian food made me want more, but not just any “more.” I wanted a thick curry — which I think of as typical for Punjabi cuisine. We found Curry House near our hotel, with a menu that showed it would have the curry I want. We ended up there for dinner, breakfast (dosa roll), an afternoon snack (cheese-filled naan with a tasty green sauce), and another breakfast. I got my fix.

Also, they had soccer stuff on the walls, and a few interesting misspellings.

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I’ll have the homos please…

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Macaroni & Cheese?

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Can’t pick a team? Pick them all?

And with that, we were off to Kuala Lumpur.

[This blog post describes our trip to the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, December 26-28, 2016.]

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