Cameron Highlands – the “forgotten paradise” of Malaysia

Tea plantations, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Tea plantations, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered” – Nelson Mandela, ‘A long walk to freedom‘, South African civil rights leader (1918 – )

During our recent visit to my birthplace in Kuala Lumpur, I egged Mysaucepan to visit a place dear to my heart in Malaysia.

Tudor cottage, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands

Tudor cottage, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands

I explained this place holds fond memories and nostalgia because of countless school holidays spent with family and friends during my childhood years. It is a place locals go to escape busy city life in Kuala Lumpur. It is a place still relatively unspoilt even decades after the end of British colonisation in Malaysia. It is a place where time stood still.

Tea plantations, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Tea plantations, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Located three hours drive north of Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands is serene and peaceful, a getaway that is dotted with English Tudor cottages amidst lush rain forests in the misty highlands of Pahang state. The new Simpang Pulai exit further north of the old exit at Tapah is a much smoother journey that takes visitors right up to the highest point of the highlands in a town called Brinchang. This route is significantly faster and more importantly, safer than the old route due to wider and less windy roads.

Tea and scones at Cameron Highlands Resort

Tea and scones at Cameron Highlands Resort, RM20 (Approximately A$6.60)

Famous for its thriving tea industry in cool climate, visitors are often captivated by the tracks of undulating tea plantations throughout the hills of Gunung Brinchang located at the highest altitude in the highlands.

Cameron Highlands Resort

Cameron Highlands Resort

Cameron Highlands Resort

The Cameron Highlands Resort is one of the most exclusive places to stay. Perched on an elevated position, it overlooks the one and only 18-hole golf course in the town centre of Tanah Rata (literally meaning “flat land” in Bahasa).

Cameron Highlands Resort

Cameron Highlands Resort

It is only one of many beautiful settings to have high-tea, with Cameron Highland’s very own Boh Plantations.

Tea and scones, Cameron Highlands Resort

Tea and scones, Cameron Highlands Resort, RM20 (Approximately A$6.60)

Of course, it is difficult to ignore freshly baked scones that go with home-made strawberry jams which is still very much a local cottage industry.

Cameron Highlands Resort

Cameron Highlands Resort

It is Christmas of 2010 and the coffee lounge at the Cameron Highlands Resort is beautifully decorated with the spirit of yuletide. We feel a sense of peace and tranquility as we gaze into the misty view of rain forests while enjoying high tea in a beautiful and quiet setting.

Children feeding koi - Cameron Highland Resorts

Children feeding koi - Cameron Highland Resorts

A couple of Japanese children are fascinated by the beautiful koi in the lily pond at the Cameron Highlands Resort.

Koi at Cameron Highlands Resort

Koi at Cameron Highlands Resort

Koi are friendly and will swim towards you when approached.

Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn

Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn, Cameron Highlands

Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn, Cameron Highlands

The Smokehouse Hotel and Restaurant By the Golf Course at Tanah Rata is an English Tudor style hotel that has existed for as long as I can remember. Built in 1939, it is quaint and charming with multiple coffee rooms and dining areas that exemplify the colonial ambience.

Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn, Cameron Highlands

Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn, Cameron Highlands

The gardens at Ye Old Smokehouse Inn (this could be the old name) are beautiful for a stroll at any time of the day.

Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn, Cameron Highlands

Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn, Cameron Highlands

The dining room is warm and inviting and we settle for some pre-dinner drinks during happy hour. The restaurant at Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn is nostalgic for a few reasons. Whilst decorated in the style of old English cottage charm, the setting has remained the same for decades.

Ribeye steak Ye Ole Smokehouse RM52 (Approximately A$16)

Rib-eye steak Ye Ole Smokehouse, RM52 (Approximately A$17.30)

The menu is based on traditional English fare such as Beef Wellington, Steak and Guiness Pie and the usual choice of steaks with the obligatory chicken and seafood dish making up the numbers. Although I have had better steaks in many restaurants elsewhere, dining at Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn brings you back in time. I happily enjoy my rib-eye for what it is and not what it could be elsewhere. And the steak turns out exactly as I expected – tasty with a “local flavour” accompanied by the usual steamed vegetables and chips.

Beef Wellington, Ye-Olde-Smokehouse, RM60 (Approximately A$19)

Beef Wellington, Ye-Olde-Smokehouse, RM60 (Approximately A$20)

I don’t normally drink red wine in Malaysia due to the humid weather but having dinner at Ye Olde Smokehouse in the cool climate on our wedding anniversary was a totally different matter.

2007 Malesan Bordeaux, Ye Old Smokehouse, RM110 (Approximately A$34)

2007 Malesan Bordeaux, Ye Old Smokehouse, RM110 (Approximately A$36.60)

Bala’s Holiday Chalet

Bala's Holiday Chalet

Bala's Holiday Chalet

Bala’s Holiday Chalet is also another beautiful place for tea and scones. Located in Tanah Rata, the old Tudor cottage overlooks the valley and rooms away from the main building are located higher up in the hill with a natural vista of tropical rain forests.

A table for two

A table for two

Roses at Bala's Holiday Chalet

Roses at Bala's Holiday Chalet

Restoran Sri Brinchang

Being in Malaysia, it is difficult (or near impossible I should say) to ignore the fantastic street food which is available in every town, no matter how big or small. The restaurant and shopping strip along Tanah Rata is short but it is not lacking in its own street food offering. There were many seafood restaurants too but living in Sydney has made us a little skeptical and fussy about the freshness of seafood in smaller towns in Malaysia. Instead, we know that local favourites such as roti canai and mee goreng will always be “safe” choices. Prices are relatively cheap and our dinner at Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn would pay for a street meal many times over. Ironically too, this restaurant strip is located within walking distance of Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn.

Ayam Tandoori, Restoran Sri Brinchang, RM6 (Approximately $A1.80)

Ayam Tandoori, Restoran Sri Brinchang, RM6 (Approximately $A2.00)

Restoran Sri Brinchang is a 24-hour eatery located in Tanah Rata instead of Brinchang as the name suggests. It offers popular mamak fair such as roti canai, mee goreng, rojak, nasi briyani, ayam Tandoori among many others.

Mee goreng, Restoran Sri Brinchang, RM4, (Approximately A$1.25)

Mee goreng, Restoran Sri Brinchang, RM4, (Approximately A$1.30)

With a twist of calamansi juice, the ayam Tandoori and mee goreng are both tasty and comparable to most places in bigger cities in Malaysia.

Tiger Beer, Restoran Sri Brinchang, RM6 (Approximately A$1.80)

Tiger Beer, Restoran Sri Brinchang, RM6 (Approximately A$2.00)

I had underestimated the cool climate of Cameron Highlands as it has been a long time since my last visit. I did not bring any warm clothing and although it was a chilly 13 degrees Celcius that night, I could not go pass drinking beer the Malaysian way, or rather, my own way when in Malaysia – quick gulps of icy cold beer from a chilled glass full of ice cubes, especially when accompanied by tasty and spicy street food.

Baking Naan bread, Restoran Sri Brinchang

Baking naan bread, Restoran Sri Brinchang

Our naan and tandoori host at Restoran Brinchang was friendly and ever so obliging in having a photo taken.

Rest house of Bank Negara Malaysia

Rest house of the Central Bank of Malaysia

Rest house of Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia)

This is the house that holds so many fond memories of my childhood. I remember playing hide and seek, collecting strange insects and catching butterflies in these very gardens which now appear somewhat smaller though it is still a large compound. The house is still in its original state just as how I remember it more than 30 years ago. It is owned by the Central Bank of Malaysia where my father started his career as a banker.

Rose gardens at Rest House of Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia)

Rose gardens at Rest House of Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia)

The rose gardens of this holiday home is meticulously maintained and is perched on the hills which overlook the valley and the town of Tanah Rata below.

Fruit and vegetable markets, Brinchang

Fresh corn at Brinchang markets, Cameron Highlands

Fresh corn at Brinchang markets, Cameron Highlands

Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful and relatively cheap in the outdoor markets at Brinchang, Tanah Rata and Ringlet.

Fresh corn at Brinchang markets, Cameron Highlands

Fresh strawberries at Brinchang markets, Cameron Highlands

Fresh strawberries are plentiful in Cameron Highlands where the cool climate provide ideal growing conditions. These fresh strawberries are also made into a huge assortment of sweets, candies, jams, vinegar, cider and dried fruit.

Kok Lim Strawberry Farm, Cameron Highlands

Kok Lim Strawberry Farm, Cameron Highlands

We could not stop having a good laugh at the signage of the Kok Lim Strawberry Farm in Brinchang. Other hilarious signages include “Pluck Yourself”.

Boh Plantations, Gunung Brinchang

Mist over cafe at Boh Plantations

Mist over cafe at Boh Plantations

A tour of the Boh Plantations in Gunung Brinchang took us through the factory and tea making process. The beautiful cafe overlooks the plantations below and the mist on that day added a sense of tranquility to this enchanting and almost mystical spot in the highlands.

Tea leaves crusher, Boh tea factory, Cameron Highlands

Tea leaves crusher, Boh tea factory, Cameron Highlands

Original machinery which dates back almost 100 years are still in operation at the tea factory.

Drying tea leaves, Boh tea factory Cameron Highlands

Drying tea leaves, Boh tea factory Cameron Highlands

The aromas of tea leaves drying in the kilns take us to the cafe and retail shop at Boh Plantations.

Tea varieties at Boh Tea Plantations, Cameron Highlands

Tea varieties at Boh Tea Plantations, Cameron Highlands

The vast array of tea is a paradise for tea lovers at the cafe, sipping their brew whilst admiring the panoramic view of its plantations below.

So dear readers, is there a place with fond memories that is special in your heart?

View of tea plantations from cafe

View of tea plantations from cafe

 

 

Cameron Highlands Resort
Tanah Rata Cameron Highlands 39007
Pahang Malaysia
Tel: +(605) 4911215

The Smokehouse Hotel and Restaurant By the Golf Course
Tanah Rata Cameron Highlands 39007
Pahang Malaysia
Tel: +(605) 4911215

Restoran Sri Brinchang
25 Main road, Tanah Rata
Cameron Highlands 39000
Pahang, Malaysia

Bala’s Holiday Chalet
Lot 55, Tanah Rata Cameron Highlands
Pahang Malaysia

Kok Lim Strawberry Farm
Cameron Highlands 39000
Pahang, Malaysia

Boh Plantations Sdn Bhd
Sungei Palas Tea Centre
Jalang Gunung Brinchang Brinchang,
Cameron Highlands
39000
Pahang, Malaysia
Tel: +(605) 4962096

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33 Responses to Cameron Highlands – the “forgotten paradise” of Malaysia

  1. This place looks amazing, never seen it being mentioned in another blog. Yes I have fond memories from a few places, fond for different reasons:)

  2. Tiffany says:

    Great photos! And I love the Mandela quote!

  3. This is such a beautiful post, and it totally reminds me of what I love the most about blogging, next to awesome community and inspiration and support that come from it – that it allows me to learn more about other countries and cultures from people who are from there or have been there.

    I can’t even say what I like the best about this post – you’ve put up so many wonderful pictures! The landscape pictures are awesome, and I also love the swimming rose blossoms and of course the koi. Koi are so lovely.

    A place that holds very dear memories for me is my great-grandparents’ former estate in north eastern Germany that was taken away from the Russians when they invaded Germany at the end of WW2. I went there with my mom and grandmom in summer 2009, and the emotions that came up were totally overwhelming. It’s a mixture of pleasure and pain when I think of it.

  4. Melissa says:

    Gosh, that’s a real blast from the past! I remember going there once as a child. It’s fantastic to see not much has changed in all those years.

  5. Sophia Lee says:

    OMG OMG !!!! I remember Cameron Highlands!!! I was there a long, long time ago…Ahhhh such great memories!! I remember the strawberry fields…and I definitely remember the carps, because my sister fell into the little pond, haha! And I also remember that the air was so cool and clean…and there was a small mission school for foreigners nearby! I wonder if it’s still there…Thank you for such a great trip back!

  6. The accommodation looks incredible, almost European too if that makes sense? I’m reminded of chalets with some of the buildings. Whenever I think of the Cameron highlands I think of tea.

  7. Hannah says:

    I love the architecture! What I wouldn’t give to live in a place as beautiful as that :)

  8. Carolyn Jung says:

    What a gorgeous setting to take a load off with some lovely tea and scones. Never would have imagined that type of architecture in Malaysia, either.

  9. Stunning photos, especially love the ones with the koi. I can’t go past a scone either :)

  10. I visited Cameron Highlands, oh must have been at least 15 years ago, and it was one of the most idyllic place in Malaysia that I remember. We were staying in a dodgy little guest house and it was still lovely. I’m glad to see it’s still gorgeous.

  11. Kay Ecker says:

    The photos are beautiful! Thanks for sharing. I love afternoon tea and after seeing your pic, I’m going to go make myself a cup of tea now :o )

    Kay

  12. sarah says:

    Oh my, this place looks positively enchanting – and the tea plantations! I don’t even know what to say about them except that your photos totally drew me in. Sounds like a perfect trip.

  13. heidi says:

    What a wonderland of delight your blog is to me!

    The drying racks in the tea factory, the FOOD, the strawberries, the tea, the scones and the beautiful hotels are all so beautiful and interesting.

    My niece brought me some pewter from Kuala Lumpur several years ago. I don’t think she ever heard about the Cameron Highlands ( she was on shore leave) – because I’m sure she would have mentioned it! Thank you so much for sharing your memories.

    My favorite places from childhood are the mountains of West Virginia – where the weather is hot and humid and the people friendly and great cooks – and the Eastern shore of the DelMarVa area right on the Atlantic and near to the wild ponies of Chincoteague.

  14. Chopinand says:

    Hi Three-Cookies,
    Cameron Highlands might truly be “forgotten” as there are so many new holiday destinations in Malaysia.

    Hi Tiffany,
    Mandela’s quote is very apt for Cameron Highlands and I can truly relate to it every time I visit the place.

    Hi Kath,
    One of the compelling reasons for me to start this blog is to capture all these moments which become indelible marks in our memory over the years. To be able to share these with family and friends is a wonderful thing.

    Hi Melissa,
    There are many new hotels and apartments which have been built over the last 20 years or so but what is enchanting are the old cottages and some places which have remained the same for so many years.

    Hi Sophie Lee,
    Yes, it is those moments like your sister falling into the pond that gives us fond memories!

    Hi Lorraine,
    The accommodation truly gives us the old colonial feel and it really transports me back in time. And I love the Boh peppermint tea too!

    Hi Hannah,
    The old colonial buildings are the best features of this place.

    Hi Carolyn,
    Other parts of Malaysia may have similar buildings but conservation and heritage preservation may not be a top priority of the government.

    Hi Dumpling Girl,
    I really wished I have a sweet tooth, I did try the scones with their home-made butter and it was really good.

    Hi Kat,
    That dodgy guest house might still be around!

    Hi Kay,
    Peaceful tranquility is how I would describe afternoon tea at Cameron Highlands in a beautiful colonial setting.

    Hi sarah,
    The tea plantations are beautiful especially when we can see the local tea pickers at work. Come to think of it, I really should have taken a few more photos of them.

    Hi heidi,
    Malaysia is famous for its pewter because of the early tin mining industry. I’m glad you have your own place where fond memories bring a smile.

  15. When I first looked at the photos before reading I was going to say that it looked very British colonial, belonging to a different era. Such a well preserved piece of history – right down to tea and scones!

  16. That place indeed looks like a paradise! Look at those humongous Koi fish and the food…! I am totally drooling…!

  17. Another beautiful post that I truly enjoyed. While I feel I got stuck here with the kids and unable to travel or eat at a nice restaurant so often, I know that I get some of the experience right here at your blog. Thank you for your wonderful post, with beautiful pictures and stories behind them.

  18. This is certainly not what I think of when I think of Malaysia, thanks for opening my eyes! Beautiful photos too.

  19. Thank you for sharing these amazing pictures and making us feel as though we traveled there!

  20. I can’t begin to tell you how many emotions that this post has stirred up in me. I was born in KL too although grew up in Singapore :) and have travelled extensively throughout Malaysia – and I have to admit, I’m sitting here in Mexico feeling incredibly homesick! Especially when you mentioned the mamak stores…..what I would give for some mee goreng and an ice milo right now!!

  21. It looks amazing, such beautiful photos. We were in Kuala Lumpur in 09 and oh how I wish I would have known about this place before. I guess that just means we have to go back!

  22. sugarpuffi says:

    such a beautiful and relaxing trip! i never knew Malaysia could be so tranquil

  23. Tanvi@SinfullySpicy says:

    Thanks for a virtual tour. All the pictures and food are gorgeous. I wish I could have such a close to nature and relaxed trip sometime soon.
    I got your mail, will be replying by tomorrow. I hope thats fine! Take care & have a nice week ahead!

  24. Stunning pics – especially the koi. I would love to visit the tea plantations… :)

  25. Great photos and so fascinating!

  26. Karen | C&C says:

    Oh wow your photos are stunning and Cameron Highlands is breathtaking! Shamefully I’ve never ventured outside of KL and PJ where I’m from but I vow next time I return to Malaysia, I’m going to explore the whole country, especially CH (I heard there’s an awesome assam laksa there haha). And lol, I can’t imagine anywhere in Malaysia being 13°C :P

  27. Pingback: cameron highlands the forgotten paradise of malaysia - Malay Site | 2011

  28. Rosa says:

    What gorgeous places! Tea plantations are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing those lovely pictures with us.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  29. chandana says:

    This place looks breath-taking. I would love to visit it sometime (we have plans of visiting kuala lumpur). It’s so nice to learn about new places.
    You have put in a lot of effort into this post. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pics and all the details.

  30. Ling says:

    Beautiful photos to accompany a beautiful story. I found the photo of the kids and the koi fish particularly charming. I would love to have a chalet of my own in the future…(one can dream :) )

  31. Baby Sumo says:

    We recently stayed in CHR.. its a lovely place. Wished Cameron Highlands wasnt such a long drive from KL.

  32. Rachel says:

    Your photos are beautiful.

    I was in Cameron Highlands a few years ago for a very quick trip and am dying to go back there soon. Your photos made me want to go even more. On my next trip to Malaysia, hopefully :)

  33. Hannah says:

    You’re right; these are indeed memories to treasure :)

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