The majority of backpackers in Southeast Asia tend to focus on Thailand. Those with a little more freedom often venture through Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. When time is available, occasionally they’ll spend a bit of time visiting Malaysia, but typically tend to stick to either the beaches or a quick stop over in Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, one of the most beautiful spots in the entire country of mainland Malaysia is often overlooked: the Cameron Highlands.With a much cooler climate than the rest of the peninsula, it’s understandable why people on a holiday schedule would prefer the warm beaches; but the highlands a few short hours inland from KL are one of the most fantastic places we visited in the region. Rolling hills in every direction, bright green with beautiful tea leaves, lined by some of the oldest rainforests in the world, it’s a wonderful change from the beaches and big cities in the area.
Basing ourselves in the main town of Tanah Rata, our few short days in the region were spent on short day trips to the surrounding areas. One major highlight was visiting one of the many tea plantations, as the altitude and climate are perfect for the temperamental plants. Wandering through seemingly endless fields of tea, seeing the local workers picking the delicate leaves and carrying large sacks hundreds of metres back to the processing facilities, it really makes you appreciate the effort involved in something as simple as a cup of tea.Another day, we visited a butterfly and flower sanctuary. Actually quite a tourist spot, it’s home to many species of butterflies, native insects, and flowers. It was a short visit, but also cheap and still quite interesting as we don’t often pop into places like this. From there we walked several kilometres down the winding road to one of the many strawberry farms the highlands have to offer. Much like the hills around Da Lat in Vietnam, strawberries flourish in this cool tropical climate. A well-deserved snack following the long walk, we treated ourselves to a big bowl of ice cream topped with freshly made strawberry sauce. Absolutely delicious, one of the best I’ve ever had!
Aside from that, the remainder of our time was spent just relaxing in the cool air. That and enjoying some more of the incredible Malaysian cuisine we quickly fell in love with, including the near-perfect banana leaf meal we first discovered near Kuala Lumpur. Although our visit here was short-lived, it was a last minute decision to come up this way and we’re so very glad we did. And we’ll be looking forward to returning sometime soon!