Monday, 15 April 2013

Pahang Part 2: Tea Party in Cameron Highland!

Welcome to Cameron Highland!

One of the Coolest Place in Malaysia
Let's face it. Whenever it is not raining, Malaysia is hot. So hot, that you would sweat, seconds after you got out of shower. And there are few places where you can at least get a 10% feel of London or USA or wherever cool enough for you to strike a pose in your nice sweater and jacket - Cameron Highland, Genting Highland, just to name a few.

Well, not really. Cameron is not that cool nowadays. I could wear a plain round neck shirt and jeans and survive the day. 

Nevertheless, spending your new year eve in Cameron is fun! 
Journey to Brinchang early in the morning

Journey to the Top
Approximately 220 km from Kuala Lumpur, you would probably be spending almost three hours on the highway. We decided to depart early in the morning to avoid the traffic and simply to begin the day early.

There are two main routes to Cameron Highland (or the only routes?):

One: Tapah (the Old Route)
  1. Follow North-South Expressway and follow the sign to Ipoh (tulisan "Ipoh" tu besar gedabak sangat kat sign board dah kenapa agaknya). 
  2. Take exit 132, pass through Tapah toll booth, turn left and your winding road to Cameron Highland officially begun for another 2 hours. 
  3. From Duta Toll in KL, the toll rate would be around RM 19.40
  4. Oh please fill up your tank in Tapah, because the closest petrol station would be in Ringlet. 
  5. For those who prone to have motion sickness, do equip yourself with necessary medications as the roads are narrow with sharp bending.
  6. Lots and lots of heavy vehicles (e.g. lorries, tanks etc) using this route, so patience is indeed virtue. Please be careful when overtaking. 
  7. Watch out for falling branches of trees (or trees!) or even rocks on the road, especially during the rain. 
  8. This route risks landslides, so keep yourself up to date with recent development
  9. Along this route, you would be able to find orang asli selling petai, crafts and also durian!

View along the route of Simpang Pulai

Two: Simpang Pulai/Ipoh (the Popular Route)
  1. Take exit Simpang Pulai, after the toll booth, turn right. Turn right again after the next traffic light. Now you are on your way to Cameron Highland, people!
  2. If you are driving from KL, Brinchang and Tanah Rata would be of a longer distance, but it is all worth it, as the mountainous view along the route is MAGNIFICENT!
  3. As the route is less winding, other drivers tend to speed, so be careful.

The view along the journey. Superb.

Well, we took the Simpang Pulai route on our way to Cameron and Tapah route on our way back, so we could experience both ways. 

In Quest for?
What was I searching for? Three major things available in Cameron - Tea, Flowers and Strawberries.

Tea Craziness
No trip to Cameron Highland is complete without a visit to any tea plantations there. As for us, we've visited three different tea plantations - Sungai Palas Tea Plantation, Cameron Valley Tea Plantation and Boh Tea Plantation. I am not really a die-hard fan of tea, despite the fact teh tarik and iced tea had been my regular order at mamak stalls each time. But yeah, the feel of drinking tea at the tea plantation is somehow... different.

Boh Sungai Palas Tea Centre
As the name denotes, it is indeed the centre of the tea plantation. I've been here before, years ago, where some parts of it was still under construction. Located about 2-3 km away from the main road.

But it was a deception. If 2 km is considered near, think again. 
The entrance route is the same with the exit route. And the road was so narrow that at some parts, it could only accommodate one car! You will definitely be stuck for a minimum of half an hour (or the worst case scenario one hour and half!) along the route on the road. And the best part is, it seemed that there is no way for the authority to fix the situation.

Despite the ridiculous traffic congestion, the panoramic view was, rewarding and breathtaking. For once, I felt so proud and thankful that Malaysia too, housed such a beautiful scenery. The tea plants were so green and so near to your window that you can pluck few of them (I am not sure whether this is legal or not).

After the epic battle with the traffic congestion, we finally arrived at the parking spot, where about fifty cars were carefully parked at a parking lot next to a school. Yeah, school for the children of the tea plantation workers. 
Mesti bebudak sekolah ni nak muntah tengok teh sebab tiap-tiap hari hadap ladang teh. 
Then the journey on foot to the top of the hill begun. 

At the top of the hill, there was a cafe with a viewing platform where you can enjoy the panoramic view of the whole tea plantation from the top. Everything was so green that any attempt for human development is a deathly sin.

The cafe. Seriously, what makes you think that the congested traffic upon entrance confirmed your seats at the cafe? It was so crowded that you felt spotting a table is an impossible mission. There were about 20 people queuing to purchase various flavored tea, breads and scones, and the prices were, very damaging to your wallet. 

And if you have no patience in waiting, forget about having tea at the viewing platform, as it is considered as hot spot. 

We waited. In less than 10 minutes, we managed to get a seat for seven people. Even though we did not get the seats at the viewing platform, we could still enjoy the view from the wide window. Beautiful.

After the chit chat and drinks, we dropped by at the nearby tea shop to buy some tea in boxes, mostly were priced RM 15 per box. I could see the development of tea flavors, from plain tea to teh songket, and right now they have mangoes too. And I was informed that they are still experimenting on any possible flavors for marketing. Innovation non-stop. That's cool. 

Other than the shop, there were also exhibition centre on the history of the tea plantations as well as the tea making processes for tourist's information.

An hour after that, the epic battle against the traffic congestion commenced again. Even worst, the lorries carrying tonnes of tea leaves stuck in the middle of the route.

But on the bright side, it was a great chance for me and my dear friend, Fizri to shoot photos of the tea plantations =)
Bharat Cameron Valley Tea Plantation
Bharat Cameron Valley tea plantation is noticeable along the Tapah route and it also housed a cafe named Cameron Tea Valley, that offers various flavored tea, breads and scones to those on their route to the centre of Cameron Highland. 

As opposed to the narrow and challenging route to Sungai Palas Tea Plantation, Cameron Valley Tea Cafe is located by the main road to Cameron Highland, with ample parking spots for everyone too. And the best part, the cafe offered the best view of Bharat Cameron Valley Tea Plantation. 

Bharat Cameron Valley Tea seemed to be bigger than the Sungai Palas Tea Plantation. The green scenery could literally go as far as your eyes could see. 

At the self service cafe, you will find a wide range of menus for breakfast and refreshment.

Habu Boh Tea Plantation
Another Tea Plantation, perhaps the off beaten track, as it seems less congested while the route to the destination was still narrow with sharp bends. What makes this place interesting, small cafe were located on top, purely designed with English style, where you can enjoy tea, coffee and moist cakes.

We went there the day after, as it was raining, the atmosphere was misty so we could not get a clear view of the whole tea plantation. But still, the chilly weather really defined what Cameron used to be ten years ago.. before the global warming. 

Well I can't really recommend which tea plantation is the best place, as each and every single plantations tell its own story. But do take into account other factors like road conditions, traffic congestion etc as it may affect the planning of the day. You would not want to be trapped for hours in a traffic congestion just for a cup of tea and some expensive scones, right?

So yeah, that's the tea story. Which tea plantations you love the most?

Stay tuned for tips to shop in Brinchang market and the flower collection in Cameron Highland. 

Hairi Tahir

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