This is your most updated Cameron Highlands Travel Guide!
I was the only Asian in the 4×4 jeepney. An Israeli couple traveling with their little girl Luna was an endearing sight. The morning air was cool. Everyone donned their cardigan or jacket. I wrapped the pink scarf around my shoulders; my wet hair tickled my arms. We were on our way to BOH Tea Plantation.
Since my 1-week Malaysia route was Kuala Lumpur-Taiping-Cameron Highlands. I took the bus from Taiping, changed buses in Ipoh, then to Cameron Highlands.
But if you are traveling from Kuala Lumpur, take the train to Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (BTS), a very modern bus station some twenty minutes away from Kuala Lumpur. You can also take the express train to the airport (KLIA 1 and KLIA 2) from here. BTS’ website has also all the bus schedules within Malaysia and Malaysia-Singapore. You can also buy your bus ticket online if you want to avoid lining up at the terminal.
The second floor of BTS has some restaurants and cafes in case you want to eat before your bus ride. The bus ride takes around four hours.
Cameron Highlands draws a lot of travelers, mostly westerners. The place has Starbucks already, and I would not be surprised if in the coming years, McDonalds would stand proud and mighty somewhere. But knowing us, Filipinos—the most western-culture-loving Asians, most of us would love seeing Starbucks and McDonalds everywhere. But I do not. I prefer local markets, I mean real local markets—not the one put up for travelers’ consumption. But Cameron Highlands does not have that. I do not really mind. The main reason I was there was to see the wowing rolling hills of centuries-old tea plantation.
Aside from the tea plantation, most activities are pretty much like Baguio’s or Bohol’s. So here are the things I did in CH.
Ironically, Cameron Highlands made me enter a strawberry farm and a butterfly farm respectively. Of course, the strawberry field was not the Beatles’ kind; it was not forever. It was a small enclosure meant for passing tourists. The real farm behind us was locked up and inaccessible. The owners must have predicted that some sneaky tourists would pick some fruits and munch them right there and then. To pick a fruit or two for free was fine. So, I found it rather amusing and odd that I had my first strawberry-picking experience not in Baguio but in Malaysia. And yes, I could not help but pick a fruit or two and munch.
It was the butterfly farm that I regretted entering. Because I knew that those butterflies were not inherent in the place. Locals hunted them, sold them to the gardens, and the unfortunate winged creatures were trapped to their death. The garden was beautiful—I always find flowers as a source of happiness. But guilt nagged me: the butterflies’ existence was meant for business, was meant for tourists who are willing to pay 5RM to have a short interaction with them.
Perhaps it was worth it for others. But for me, butterflies flying in their natural habitat are way more beautiful.
Cameron Highlands is primarily known for its trekking trails. There are at least ten established ones that lead to small waterfalls, little villages, and foggy mountainscape. It was a foggy, cold, and drizzling July, an unlikely weather for a relaxing trek.
To lessen the expenses, I joined a trekking tour, and it was unsurprising to be the only Asian traveler in a group of twenty. It was supposedly a trekking tour, but we spent most of the time in the jeepney. The highlight of the short trek was seeing the pitcher plants randomly adorning the mossy forest.
There is a recurring theme in the Malaysia leg of my trip. Despite the enjoyable walk around Kuala Lumpur, I found the countryside like Taiping and Cameron Highlands more appealing and soothing.
READ: What Did I Pack for my Five-Week Trip? No checked-in luggage!
I went to Cameron Highlands to see the hectares-wide tea plantations: something that we do not have in the Philippines. The rolling hills of short tea trees were. Spectacular? Amazing? Wonderful? I do not know the right adjective. But to be there, to be part of the landscape that has been maintained, that has been the source of livelihood to many locals is humbling and wowing.
A week-long solo trip around Malaysia was an eventful initiation of adventuring outside our archipelagic country. I did not regret doing it alone. More than knowing a foreign place, it was the self that I learned to know more: the self who is ever gutsy, reckless, the self who is not scared of getting lost.
219.8RM – Php 2 490 : USD53
|Day 5||Day 6|
|Taiping-Ipoh Bus – 11.50||Cameron-KL Bus Ticket – 38.5|
|Ipoh-Cameron Highlands – 35||Butterfly Farm Entrance Fee – 5|
|Orchid Lodge (Dorm bed for 2 nights) – 51.00||Lunch – 6|
|Dinner – 5||Grocery – 1.8|
|Tour – 40||Noodles + egg – 4|
|Beer – 15||Coffee – 7.5|
Looking at my diaried expenses (oh, yes, all expenses are diaried!), I had a can of beer at a bar behind the rows of coffee shops, restaurant, and tour operators. It was a cool place. Its central attraction was the huge bonfire, where travelers circled and chatted about their travels and plans.
I also noticed that my coffee is more expensive than my dinner of noodles and eggs. What I love about Orchid’s Lodge is its kitchen! You are allowed to cook your own food. So I cooked my dinner once, but I mostly dined at the little food market across from the rows of restaurants. It was an initiation on Indian, Malay, and Chinese food.
1. This place is primarily meant for nature lovers. A walk around the tea plantation, little treks to the little waterfalls and villages, strawberry picking, butterfly gardens ( I do not recommend this), and mostly communing with nature.
2. Bring a jacket. Or a thick cardigan, and clean socks for sleeping. It is brrrr there.
3. Public transportation is almost non-existent, so joining tours is more practical.
4. If you are not into nature, Penang might be a good alternative.
5. During peak seasons, ask the hostels’ person-in-charge about the bus schedules.
6. Book in advance especially if you are staying in a dorm. Cheap places are the to-go accommodations for budget travelers, so rooms fill up fast.
7. Check the local holidays in Malaysia, you might end up traveling with a throng of locals. It can be good or bad, depending on your preference. I do not mind traveling with the locals. I primarily travel to write.
8. There are banks and ATMS at Camellia 4 Building.
When a place is popular, chances are there are cheap accommodations everywhere. Cameron Highlands has a good number of affordable dorm accommodations for budget travelers. I traveled solo, so a dorm was not as bad as I thought.
WHERE TO STAY IN CAMERON HIGHLANDS
1. Casa Loma
Some parts of this article appeared on my column Down South on interaksyon.com on February 14, 2016
How about you? What do you prefer? City? Countryside? Or a mix of both?