William Cameron a surveyor entrusted to map the hitherto unknown inner parts of the latest acquisition of the Great British Empire known as Malaya, found himself crossing some highlands as he made his way eastward from coastal peninsular sometime mid 19th century. Similar to Amerigo Vespucci and many other western explorers, name credit is given to them as founders of these lands, disregarding the fact that it has been populated by local natives centuries before. Alas, history favours the winners and conquerors always. The local name is long forgotten and thus the highlands that make up part of the Malaysian peninsular mountain range bears a ‘Mat Salleh’ name till today.
At some point, one of the British rulers in Kuala Lumpur decided that he had enough of his khaki shirt sticking to his back and admonishment from the Mrs that the damp, not exactly fragrant stain around his armpits should go. What he required was a short break to where the weather was more similar to the old country, colder and less humid. One of his assistants, no doubt imagining a couple of weeks of office time without the boss around possibly suggested a nice holiday trip to the Highlands ‘that chap Cameron’ found. If he was smart, the assistant would have omitted the fact that it was in the middle of nowhere and the wildlife was not only wild but they have had a tendency to consume some human lives as well.
The British holiday contingent trekked their way up, found some rather flat lands to build some decent structures and sat around their fireplaces enjoying the cold and drizzly rain (just like the old country!). After some days, the cold got to their now tropicalized bodies and someone suggested that a nice hot cup of chai would be perfect. So, the order was sent out for a bunch of Indian labourers along with some tea plants to fill out the slopes. It was perfect…until someone piped up that, while the chai was great and warms up the body, cucumber sandwiches like mother used to make will help the hot liquid flow in easier. Oh, let’s not forget the scones and strawberry jam, yum, yum. More orders were drawn up, this time for Chinese farmers and some vegetable plants, and of course strawberries!
And that is why, till today, Cameron Highlands is filled with tea, vegetable and fruit farms, and English coffee houses that serve Tea and Scones while you sit by the fireplace.
Kuala Lumpur was warm…and humid. So, we decided that the best way to get away from the heat for a couple of days is to visit one of the highland resorts near here. Genting, we have been a couple of times already, Fraser’s, not really sure of hotel options there, so that left us with only one obvious choice.
The drive up took us around 3.5 hours, a slow drive, mostly highway and on a weekday with light traffic, it was quite pleasant. We stopped at the Tapah R&R for brunch and buy some fruits. Sometime back, the company that ran the highway toll concessionaire having had enough of the complaints about the poor state of their rest and stops areas, picked a couple of main interchanges for upgrades. Food options and stalls were upgraded as well as the toilet facilities.
The R&R areas that have undergone upgrades are now a joy to visit. Fast food restaurants, various food and fruits stalls give the tired traveller clean and relatively cheap options. The toilets are actually clean and airy, well designed with water features and landscaping. Shower facilities are available, as well as Surau for prayers.
The map application showed that we still had 2 hours after the rest stop. The road after the exit toll up to Tanah Rata (the first big town on the hills) wasn’t really in the best of condition with potholes and narrow bridges. From there, the condition improved remarkably. I wonder if it’s due to the jurisdiction difference between the two states. While the initial road belongs to Perak, the highlands itself is in Pahang.
When we were packing for the trip the night before, I mentioned to my mum that she should pack a light jacket at least. She grudgingly obliged but muttered that Cameron is no longer what it was, no thanks to Global Warming and the indiscriminate land clearing that we all read about in the papers. After we checked in the hotel, she walked around the apartment looking for the air con controller as the place was a little too cold for her liking. She did look amazed when I mentioned there was no air conditioning, and the cold was actually naturally generated! The hotel was a little disappointing, so the less said the better; I was, however, thankful that they had good blankets!
We did not have too much time, so after 2 nights of enjoying the nice cold weather of Camerons, we set back to Kuala Lumpur. On the way down, we stopped by the Lata Iskandar Falls, right next to the road. There are some fruits stalls by the side of the road, and toilet/changing rooms that are not exactly in a great condition, but usable. The Falls itself was beautiful, with small dip pools near the entrance. There is a concrete step going up for those looking for better spots.