The last time we travelled there, Aaron was just one. It’s true we often remember the good things and forget the bad, much like remembering the joy of seeing your newborn but not the pain of childbirth! Well, this trip sort of reminded me on why I was so reluctant to go to Cameron Highlands when Mike first broached the subject. I knew I enjoyed myself, but there was a niggling thought about going.
As in a decade ago, we brought along my in-laws, and ex-neighbours D and G tagged along. The immigration hooha in the news was worrying and we decided we should leave really early for our trip – aimed to reach custom by 6am. We were rather late, only managing to leave my house close to 6am. Luckily or because of some freak system, there was no jam, and no finger scanning required. We breezed through the custom and went happily to the first kopitiam for our breakfast.
I didn’t remember the drive would be so loooooong. The GPS took us to KL instead of Ipoh. From KL, we relied on my personal human GPS TSF for help to get us through to the next part of NE highway. It was noon and following a bad tradition, we stopped at the same R&R we did ten years ago to have lunch at KFC.
The drive was relatively smooth. The GPS giving out regular warnings on speeding, police hideout etc, which Mike obeyed like a good little boy.
The drive up the mountain was still winding, despite an alternative better route recommended by friends. The mountain single way was a challenge to drive and overtake. Once, we had to follow a slow lorry for a few kilometers as there wasn’t room for overtaking. I was just glad to reach our ‘resort’ by 4.30pm.
Greenhill Resort has 3-bedroom apartments. With the cool 22 deg C temperature, there was no need for aircon and fan. Like most locally run resorts in Malaysia and Indonesia, the maintenance and upkeep of the place leave much to be desired. My shower head was missing the sprout. There was a kettle in the neighbouring apartment but not in mine. The socket from the TV is half out, with wires exposed. There was no floor mats in any of our bathrooms, my bed was saggy…
I’ve heard much laments that Cameron Highlands is over-developed and crowded. It is. Just driving from Tanah Rata to Brinchang, a mere 5 km away, the only road is often jammed. It was probably tourist season, with Singapore’s school holiday and Malaysia’s last weekend of school holiday. Brinchang was packed and we chose an empty steamboat restaurant to eat in order for a place to park our car.
The gas steamboat was slow. The soup salty. But otherwise, we love the taste of just blanched fresh vegetables. After dinner, we left our car to walk the night market, savouring the street food on offer: chocolate coated strawberries, pancakes, sausages, corns…
The next morning, we went to the prata stall we did ten years ago, where my in-laws tasted prata for the first time and thoroughly loved it. D ordered the first of many strawberry dishes to come – strawberry prata. (Followed later on by strawberry pancakes, strawberry omelets etc.)
After breakfast, we did the usual tourist thing – visit the Boh Tea Plantation. Things have changed here. There was a classy visitor center with a nice gift shop. We left the shop with bags and bags of Boh tea (which my father-in-law found later costs the same as in NTUC).
The good thing about the trip is that we were relaxed, with no agenda or itinerary to follow. After lunch, we went back to the apartment to nap. Then it’s dinner. This time, we chose the charcoal steamboat.
Our usual dinner walk is the night market again. It was crowded with people.
The next morning, we ran out of place to go and decide to visit Parit Waterfall. A man claiming to be the guide there wanted RM30 for a 30 mins walking tour. We relented. The fall was full of rubbish. The park near the fall was badly maintained, with the toilet is non-working condition. I wonder why the tourism board doesn’t do anything about it. Cameron Highlands has so much potential, yet it’s not fully tapped on.
A place not to miss there is the Ye Olde Smokehouse. Imagine paying RM15 and RM18 per pax for gas and charcoal steamboat buffet respectively and then paying RM25++per pax for the Devonshire Tea Set consisting of two small scones and a pot of tea? No wonder my in-laws were aghast. But how to be in Cameron Highlands and not go here to travel back in time, to reminisce going back to British colonial era, imagining sipping tea in the 1930s in this beautiful colonial bungalow? One simply must do this.
If we were to go again the next time, D suggested taking the eco-tours to see the Rafflesia and night tours to photograph insects. Huh? Another 10 hours drive? Maybe not.