I will have to admit that Cameron Highlands was probably the highlight of the 3 weeks I spent in Malaysia. I always thought I am a city girl, however the older I get the more I start appreciating the nature and all its beauty. Cameron Highlands definitely blew my mind and if you get a chance to stop there whilst backpacking through South East Asia, make sure you do the following.
Do stay in Tanah Rata
There are a few towns to choose from, however Tanah Rata is in the epicentre of Cameron Highlands. Majority of the hiking trails start here and it’s a perfect location if you don’t want to or can’t rent a car or a scooter. It’s a small town but has plenty of hostels, cafes, restaurants and everything you might need during your stay.
Do bring a plastic bag for your bus journey to and from Cameron Highlands
The last hour to Cameron Highlands is the bumpiest ride you will ever experience. Well not the bumpiest, but it has about a million twists and turns and it will make even the strongest stomachs a bit queasy. I have never suffered from travel sickness but that journey absolutely killed me. Yes, I tried to sleep whilst hugging a plastic bag. Just in case. Do yourself a favour and try to secure yourself a front seat so you could see the road. Apparently that helps and if not, definitely take a bag with you.
Do learn about tea and visit Boh tea plantations
One thing you should definitely do whilst in Cameron Highlands is see the tea plantations and learn more about how it’s picked, fermented, packaged and sold. Especially if you are a tea drinker! If not, then just admire the views. I would recommend getting there in the early morning before all the tourists hit the road. That sunrise is not to be missed!
Do go for a tea tasting session and some scones
Once you learn about how the tea is made, go and book yourself for an afternoon tea. (I know that’s so English, but at the end of the day Cameron Highlands were found by a Scottish family). The scones and cakes might be slightly overpriced taking into the account that it’s Malaysia, however they are definitely top notch. And honestly nothing beats having some tea whilst admiring tea plantations.
Do visit the Mossy Forest
Make sure you visit the Mossy Forest. It’s the oldest Mossy forest in the world and it genuinely looks like the scene taken from the Lord of the Rings. You will get to admire some amazing views of the mountains, however it’s not for the faint hearted ones as you will get to climb to up to 2000m above the sea level.
Do book half a day tour
If you are pressed for time and don’t want to rent a car or a scooter book a half day tour which will take you to Boh Plantations, tea tasting and the Mossy forest. I personally took a full day tour, however, a couple of stops were totally worthless and unimpressive, so I wouldn’t suggest doing that at all.
In terms of prices, there are loads of travel agencies around and honestly they all offer pretty much the same tours for pretty much the same price. It might vary by a couple of ringitt but I wouldn’t go out of the way to find the cheapest option. Also some of them do not include entrances to museums, etc and this way you might end up paying even more.
Do go hiking
This comes as an obvious one. There are so many hikes you can do in Cameron Highlands, make sure that you go on at least one or two. Some of them can be quite strenuous, so make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes and have some water with you. Also, download maps.me before you head out as the signage is appaling and it’s mega easy to get lost. All the trails can be found on maps.me and you can use it offline. Unless you want to use a compass, then be old school and use a compass. Either way, make sure you know how to get back. Check out the map and the difficulty of the trails by clicking here.
Do eat some Indian food
So after half a day hike all you will want is food. There are plenty of restaurants on the main road (which leads to the bus station), however I have to recommend one and only Indian restaurant – Restaurant Sri Brinchang. They claim to be the best South Indian Cuisine in Town and I think they are very much living up to their title. We ate there every single day and were not disappointed with even one meal. (And it’s very reasonably priced!) To be honest to this date I don’t really know what Malaysian food is.
Do bring some warm clothes
Cameron Highlands is the coldest spot in Malaysia. And when I say the coldest, the temperature there during the day still rises to early twenties, however it’s definitely refreshing especially if you’ve just spent a couple of weeks in a South East Asian heat. It seems weird that you have to bring hoodies and trousers with you. But you do. Your body adapts to Asian heat and 18 degrees at night feels like an Antarctica. Enjoy it whilst you can.
Do stay for at least 48 hours
I think you definitely need at least good 48 hours to explore Cameron Highlands. Spend a day going on a tour and another day hiking. Believe me, you will be so tired by the end of it that all you will need in your life will be food and sleep.
Don’t go to the Butterfly Park
If you book one of the full day tours, you are most likely going be taken to the Butterfly Park. It sounds amazing in theory, it’s horrible in practice. The conditions they keep animals in are appalling and the majority of butterflies are pretty much dying in there. Just don’t.
Don’t go to the strawberry farms
Locals say that the best strawberries come from Cameron Highlands and it’s the ONLY place in Malaysia where strawberries can grow. It might be interesting for those who have never seen a strawberry farm, however, I can’t say it was particularly impressive. Also, don’t tell them this, but their strawberries are a bit tasteless. Or maybe I am just spoiled cause my grandma used to grow them and they were the best I’ve ever had!
Don’t hike by yourself
This is an important one. As a strong independent solo female traveller, I am used to doing everything by myself, however I am very happy that I didn’t go hiking by myself. First of all, because it is easy to get lost, and as Lithuanians say two heads are always better than one. Secondly, some of the trails (Such as no. 4) are known for being dangerous and are not recommended for girls at all. It’s horrible that this is actually happening, but apparently, there were many reports saying that girls get raped and/or mugged whilst trekking trail 4. So do yourself a favour and buddy up with someone or at least ask locals advice before you venture out.
Don’t destroy the ecosystem, leave nothing but footprints
Couldn’t stress this more! Don’t be an idiot, do not litter and stay on the paths if you are told to do so! Especially when you are in the Mossy Forest! The majority of trails in the forest have now been closed due stupid tourists who thought that it was a good idea to climb the trees and completely destroy the ecosystem. We are lucky the government hasn’t closed the forest completely!
Lastly, DO NOT SKIP Cameron Highlands if you are in Malaysia. It’s one of the most serene and beautiful places you will find in this country!