Highlights of the Cameron Highlands
After the food (so much lovely vegan food!) and the hot sticky weather of Georgetown, we boarded a bus for the Cameron Highlands, a hill station in Malaysia where the weather is cooler and we had plans to walk the jungle trails, tea plantations and strawberry fields. So healthy, I hear you say…
I was horrendously travel sick on the way there with the mixture of hills, twisty roads, insane driving by our bus driver and perfume of the passenger sat behind me finally getting the better of me about 15 minutes before we arrived. Added to the fact that I’d had little sleep during our visit to Penang as our Georgetown hostel, full of hot pant clad twenty-something backpackers (no surprise that TravelMush liked them) could hardly be described as an oasis of calm, restful escape or a quiet place to lay our heads… Never had I been in so much need of some looking after, of some peace and quiet and some good old boring rest and relaxation.
We’d booked into the Do Chic In, a homestay which turned out to be my perfect medicine with its fabulous hosts, spotless clean rooms and comfortable beds. As I laid my head on the crispy clean pillow case, enveloped by the silence of somewhere inhabited by grow ups, I tried to soak up every peaceful second of it all.
In the morning, 3 amazing things happened. Firstly, I opened my eyes and the horrible travel sickness and resulting headache had worn off, hurrah. Secondly, I opened the curtains to the most amazingly green lush view- trees that have seen hundreds of sunrises and sunsets, as far as my eye could see. Thirdly, Jessica (one of our very fabulous homestay hosts) served me the first of what was to be a series of delicious vegan breakfasts that looked like art and tasted like heaven.
I was a new woman and ready for the Cameron Highlands and all it had to offer amnd this turned out to be a mixture of the following:
Beautiful sunshine and air that felt good to breathe in: the weather was like a balmy British Bank Holiday weekend in August with hot sunny days and cool nights meaning that sinking under a cosy duvet could be enjoyed. I never thought we’d miss the cold, but there we were, relishing in it and remembering how nice it is to want to be cuddled up under the duvet to stay warm together though the night. Sometimes the hot, humid weather of South East Asia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Lovely lush green tea plantations which felt like manicured gardens where the air was sweet and pungent with the smell of tea. I think I could spend days just soaking in the greenness of it all. The noise melted away in these silent fields full of tea bushes growing under the sun.
Our first experience of the Malaysian favourite ‘Rojak’: a ‘salad’ made mainly from fried tofu, fried coconut dough and vegetable fritters with some crunchy cucumber and a tasty peanut fruity sauce (note the lack of much salad and the abundance of fried things which appeals to my unhealthy side). Normally not vegan in the slightest, we found a place that did a veg version and it became our staple picnic snack whilst exploring the area.
Walking the trails: these are numbered paths varying in length and difficulty with tons of commentary on the web about how easy people have found them or of stories of scrambling over and through things, scaling steep hills or leisurely strolls depending on the weather or the walker. We opted for the easiest route which was a nice stroll but I was underwhelmed, finding it a little boring (there’s my addition to the World Wide Web debate on it).
Instead, we walked on the side of the road, between and around Tana Rata, Taman Sedia and Brinchang where traffic wasn’t too bad and the scenery was good.
Trying our hand at hitch-hiking: our home stay host Jaycee told us that hitch-hiking in the Cameron Highlands was perfectly safe and so in need of a lift back up a very steep hill, we stuck out our thumbs and waited to be rescued. The first vehicle to stop was an empty school bus, which we promptly boarded meaning that my first ever hitched lift had a flavour of the bizarre about it.
Strawberry picking: on one of our wanders we found a few strawberry farms and always happy to support a business growing a vegan delight, I convinced TravelMush that we should go strawberry picking. This was good fun and we carefully picked some very tasty strawberries but we seemed to pay the price for this with our haul costing us a fair bit more than the equivalent weight picked and packed by someone else, which made no sense and was chalked up as experience for the future.
Seeking out vegan hotspots including the local health food shop, the local juice bar which we visited every morning for a variety of freshly squeezed goodness.
One of the vegan highlights was in nearby Brinchang where the local not-for-profit vegan restaurant served the best ‘basket meal’ that I’ve ever eaten and all for 2 RM (about 40 Great British pennies).
There are some lovely buildings and scenery to see in the Cameron Highlands but non-touristy restaurants were hard to find and the only bar in our town sucked (ironically called ‘Travellers’ suggesting a welcoming and friendly meeting place, which it wasn’t). Our local vegan saviour came in the shape of a Malay-Indian restaurant called Mamu Ismail.
Delicious curries, excellent service, oh-so-cheap prices and the meeting of a very friendly fellow traveller who’s spirit and heart we loved during our brief encounter (these are the things that a good adventure is made of after all) made great memories for us.
After 4 nights, we were set to move on (how would we leave Jessica’s breakfasts and Jaycee’s travel tips behind?!).
On the advice of my very lovely and fabulous friend who lives far too far away from me at the moment (my fault I know) but who’s advice I’ll always follow because I think she’s so very cool, we stocked up on travel sickness pills and boarded the bus for our next stop, Kuala Lumpur. “I’ll take two” I said to TravelMush as we got to the bus station, “better be safe than sorry”… Roll on 4 hours of incoherent slurring speech, sedated dozing and blissful drooling from me as TravelMush looked on with jealousy, we arrived (with no sickness) in KL for the next leg of the Vegan Food Quest….