If I hadn’t been spoilt by Vietnam, and in particular Sa Pa, I’d probably have enjoyed the Cameron Highlands more than I have. Green and hilly scenery‘s all very well but, unless you count the bright, cheerful abayas that a lot of female Malaysian Muslims wear, the people and their fashions here are rather colourless in comparison.
Like Da Lat in Vietnam, the towns here were built as hill stations in which colonial Europeans (in this case the British rather than the French) could cool off. But the towns are very small - one-main-street-and-a-handful-leading-off kind of small - with not much to do in them except eat, sleep and set off on hikes.
I’ve been staying in a place called Tanah Rata, watching my beard grow. I’ve been hillwalking once, using a map of the various jungle paths you can take. It was rewarding in the end, but it wore me out and made me worry at times that I was going to get lost.
I’ve also taken a walk to the nearest tea plantation, a couple of miles down the road.
We've just had a public holiday, which meant that Tanah Rata filled up with weekenders and my room rate almost doubled on Saturday night. It was interesting, watching the Malaysian middle classes turn up en masse in their nice cars (shinier and newer than you’d see in a typical British car park, I’d say) and go on a spending spree in the tea shop overlooking the plantation.
I don’t just mean they bought boxes of high-quality tea bags in various flavours, although that was part of it. No, they also partook of tea and scones (or cake), as did I - for the experience, I guess, and despite a price tag of just over £4 that made me balk a little. That’s over a quarter of my typical daily budget! In fact it’s nearly as much as I was paying for my room. On a normal day, anyway.