A visit to the tea plantations of Malaysia: Cameron Highlands
One of the biggest highlights when travelling to Malaysia, is the Cameron Highlands. The highland is located in the middle of Malaysia, approximately 150 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur. Because of the fact that the highland is almost 2000 meters at its highest point, the temperatures can also be lower as compared to other parts of Malaysia. These temperatures makes it a perfect place to cultivate tea.
The tea plantations already exists since approximately 1885. In this time, the British expedition leader William Cameron discovered the Cameron Highlands during a expedition. The highland is named after him.
When you ride towards the Cameron Highlands, you come across many greenhouses, which doesn’t picture the area as a “beautiful area”. However, how closer you get to the town of Tanah Rata and Brinchang, the more beautiful the environment gets. You see tea plantations everywhere and the route is unique.
Although the Cameron Highlands are well-known for its tea plantations, there is much more to see and do. There are lots of hiking possibilities, strawberry farms, butterfly farms and you can pay a visit to the original inhabitants, the Orang Asli. In this article I’ll tell you some more about the Cameron Highlands and give some practical information.
Tanah Rata is the most popular town to stay in during tourists’ time in the Cameron Highlands. The town doesn’t have a large center; it has little restaurants, some shops and small super markets. In my opinion, it should definitely be a place where you only sleep and from where you go to the tea plantations or to the start of a hiking trail, the town itself isn’t very pretty. However, it’s a great starting point for visiting the tea plantations and there are several accommodations. Also, in the weekend you can find a night market in the town center where you can buy some local products.
BBrinchang is another town located in the Cameron Highlands. Although this town is quite bigger than Tanah Rata, it’s less touristic. There are more local restaurants though, so we decided to have dinner one night in Brinchang. When you would like to visit the BOH Tea Plantation from Tanah Rata, you’ll drive through Brinchang.
Sungai Pala BOH
The most well-known tea plantation is the Sungai Pala BOH. Arrived at the entrance, you’ll have some amazing views over the tea plantations. There is a small museum where you can take a look into the process of making tea. There are also some interesting stories about the arise of BOH. Together with a large place where you can taste some tea on your own (and at a place with some amazing views), there is a shop where you can buy tea from the plantations. If you’d like, you can also walk through the tea bushes yourself.
Bharat Tea Plantation
Another popular tea plantation is the Bharat Tea Plantation, located just outside Tanah Rata. Here as well you can have some amazing views over the tea plantations. There also is a restaurant where you can drink tea and have something to eat.
To be honest, this place isn’t very easy to reach, but it should be worth a visit! During our time in the Cameron Highlands, we were already driving towards the starting point of the Mossy Forest (all the way up, over bad roads). On our way, we came across some locals who told us that the area was, unfortunately, closed. So we could turn around and go back to town.
The Mossy Forest is a forest area across the road to the top of Mt. Brinchang. You can walk along small paths which brings you to beautiful mossy trees and beautiful views over the Cameron Highlands. If it’s cloudy, the mountain will be partly covered by clouds, which gives an unique image.
In the area of the Cameron Highlands, you can find several butterfly and strawberry farms. We’ve visited one strawberry farm, where you could wander around all plant types and pick some strawberries yourself. There also is an eatery where you can have anything with strawberry in it. Honestly, I didn’t find it very special (maybe because in the Netherlands greenhouses with strawberries are very common), but it was nice to have a quick look.
Like said before, the Cameron Highlands offer some great hiking possibilities. Each trail has its own difficulty level. After doing some research on the internet, we decided to go for trail number 10 (each trail has a number). According to some sources, this trail should take around 3-4 hours and has a difficulty level of average.
The trail started just outside the town of Tanah Rata. We could easily find the signs which showed us how to hike. In the beginning, the hike was quite easy. After 10-15 minutes it became much more difficult. For quite some time, we needed to hike (climb) steep upwards. The path only existed out of tree roots, it was very intense. When we finally reached the top, we had an amazing view over the highlands.
After enjoying the view for quite a while, we wanted to go further. However, the trail wasn’t very well maintained at some places on the route, so we got stuck on where to go next. There were plants everywhere and we couldn’t find a beaten path. We definitely hesitated whether we should move on and try a route or if we should go back.
Finally we decided to go back, because the route was too unsure in our opinion. We didn’t want to risk getting lost. It was definitely an adventurous trail, but it was a little disappointing that the trail wasn’t that well maintained. I’m not sure how other trails are maintained, so you can definitely try out another one since there are so many possibilities!
Keep in mind to always start early with the hike, since it will be getting dark in the early evening. It’s best to let your accommodation know what you’re going to do, just in case. Bring enough water with you and wear good hiking shoes. Take a look at this website if you need some more information about the trails.
Hot to get in the Cameron Highlands
Depending on how you’re travelling through Malaysia, there are all kinds of ways to travel to the Cameron Highlands:
– If you have a rental car, it’s very easy to reach the Cameron Highlands. Keep in mind that the roads are very meandering, since you are going into the highlands. From Kuala Lumpur it’s around a 3-hour drive. We drove from Taman Negara towards the Cameron Highlands, which was a 4-hour drive.
– From anywhere in Malaysia you can travel by bus towards the Cameron Highlands. There are many possibilities to travel by bus. One of the better bus companies is Plusliner (although I’m not sure if they’re driving to the Cameron Highlands as well). If you would like to have some more information about the possibilities, you can take a look here.
– If you don’t have that much time, you can decide to make a day trip from Kuala Lumpur to the Cameron Highlands. There are several tours offered which take you by bus towards the Cameron Highlands and offers a tour through the highlands. A great way to see the tea plantations when you’re not able to stay longer. Keep in mind that this day trip can be very intense, since the route is long and there’s much to see.
– If you don’t like travelling by bus and you don’t have a rental car, you can decide to travel by taxi. However, keep in mind that this isn’t a cheap possibility, since you drive around three hours from Kuala Lumpur.
How to get around
The area around the Cameron Highlands features one highway which crosses Tanah Rata and Brinchang when you’re going to one of the tea plantations. If you have a rental car, it’s very easy to get from one point to another. If you came by bus to the Cameron Highlands, it’s very hard to get around because the public transportation isn’t that well arranged. It will be quite hard to visit several places on one day. If you came by bus, it’s best to book a tour where you get around with a group. These tours can be booked online, but also in your accommodation.
Where to stay
There are all kinds of possibilities for accommodation to stay at. There are very simple guesthouses but also more luxurious hotels. During our time in the Cameron Highlands, we’ve stayed at the Avillion Cameron Highlands Hotel. This 4* hotel is located in the middle of the town center of Tanah Rata and offer very spacious rooms. I’ve had a good stay at this hotel. The breakfast was quite simple though; it was very focused on the Asian cuisine. Altogether it was a nice stay in a hotel with a perfect location. If you would like to book this accommodation, you can click here.
What do you think of the Cameron Highlands? Would you like to visit the tea plantations?