Places to visit – Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

The Cameron Highlands were the second stop on our 2-week Malaysian holiday earlier this year. The Cameron Highlands are an old British outpost in the hills north-east of Kuala Lumpur, and are known as a beautiful destination for walks, enjoying some of the colonial experience and tea plantations.

We headed there by bus from Kuala Lumpur, where we started out. We bought our bus tickets a couple of days in advance from Pudu Sentral Bus Terminal. The ticket offices are on the second floor. There are a few options for direct buses to the Cameron Highlands but after a little research we decided to go with Unititi Express. We were quite pleased with our choice: although they did run about 30 minutes late, the seats were massive and very comfortable! The cost was very reasonable too, at about the equivalent of £7. The journey takes over 4 hours and isn’t very interesting for the most part, although there are some nice views once you get up into the hills towards the end.

We stayed in Tanah Rata, probably the largest town in the Cameron Highlands, which is where the bus finishes. We stayed in Fathers Guest House, which was quite a backpacker-type place. The rooms were simple, cheap but comfortable and there were lots of areas downstairs to sit and relax and chat to the other guests.

Walks

There are several numbered walks in the Cameron Highlands, our hotel provided us with a rough map and descriptions of them. They range from a simple stroll to some very strenuous all day hikes! I can’t find a good website which describes the trails well, but this one has an overview. I think most hotels will be able to give you good information when you arrive.

On our first afternoon in the Cameron Highlands we wanted to go for a simple walk to explore the area around Tanah Rata, so we headed off on Path No. 4. It was a bit hard to find the start of the walk but once we got going it was pretty flat and straightforward, and took us past this waterfall.

Parit Waterfall Cameron Highlands

We ended up at the golf course between Tanah Rata and Brinchang so we decided to carry on to Brinchang. On our way we went past this mock-tudor style hotel (The Smokehouse Hotel). The gardens were beautiful and it really looked like a scene out of somewhere in Buckinghamshire, UK not Malaysia!

The Smokehouse Hotel Cameron Highlands

On another day we wanted to go for a more substantial walk and headed off on Path No. 10. We really enjoyed this walk but it was one of the more strenuous ones that we’ve done! The first half is steeply uphill for most of the day, to the top of Gunung Jasar. We were rewarded with great views at the top though.

View from Gunung Jasar

And then it was a fairly steep walk back down the other side through a forest with quite a rough trail. I have to admit I slipped a couple of times! The trail finishes at the top of Orang Asli village, the most ‘local’ place we saw in the Cameron Highlands, although it was very quiet so I’m not sure if people are still living there. There is also a massive construction site next door! We actually found it quite difficult to get down from the end of the trail to the road by the construction site! We eventually managed to scramble down some of the slopes. So I don’t know if we went the wrong way?

Tea Plantations

Our hotel had a range of tours that you could go on, which they organised through one of the local companies (I think most hotels do this). We chose to go on a half-day tea plantation tour which also managed to fit in a number of different activities.

There were about 8 of us on our tour. Our guide drove us up into the hills and we stopped off at a viewpoint over a working tea plantation. So beautiful! Our guide told us about how they pick the tea. It used to all be done by hand but now they have machines that move along the lines between the plants, although I don’t see how exactly they work!

Tea plantations Cameron Highlands

The tour continued to an old watchtower with a great view over the hills.

Cameron Highlands hills

Then we went into the forest nearby where our guide told us about various plants which can be used to cure different conditions. He was very knowledgeable.

Cameron Highlands tour guide

He also took us deeper into the forest to the ‘mossy forest’. This was really interesting. The ground was very bouncy as it built up on layers of moss, and many of the trees were covered in moss. It was such an unusual area, and this photo doesn’t do it justice at all.

Mossy forest Cameron Highlands

The tour finished in a butterfly farm. Our guide also showed us a range of reptiles and insects that were housed there, such as leaf frogs and scorpions! I was quite pleased with this picture though :)

Butterfly farm Cameron Highlands

Food

As elsewhere in Malaysia, the available food in the Cameron Highlands was a mix of mainly Indian, Malay and Chinese food (although there was some western food available if wanted!). We had dinner one night at a south Indian restaurant on the main street in Tanah Rata which was very good. There were quite a wide selection of restaurants and bars here to choose from and it’s a nice area to eat with a very relaxed feel.

On our first day after we finished walk No. 4 we headed into Brinchang and had dinner there. There were several steamboat restaurants to choose from, and we were very happy with the one we selected (although I’m sure they’re all good). I don’t know if there is technically any difference but a steamboat seems to be the same thing as a hot pot in Hong Kong, i.e. a bowl full of soup or broth on a burner, which you dip various meats and vegetables in to cook them before eating (fondue-style).

One afternoon we also had afternoon tea at the Cameron Highlands Resort by the golf course. This is a beautiful colonial-style hotel and the afternoon tea was as excellent as you would expect for the setting. And it was also very reasonably priced! I’d recommend a visit for a spot of luxury during your stay in the Cameron Highlands.

So that was our experience in the Cameron Highlands. We found it a very laid back, beautiful area to spend a few days and really enjoyed it there. It was also quite a bit cooler than everywhere else we went in Malaysia so it was a nice respite from the heat!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Places to visit – Macau

Macau is a former Portuguese colony on the south coast of China, just across the Pearl River delta from Hong Kong. Its history means that there is a surprisingly European feel to some areas which have retained a number of colonial buildings. However, this is not the case in the areas where the casinos now stand – these areas are very modern and very gaudy! Macau is the only place in China where gambling is allowed (apart from betting on the horses in Hong Kong) so there are a LOT of casinos there, and apparently it takes more money than Las Vegas!

We went to Macau on our first weekend after we moved to Hong Kong because we needed to leave HK and enter again to get our visas stamped. As you will shortly see, August is perhaps not the best time of year to visit Macau!

The easiest way to get to Macau is by ferry. The ferry terminal is in Sheung Wan – leave the MTR by exit D and keep going up the escalators until you get to the ticket counters. We turned up at about midday on a Saturday in August and it was pretty busy, and the displays showed that the next available ferry wasn’t till 3pm! (the ferries go every 30 minutes) So we went home and booked tickets for the next day online. This was much easier – we still had to queue at the ticketing counter to pick up the tickets but that was fairly quick and we made our way to the ‘gate’ with plenty of time to spare.

The ferry is actually a high-speed hydrofoil, so it only takes about an hour to get to Macau. It looks like this:

TurboJET hydrofoil

Once we got to Macau, it took us over an hour to get through immigration. Yet another reason not to go in August, I think! Once you are finally out of the ferry terminal, take bus number 3 to Almeida Ribeiro if you want to see the colonial area, where there are lots of nice old buildings.

Largo do Senado Santa Case di Misericordia Colonial building, Macau

Particular highlights included the ruins of the Church of St Paul:

The Church of St Paul, Macau

…although this was the street leading up to the ruins (so busy!)…

The path to the ruins of the Church of St Paul The view from Monte Fort was also pretty nice:

View from Monte Fort, Macau

As was the Lou Kau Mansion, on Traversa de Se:

Lou Kau Mansion

The casino district is perhaps worth a visit, if only to gasp at the gaudiness (is that a word?)

Macau's casino district

Gaudy Macau casino

Grand Lisboa Macau

I’d recommend Macau for a fun day out, but probably not really much longer. However, if I do go back at any point, I’d quite like to check out the House of Dancing Water show – it looks pretty impressive!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel