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

Pat Sin Leng Nature Trail: a walk in the countryside

We walked the Pat Sin Leng nature trail with some friends in February and really enjoyed it. It’s a fairly gentle hike along the edge of Plover Cove and continues north into some fairly remote countryside close to the Chinese border, finishing at Bride’s Pool. We found the hike through the Enjoy Hiking app, but the app is pretty low on detail so we supplemented it with Google Maps! The app says that the walk takes about 2 hours. To be honest, I can’t remember how long it took us, but I don’t think it was much different to what we were expecting.

The walk starts in Tai Mei Tuk. To get to this small village, take the MTR to Tai Po Market and then hop on the 75K to Tai Mei Tuk. It takes a while but it’s fairly straightforward!

Tai Mei Tuk is a nice little village which had a very ‘holiday’ feel on the day that we went, with lots of Hong Kongers visiting from the city and cycling around or riding on pedal carts. There are several restaurants to choose from if you want lunch. We ate at a Thai restaurant (unfortunately I can’t remember the name) which was perfectly acceptable.

This was the view from the waterfront in the village:

Tai Mei Tuk waterfront view

We also went for a walk along part of the dam which has been built across the end of Plover Cove, turning it into a reservoir. This is the view into the reservoir:

Plover Cove from the dam

After that we thought it was about time we started the walk! So we headed back into the town and walked up Bride’s Pool Road until we came to the start of the walk, which is clearly signposted. The first part of the walk takes you uphill, partway up a very large hill that the Wilson trail goes over. It is a bit of a climb, but not too challenging.

Walking uphill

As you ascend, you can look back and look out over Tai Mei Tuk and the beautiful landscape behind.

Tai Mei Tuk from Pat Sin Leng nature trail

The walk is pretty wooded at this stage, but every now and again you get glimpses of Plover Cove, which you are walking around the edge of.

Plover Cover from Pat Sin Leng nature trail

As you continue past the end of Plover Cove, the views open up and you find yourself in pretty remote countryside. At this point, our mobile phones went into ‘roaming’ mode as they thought we were in China! We were quite close to the border, and saw some glimpses of a large Chinese town in the distance but I couldn’t get a good photograph of it. But other than that, there was barely an sign of human life to be seen.

Open countryside in northern New Territories

Continuing through the open countryside, the path descended, eventually hitting Bride’s Pool Road again. We crossed the road and descended further to Bride’s Pool. To be honest, it was a little disappointing as it was pretty dry – February is not the time of year to go if you want to see a good waterfall! (you should probably go in spring or autumn after it’s been raining) But it was a nice spot nonetheless.

Brides Pool in February

IMPORTANT TIP: There is a bus (275R) which runs along Bride’s Pool Road and will take you back to Tai Mei Tuk, but it only runs on Sundays and public holidays. If you happen to do the walk on another day of the week, you can either walk back to Tai Mei Tuk along Bride’s Pool Road (which will probably take at least an hour) or do what we did, which was to take a taxi! We didn’t have to wait very long for one to drive past on a Saturday afternoon either.

So, for a nice walk and a fairly straightforward way to escape the city, I’d recommend the Pat Sin Leng nature trail. Have you tried it? What did you think?

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Maclehose trail stage 2: hills, beaches and lots of rain!

One weekend in December last year, Tom and I decided to venture out to do some hiking in the Sai Kung area, an area which we had never been to before. It’s a small(ish) town on the Eastern side of the New Territories, but is known as a great area for watersports, seafood and hiking. Many people live there and commute into Hong Kong as prices are cheaper out there and you can maybe get a whole house (unheard of!).

We decided to walk Stage 2 of the Maclehose Trail, a trail which winds its way from East to West across the New Territories (the New Territories is the name for the area of Hong Kong SAR on the mainland outside of the built up area directly opposite Hong Kong Island). Stage 2 sounded like it would be one of the more interesting stages of the trail to walk, so we plumped for that and set off to Sai Kung.

Sai Kung isn’t the easiest place to get to, although it’s not as bad as we initially thought. The best ways are to go to Diamond Hill MTR and take the 92 bus, or go to Hang Hau MTR and take the 101 minibus. It still takes over an hour to get there from Hong Kong Island though!

Unfortunately, once you’ve made your way to Sai Kung, you’re still nowhere near the start of the trail! The most straightforward way to get there is to take the 29R minibus, which starts from outside MacDonalds on Chan Man Street (timetable). We caught the 11.30am bus on a Saturday, although it didn’t actually leave till close to midday! The minibus takes you to Sai Wan Pavillion. From there, take the path down until you join the trail (which is well signposted). You get some lovely views of High Island reservoir on your way down.

High Island reservoir

When you reach the trail, turn left and keep following it! (I realise now that Stage 2 of the trail actually started a little way south of where we joined the trail but there seems little point walking back to the start just to retrace your steps again) First of all you go down to the two beaches at Sai Wan Village and then up over a headland. If the tide is out you can walk up the side of the headland, but if not then you have to use the bridge at the back of the beach. By this point in our walk it had started raining.

Sai Wan beaches

As you go over the top of the headland, you are greeted with the sight of two beaches in front of you. These are Ham Tim Wan (the closest) and Tai Long Wan (further away). Luckily the rain stopped for long enough to take a photograph!

Ham Tin Wan and Tai Long Wan

The path descends to Ham Tin Wan and goes inland but we walked across the beach and over this plank bridge to the restaurants where you can stop for some refreshments.

Plank bridge at Ham Tin

We walked straight through the restaurants and through Ham Tin village behind. At the back of Ham Tin village, before the path takes you through fields, there is a turning on the right. Follow this path round the back of the headland to reach Tai Long Wan. This beach is supposed to be the most pristine and idyllic in Hong Kong but unfortunately it was still raining and so it just looked a bit grey and wet to us!

Tai Long Wan

Tai Long Wan 2

Retrace your steps back to the path through Ham Tin village and continue through the fields and into the jungle. The path (which is very well concreted and has a lot of steps) then takes you over a very large hill and was quite hard work in the rain! You couldn’t see a lot either due to the density of trees, which was a bit disappointing.

Luckily, you are rewarded with a descent after the hard work of the climb, and this descent finishes at the deserted village of Chek Keng where the path takes you along the edge of the harbour. This is a very idyllic place, and happily for us it had stopped raining so we paused here for a while. It’s very quiet and the water was so still!

Chek Keng 1

Chek Keng 2Chek Keng 3

If you don’t want to carry on you may be able to flag down a small boat here to take you to Wong Shek, or if you head east around the harbour you get to the ferry pier where you can catch a ferry there instead (check ferry timetables first, as they’re not very frequent!).

However, after a little while it started raining again so we carried on, to finish the last part of the trail. Unfortunately, this was uphill again as the path climbs to meet the road between Wong Shek and Sai Kung. This was not fun, we were both pretty tired by this point and the rain was relentless! But we made it, and waited at the bus stop there to catch a 94 bus back to Sai Kung. We had walked about 12km, which I think was the longest I’d ever walked in a day! We caught the 101 minibus straight home as we were soaked, but a much nicer way to finish the day would be dinner at one of Sai Kung’s many restaurants.

If you fancy a long hike in a more remote part of Hong Kong, then I’d recommend this walk highly. It was pretty interesting. But check the weather forecast first – it’s not much fun in the rain!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

An uphill climb to Jardine’s Lookout

Jardine’s Lookout is a hill in Hong Kong with a great view from the top. It is situated near Happy Valley and Tai Hang. (Confusingly there’s also a housing estate called Jardine’s Lookout nearby, but we’re interested in the hill!) The name comes from William Jardine (founder of Jardine Matheson), who placed a watchman at the top of the hill to keep an eye out for incoming ships from Britain and India. When a ship was spotted, he was alerted and a boat was sent out to meet the ship and gain the first news of the world markets (ref).

The walk up to the top of Jardine’s Lookout was one of the first ‘hikes’ we attempted in Hong Kong. We made the mistake of doing it in September, when the temperatures were starting to fall after the summer but it was still pretty hot which made it quite hard work! I’d recommend that you leave any hikes until November at the earliest. It is very comfortable to hike in winter here but you would need to stop when the wet season starts in spring as it makes some of the less well-paved paths more slippery and some paths turn into fords.

Anyway, back to Jardine’s Lookout. I said it was a ‘hike’ but it’s actually a fairly short walk by Hong Kong hiking standards. For those who are in the mood for a proper hike, the path (which is part of the Hong Kong trail) does continue on after you get to the top and goes down the other side and then up Mount Butler. I’ve only done this once but it was pretty hard work.

To get to the walk to Jardine’s Lookout, you can take the number 6 or 66 bus (both buses start in Central and go through Admiralty and Wanchai) and get off at stop ‘Wong Nai Chung Reservoir Park’. This is right next to a petrol station with a little shop, useful for stocking up on water and snacks if needed.

On the road in front of you there is a road bridge going over it, which is the road you want to be on. Take the steps up to this road, turn left and start walking up the road. About halfway up there are some toilets, again you might find these useful! Keep going up the road (which is harder work than it looks) and on the left hand side before you get to Parkview is the entrance to the walk. It has a sign with lots of warnings about how it’s a really challenging walk and should only be attempted by experienced walkers, and also which weather conditions you should avoid (which covered most days in Hong Kong!). Looking back, these are pretty over-the-top – yes, the walk is a bit of a climb but it’s on a concrete path with steps all the way up. But Hong Kongers take their hiking very seriously, and most people you see out hiking will be in lycra with proper walking shoes and walking poles. I climbed to Jardine’s Lookout in a skirt, some normal but robust shoes and carrying a handbag! I got some strange looks! But I didn’t think these things hindered me, it’s really not that difficult a walk.

Starting at the warning sign, get walking up those steps! There are some flatter bits on the way up but it’s mostly just steps. About halfway up you are rewarded with some beautiful views out onto the south side of the island and the hills around you.

Hong Kong hills

Looking down to Deep Water Bay

Looking east to Tai Tam Reservoir

And then just keep climbing till you get to the top! I can’t really remember how long it took to climb from the sign to the top, perhaps 45 minutes? At the top there is a little open bit off the path with a bench and some amazing views over the north side of Hong Kong island and Kowloon. It really is worth the climb.

Wide view from Jardines Lookout

View from Jardines Lookout

And one with me looking very hot and red-faced (it really was quite a climb and there was very little shade!):

Me with the view

Have you climbed to Jardine’s Lookout? How did you find it? I enjoyed it but I think it just proved that I’m really not very fit!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel