Tea not only tastes good, it also looks good. Pictures speak for itself and in this case, I don’t need to try to convince you to visit Cameron Highlands in Malaysia and see it with your own eyes. You will fall in love with its greenery!People were telling me that 2 days are completely enough for Cameron Highlands but I spent double than that and was still willing to stay more with those charming views. It’s definitely good place to have a rest for a couple of days. Cool air on this attitude lets everyone refresh. For this reason people from Penang or Kuala Lumpur glamping to Cameron Highlands, It’s a great escape for foreign tourists as well, after getting fried on the stunning beach of Langkawi you may want to cool down a bit, which is often called Malaysian winter. However, tea plantations are not the only thing to do, as well as there are some activities which you should rather skip, because they are not worth it.
What to do in Cameron Highlands
First of all, Cameron Highlands is famous for its stunning tea plantations. Moderate climate brought Sir J.A. Russel to this area in 1920s and made him discover perfect conditions for agriculture. First tries with coffee and cardamon didn’t bring good results – fruits were not growing big enough. Tea was a great success and business started to grow bringing workers from Burma and Bangladesh.
There are two companies which tea plantations you are welcome to visit: BOH (which is the oldest – 1921) and Cameron Valley. Both have tea houses from where you can admire the view at the tea fields, while sipping a cup of tea. Mmmmmm… As you may know that I am tea lover, you can understand that I simply couldn’t leave this place.
Second best thing to see in Cameron Highlands is Mossy Forest. 200,000 year old rainforest is called Lord Of the Rings Forest. I was feeling like inside of Hobbit movie or another fairy-tale. At such heights clouds cover the forest with constant mist and moisture. That, respectively, creates moss and unique floras such as Orchids, Ferns, Pitcher plant and precious plants used as medicines.
Besides, there are several trekking trails in Cameron Highlands. All well marked on maps.me app, which I highly recommend while traveling. My favorite was trail nr 10 which lead to the top of the hill with a nice view. I have tried also nr 7,8,9 which took me to David’s Falls and Mount Beremban with minimal views around. While walking on those you will see mossy trees on the higher attitude. In some places you don’t really walk on the ground but on the elevation of very old roots system which makes you sink in when you step on it.
How to visit Cameron Highlands?
Most of the tourist guest houses are in Tanah Rata. Friendly little place with a bunch of restaurants and cafes. Trekking trails which you can reach walking are all around the village. However, staying here you will rather need a motorbike or car to see the tea plantations or Mossy Forest. Bikes rental is quite expensive (around 80 ringgit per day), that’s the reason why most of the people decide to take an organised tour.
Cameron Highlands is full of agencies, which will take you for a tour around, depending on your choices. Most popular is half day tour which includes Tea Plantation (Sungei Palas Boh), where you can enjoy a cup of tea and Mossy Forest as well as strawberry farm. I was lucky with Discover Camorons agency, which really did a great job. Why? When I was doing a research before my trip, I read that all agencies offer pretty much the same thing and it doesn’t matter which one you take. Belive me, it does. Of course, in terms of places you see, all agencies offer similar trips, plus you can choose places you want to see. In terms of money tours can cost you the same in different agencies, depending how much you bargain and if your hostel takes some commission.
However, I was amazed about the attitude of tour guides in Discover Camerons and knowledge they are sharing. They made me completely amazed about Cameron Highlands when I learnt history of tea plantations, process of tea production and information about the Mossy Forest. I met many travelers which made the same tour with different agency and they said, that the guide didn’t care to provide a lot of information. They were not satisfied when he just said: go see Mossy Forest, you have 30 min. Who would be?
What to skip in Cameron Highlands
Numerous strawberry farms, flowers and vegetables farms attract visitors. Making selfie with flowers is very popular among locals. Same with strawberry farms, for a foreigner it’s usually nothing special to see flower beds or strawberry farm where fruits grow on the platforms under the plastic. Mehh… Besides, Butterfly Farm I would add to the SKIP-s list as well. Unless you are interested to see the cage with imprisoned insects.
Unfortunately, this lovely area is loosing its charm by being constantly developed and commercialised. Crowds of people come every weekend to visit various plantations. This requires more and more services. Ugly buildings are growing, vanishing old wooden houses, which remember colonial times. Vegetables grow under plastic green houses and are treated with dose of chemicals. Green landscape is transforming into plastic and not sustainable environment.
Thinking that Mossy Forest is second oldest rainforest in the world (first is Taman Negara also in Malaysia), it makes me terrified if this area will survive next couple of years. Lots of illegal guides don’t belong to any agency and don’t care about nature. Certain people still come and steal plants which they can sell. Not to mention people which step on the moss to make a selfie… Unfortunately all of the agencies use jeeps, which produce the biggest amount of carbon emission among all the cars. It’s just a faithful wish that Mossy Forest will one day become strictly protected natural heritage and non of the vehicle can reach there.
It’s good occasion to remind to always stay on the path, to don’t destroy plants which may be indangered. Human already destroyed enough and it’s in our hands to repair it. Becoming responsible traveler in one of the things, you can do to have positive impact on the environment.