Travel writing blog:
My half day mad dash to
Cameron Highlands Destination

I thought, "If Joan Lau can do it in one day, I certainly can do it in half a day!"

Now that was really too much! But I had some time to spare after completing my sales call in Taiping. To kill some time, my original idea was to pop in to Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill) and have a quick look see to gather some material for my Cameron-Highland-Destination.com web site, but to my great disappointment, it was Friday and there was no land rover service from 12 noon till 3 o'clock as it was the Friday Muslim praying time. Three o'clock was way too late for me besides it is a long wait from 12 noon.

I didn't know about this, and neither did the disappointed China Press reporter who happen to be there too and it was his second attempt at going up to Bukit Larut to gather his research material. He even remarked that by the time he get up there it would be all wet as you can count on Taiping to rain everyday. Looking rather lost but having no choice, I guess he decided to wait.

Not for me. I didn't want to loiter around in Taiping. I decided to attempt my greatest driving challenge. To go up to Cameron Highlands and then back down in half a day, beating what Joan Lau, a weekly columnist for Star newspaper did for her so called leisurely day trip up Cameron Highlands.

I did a quick calculation, and it seems possible to do it in half a day with my starting point from Kamunting, Taiping. But first, a quick stop at the first PLUS highway R&R for lunch, I had a simple Malay rice dish with chicken and vegetables which was so-so in taste but good enough to fill up my empty tummy. And off I go!

The weather was hot but there was a build up of clouds in the horizon as I drove as fast as I could do so without breaking the speed limit. It was January and it was still monsoon season, and Johor was already inundated with floods. I prayed it would not rain till I have completed my objective of reaching Cameron Highlands. Based on my estimation, I should reach there by 3 o'clock. The expressway journey to Simpang Pulai was straight forward and boring as usual though the greenery was rather soothing to the eyes, and all the while I was thinking about getting myself a cup of tea and scone as my reward for achieving this lunatic feat.

By 1:30pm I exited the Simpang Pulai Toll and made my way up to Cameron Highlands using the new route up. It's been a year since I last went up and there was quite a few changes since then and I hope to update some of the details for my Cameron-Highland-Destination.com web site. This time the journey up was rather a mad dash, and I trailed behind a Mercedes who seems to be doing the same. I was following behind the car all the way up and I had a good long look at the passengers. I could make out the middle age Indian couple from their rear car window and from the way they drove, I figured they were very familiar with Cameron Highlands.

After an hour of gentile curves and upward climb, I reach the first towns of Cameron Highlands. Upon reaching Kampung Raja, Kampung Terla and then Tringkap, the road narrowed and became more winding, and I was stuck behind slower moving vehicles. They seem to have all the time in the world travelling at such slow motion speed. Ok, so they are enjoying their leisurely drive or perhaps just not familiar with the narrow winding road up to Brinchang. It does really test your patience, in this case mine. But I guess the road up to Brinchang could do with a wider lane. It seems during the peak season, the Simpang Pulai way gets really jammed up, and what would normally take you 1-½ hour drive up ended with a 3 to 4 hours slow crawl up to your destination.

Passing by the Bharat Tea Shop around Tringkap, I was tempted to stop and have a look see but decided to shelf it for another trip. The new Bharat Tea Shop here does not have a nice tea plantation view unlike their other one build on a cliff side. Besides my goal was to go to Boh Sungai Palas tea plantation and check out their new tea shop.

Along the way, I noticed there were lots of advertisement for Iris Hotel and Century Pines Hotel. Yeah, I hope to complete my review for Century Pines which had been outstanding in my mind for awhile now.

Reaching the Kea Farm, I made the turning to Boh Sungai Palas Tea Plantation with the sky looking more ominous by the minute. I don't have much time left before the cloud starts to pour down its load. As usual, the narrow twisting road to Sungai Palas requires honking your car horn for each blind turning and the beautiful tea plantation with its soothing green tea leafs is certainly a sight to behold!

Upon reaching the tea shop, I noticed I had to park my car further away and walk some way up to reach the spanking new tea shop with an impressive modernistic architecture and a balcony overhanging the hill side. Yes, I certainly have to dedicate a whole page for this new tea shop.

Next stop was the MARDI forest research institute to check out its camping site. Unfortunately, upon arriving there, a mild precipitation started and I decided not to go all the way in to check out the camp site. Instead I approached some forest rangers who was 'lepaking' (relaxing) around their living quarters and I asked them about the campsite details. Interesting though, during the conversation, they mentioned that Cameron Highlands had not been raining for a week, and it looks like I brought the rain along when I came around visiting. Sigh! Just my luck…

Next stop, was the YTL Cameron Highlands Resort. And wow, was it really luxurious. Must make it a point to have tea and scones here with my wife on our next trip up. There is even a Jim Thompson shop here selling exactly the same items in the Bangkok Jim Thompson souvenir shop! The layout of the shop was just like the Bangkok version except on a smaller scale.

It was almost five o'clock and it was time to go back. In just two hours I have check out the three places mentioned and had enough of exploring. Going by way of the old route, I passed by Tanah Rata and noted that they have installed a pedestrian traffic signal lights which was totally useless to say the least. But the authorities seem to have some sense in them make it blinking in amber rather than going through the whole cycle or red, yellow, green which would definitely exacerbate the heavier traffic in Tanah Rata.

And finally, after all the mad rush exploring these places, I decided to stop by at the Bharat Tea Shop that is overlooking at the cliff for break. Just my luck, they had run out of scones and I had to settle for a carrot walnut cake with teh tarik instead. It was still acceptable as I finally get to relax a little, feasting my tummy with grub and feasting my eyes with the breathtaking view of the tea plantation valley. Looking over the distance, I spied the orang asli village which made me recall my church mission trip to Cameron Highlands some years back. Ah, I still have many more materials in my hand that needs to be published!

Having satisfied myself with my tea break, my digital camera with some new photos and my brain refreshed with new information about Cameron Highlands, it was time to make my three hour journey home to good old Petaling Jaya. I certainly was going to get really conked off when I reached home. Thank goodness it is weekend the next day. Never the less, now know that it is indeed possible to go up there and down in such a short time. And the verdict? Naw, don't do it. It is too rush and not really relaxing at all. But you can do it for the challenge, no?

Jan.
24-Feb-2007

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