Cameron Highlands History

Cameron Highlands' farm with sitting a valley.

During the colonial era, Cameron Highlands mountain resort was a haven for the British who were station in Malaya. It provided relief from the hot and humid tropical climate. With its temperate climate, a number of them decided to make it their retirement home, setting up bungalows and mansions.

Days are spent pruning roses, tending to strawberries, sipping English tea, and of course for a little more social mingling, they would head over to Mr. Foster’s Tudor styled Smokehouse.

The British military had a large presence in Tanah Rata. There was of course the Emergency period during the 1960s which the rag tag communist army tried to destabilize and take over the country. It was not a good idea at that time to take your jungle trek for fear of capture by the red army!

By 1971, the British Army former military hospital has now become a Roman Catholic convent. It still stands on the hill overlooking the main street.

If you think the present 60km of twisting road leading from Tapah is difficult to negotiate, imagine how the pioneers of yester-years carve up the road by using only oxcarts in the 1930s!

Cameron Highlands was first stumbled upon by one William Cameron, a government surveyor while on a mapping expedition in 1885. He discovered a plateau at an elevation of 1370-1700 meters above sea level and was so enamored by the wide area of gentle slopes and plateau land that he gave an endearing report. It created quite a stir of excitement that Sir Hugh Low wanted to develop the area as sanatorium, health resort and open farmland. Cameron’s name was thus bestowed upon the highland area.

But it would take another twenty years before the first pioneers settle in the area. With the cool climate, it became the perfect place to grow tea and vegetables. Until today, it has provided the locals plenty of the famed Cameronian tea and daily vegetable produced.

If you go to any wet market in the city and ask any vegetable seller where the vegetables come from; they will tell you “of course it is from Cameron Highlands!”.

For the historical buffs amongst you, here are some of the many events that had taken place from its humble beginnings in Cameron Highlands.

From 1896-1902, the narrow path to the Highlands was widened and improved. Meanwhile further surveys were carried out to identify the actual plateau of this area. In 1925, Sir George Maxwell visited the highlands and decided the present Tanah Rata and Brinchang area would be developed into a Hill Station. Between 1926-1931, areas were zone accordingly reserving it for its various function such as Agriculture Department, Township, and Residential Sites, Areas of Service, National Park, General Administration and Recreational Areas.

After the Japanese occupation there was further interest to devlop Cameron Highlands, but progress was hindered in the 1960s due to communist insurgency, a period know as the Emergency. When the fierce fightings were declared over, the Hill Station was carefully developed into a popular resort. Even now, much development is still in progress, though nowadays the development seem rather haphazard resulting in various enviromental damage.

Still without a doubt Cameron Highlands is still the most refreshing comparing against the other highlands around Malaysia.



Posted on 05-Sep-2006
Last updated 26-Nov-2008

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