We were off to see some of the countryside with Paddy & Patricia, first stop being The Cameron Highlands, a very mountainous/hilly area that is well suited to growing tea bushes. We had booked a bus ride and had to first take a taxi over to the central bus station from where the bus left, a bus terminal resembling an airport terminal.
No toilets on the bus so it made a halfway stop for bathroom and food break. The first portion up the freeway was fast and efficient but as soon as we turned off onto the narrow windy mountain road our speed dropped to 30 mph and we developed a long line of cars behind us.
Checked into our nice nondescript hotel centrally located in Tanah Rata. Not having a car we had booked a tour of the local attractions on a website called klook.com. Our guide, Bob, turns up on time in his trusty landcruiser type jeep and the four of us get in the back together with two young guys from the Netherlands and three women from Brunei.
That’s Bob, our guide, helping us into the back of his truck.
Out into the hills we go and onto the BOH tea plantation where Bob describes the whole tea growing, harvesting and processing process to us.
We get dropped off at the tearoom, a very photogenic structure jutting out from the hillside. If there is one thing I learnt it is that a good brew of tea might look weak but can be savored without any milk and minimal tannins for a satisfying taste.
A big tourist drawing is an area called Mossy Hill where they charge an entrance fee and provide a walkway through the ancient woods of Malaysia. Leading up to our tour we get told that Mossy is closed because of road maintenance and that we will go to an alternative venue called Coral hill. This gets changed again on the fly and we end up walking up a backroad to the closed Mossy Hill entrance. This really doesn’t matter to the first time visitor as Bob keeps us entertained with stories of the forest and what lives & grows ther.
On the way down Bob shows us a carnivorous plant with an upright trumpet like pouch attached to the tip of one of its leaves. Great detail as to the texture of the inner walls, the liquid inside and how it attracts and keeps insects from escaping. Could almost write a book on the info he divulged.
Took a walk to Robinson Falls, a trail close by to the town. It’s one of those walks that starts high, goes down and you have to remember that you have to go back up again. A bit rustic but we did see some falls and feel the forest.
From Cameron Highlands we caught the bus again for the 5 hr ride to Penang Island and George Town. Much of the time is spent negotiating the windy road down from the highlands.
Patricia suggested we visit The Blue Mansion which doubles as hotel and also offers guided tours. I found it fascinating mainly because I’d never heard of it and hence it’s all a surprise.
Our tour guide was Loh Lim, part owner and she gives only one tour per week and we lucked out. She was very informative and loved to tell stories about the house and it’s restoration.
Founded in 1786, George Town is fun to wander around, take in it’s local flavor and view the street art it’s known for.
We were staying at the E&O (Eastern & Oriental) as colonial as you can get in George Town.
One evening we went out to savior the street food. Vendors setup towards evening time and the place comes alive with all sorts of people sampling all sorts of food. As a tourist you run into funny customs such as you buy a plate of food from a vendor but if you want to sit and eat it you need to buy a drink from someone else who “owns” the table and chairs scattered around.
After the town we had to get out for some exercise and chose a hike up Penang Hill, 833 meter high, a good 2500 feet. Most of the hike is under canopy cover but you will developed a good sweat in the 90º F with high humidity. Our start was Moon Gate on a trail well used by locals.
We took the cable car down and headed for our next stop, the island of Langkawi.