If you love tea, then you’ll love Cameron Hills, Malaysia. This region, roughly the size of Singapore, is given over completely to growing tea. The area is also one of the oldest tourist meccas in the country. The sights to see are, well, the tea gardens that stretch over hundreds of square kilometres.
My girlfriend and I visited the small town of Tanah Rata which is THE tourist destination for the area. We showed up without reservations and just wandered around looking for a place to stay. It took about 20 minutes to land a good, clean place for two for about $20 Canadian a night. It was only later that I realized the tour agencies were selling the same sort of room for about 3X this price. The message is clear – if you decide to go, just hop on a bus and go. You can find good restaurants and hotels without paying the huge prices the agencies charge.
The town of Tanah Rata is smaller than I imagined; it is two blocks long and two blocks wide. The main street is given over to shops selling a wide assortment of packaged teas to the tourists, a few restaurants and a few hotels. We signed up for a tour of the area and were very pleased we did. The price was reasonable and the tour was complete. We saw broad, undulating tea fields being tended by workers who were dedicated to the job, as their families had for at least three generations before them. We saw a processing plant that stripped the tea leaves from the branches and packaged them for shipment to Kuala Lumpur where they would go through even more processing. We had a chance to drink the tea and pastry of our choice in a modern tea house cantilevered over a hill that afforded excellent views of some of the tea fields. And, of course, we bought lots of teas in various flavors to take back to friends and family.
Probably more interesting than the tea fields, however, was our side-trip through a remnant of the primeval forest that was on land too steep, rocky and uneven to be suitable for tea farming. We wandered along a rough path through a forest that dated back a million years.
We saw one of the ugliest plants I had ever seen…if anyone knows what this plant is called, please leave me a comment!
We saw a plant shaped like a deep saucer with a lid; the plant was designed to attract insects with its sweet nectar. Then, once the insect was inside, it closed its lid and digested the hapless insect.
Cameron Hills is well worth the journey. You can take a tour from Kuala Lumpur or you can make your own way to Ipoh and take a local bus to Cameron Hills. The trip from Ipoh only takes a few hours and will deliver you in Tanah Rata in the early afternoon. Aside from the sights mentioned here, you will also enjoy some cool relief from the incessant heat at sea level.
Photos by Jan Wall – all rights reserved