(“There must be some Toros in the atmosphere”, right? couldn’t help it!)
While being in Penang, we were trying to figure out where to go next. “Lonely Planet says there’s a place south of here where it’s cold…” I don’t care where it is, how much it costs to get there or if there’s nothing to see. Let’s go! After more than 2 months being sweaty 24/7 and having crazy, frizzy hair, the promise of cold sounded like heaven. What do we want? To be cold! When do we want it? Now!
Our van picked us up from our hostel in Chinatown. It was supposed to be a 3 hour ride on an air-conditioned transport with lots of legroom. Not really. No AC. No legroom. Luckily, I got the seat by the “hop-on” step and was able to stretch a bit. We hit the road and a traffic jam, simultaneously. Long story short, the ride lasted 6 hours.
On the way to our lodge, I noticed people on the streets wearing jackets. Oh, happy day! I’d been dragging a pair of boots for 2 months. I was FINALLY going to use them. Woohoo! (Yes, I get happy easily) We got to the lodge mid-afternoon. We went up to the dorm to leave our things; it looked more like an orphanage than a dorm, but hey, it was 5 usd a night!! Love it!
We hit town to get acquainted with our surroundings. 5 blocks. That was it. We were already acquainted. Ok… what should we do now? The answer was obvious: EAT! Indian it is. I had been craving naan since Thailand and had a mediocre one in Penang, so when we saw the guy rolling the dough and cooking it right there, our mouths watered. Indeed, awesome naan and raita. We planned our activities for the next day and called a night since we were super tired. Surprise, surprise! I got into bed and suddenly I started to feel itchy. Very. Of course, my mind jumped into the obvious conclusion: finally, bed bugs had found me and my delicious blood. Bet mosquitoes told them I was coming, since they love my delicious blood too. I must admit that I am a very conflicted hostel-bed user. I think about the sheets, if they’ve been washed… I distrust patterned sheets. And don’t get me started on pillows! So, I’ve been travelling around with my own pillow case. I’m a filthy animal with many other things, like, I can wear the same socks for weeks, but it’s my filth, get my point? So, I put my pillow case and used my sarong as a sheet. Then, I proceeded to cover my entire self. Slept in leggings, socks and a hoodie. No part of my body was going to touch anything. Still, itchy itchy itchy!!! I know by then that it was going to be a long night, especially since we had an early start the next day. As expected, I fell asleep an hour before having to wake up. Well done!
We started our day trekking through the mossy forest to see the famous Raflessia flower. It only lasts for about 7 days after it blossoms so we were lucky to see it. There it was with one cabbage patch kid of her own, it was amazing, it looked like an alien flower. We also found the root that is used to make Tiger Balm! Very amusing. We were sweaty and muddy and happy.
After a 3 hour trek, we went to a tea plantation. I never gave much thought to how tea is actually made so I didn’t really know what to expect. It blew my mind. It looked like a green ocean, with waves rolling through the hills covering everything on their way. The plantations are just there, next to the road, no entrance fee, no nothing. They are part of the landscape. So are the workers that everyday go harvest the tender tea leaves that will later be processed in the plant. After wandering around the plantations for a while like little kids and staring in awe at everything, we made our way to the processing plant. We went to Boh Tea Plantation, founded in 1929 during the British colonial era in Malaysia. We saw how tea leaves are dried, chopped and classified. We made a quick stop through their store and picked up a Lychee and Rose one and an Earl Grey with Tangerine one. Both were really good, very aromatic and a pleasure to drink during our cold nights and mornings in Cameron Highlands. We then sat down at the cafeteria and enjoyed a cup of freshly brewed tea while overlooking the tea-covered hills. The cafeteria had glass walls, so we felt like floating over the plantation.
Ater that, we stopped by a strawberry farm! Oh my god, I was so excited about this!! We got the chance to go to a farm and collect our own strawberries. They gave us a little basket and a pair of scissors and off we went. I felt like Strawberry Shortcake, one of my favorite cartoons as a kid. Then they weighed them and place them in a box, and all mine! Loved them, I ate the whole bunch in one sitting as soon as we got back to our lodge.
During day 3 it rained all day so it was a chocolate-and-movie day. The lodge had a DVD player and a broad movie selection so we hit the supermarket, stocked on chocolate and enjoyed the afternoon being a couch potato.
Cameron Highlands is a solace of green and coolness that we really enjoyed. But it was time to hit the road again. Next stop: Kuala Lumpur!