Cameron Highlands-monkey cup with smurf

Well, that’s at least what it felt like to me.

I wish there were miniature blue characters running around, but it’s more to do with the shapes and scenery of the place.

The rolling hills are covered with tea plantations. The greenhouses are filled with globular strawberry delights. The moss grows over the forest floor hugging the tree roots. There is just a lack of angles and that makes me think of a smurf village.

Moss covered tree roots
Soft and fluffy lines. It’s where I could imagine some Smurfs camping out with a cuppa.

Also I saw a smurf sculpture as we were driving into town and it stuck.

Where to stay in Cameron Highlands

If I could set up my home anywhere, I would like the setting of De’Native guesthouse. Colourful flowers line the paths in front of the bamboo huts looking out over the highlands.

Man patting a dog in front of a bamboo hut
Complete with Lucky and Shorty the resident dogs (and newborn pups cooing from under our hut), this cabin getaway eases you into the pace of the place and only a 10 minute (but uphill) walk from Tanah Rata town.

Every night the bonfire was crackling coupled with chilled Carlsbergs and fun company. It’s simple, cheap and a good traveller’s respite.

Things to do and see in Cameron Highlands

We booked onto a half day tour with Jason through De’Native. What a hoot! The guy is a well-travelled Malay who loves the Cameron Highlands. His stories are not always linear, going from the importance of bringing kids under the age of 5 to a house before you buy it and hydroponic techniques adopted from the Israelis, but somehow it works. We made six stops – Tea Plantation and Factory, Gurung Brinchang viewpoint, Mossy Forest, Strawberry Farm, Butterfly Farm all for 40RM. I think it was great value for the transport and information from Jason. It leaves your other days in Cameron Highlands to chill out or tackle one of the 14 trails easily achieved on your own.

Man about to take a step up on a hike through a forest
Mossy Forest – Jason telling Rich the foot holds so you don’t end up breaking a soft branch and then your tush.
Tea plantation
Boh Tea Plantation and Factory – Try the Boh tea tarik. Sweetened with condensed milk, it’s like a builders brew.
tea leaves on a conveyor belt for processing
Boh Tea Plantation and Factory – Tea time!
Cameron Highlands-Strawberry farm
Royal Jelly Strawberry Farm – Do yourself a favour and go picking and enjoy a fresh strawberry milkshake.
butterfly resting on a lady's shoulder
Butterfly Farm. I will call him George.
Closeup of a black, green and yellow butterfly on a yellow flower
George’s mate showing off.

Binchang night markets

An apartment block sign with Blok Broccoli
Taking some dubious shortcuts, we were comforted by the fact it was at least food themed.

We love a good night market we do, and had high hopes for the markets in the neighbouring town Binchang. Walking there via some suspicious shortcuts through a pitch black golf course, we eventually happen upon the open air markets.

A great place to pick up more fresh produce and strawberry infused just-about-anything, but a real no go on the food front.

woks full of asian noodles and rice taken at a Malay night market
Most was sub par noodles and deep fried things that had been prepared earlier and were cold to eat.

The best score was a banana leaf wrapped Nasi Lemak for 4RM which we had for breakfast the next day.

With loads of Chinese restaurants around, we went on the search for Bak Kut Teh. We know it’s a KL dish but this was our last chance.

A hotpot with a whole head of garlic at the bottom of the broth
Great success! An amazing meat bone peppery broth and a whole head of garlic to sort our Rich’s cold.

Robinson Waterfall and Trekking 9A and 9B trails

I would preface this by saying “do not start your trek at 4pm”.

Waterfalls

Whilst most people are walking back into town for some downtime before dinner, we think it’s a top time to go walkies.

Hiking trail in lush forest

After numerous treks, you think we would have learnt but no. Off we go casually telling each other that we will just see how far we get before it gets too dark and turn around.

Fallen tree trunk across a hiking path

We walk, chill by the waterfall, climb over a fallen tree trunk, walk some more and then find a great sign telling us you can escape via the farm or continue on a path we couldn’t see.

We opt for escape.

farm land

Bemused farmers watch us clamber out of the bushes. We set off on our return journey on what we later found out to be Trail 9B.

Unsure with every step we take particularly with this group of cats judging us.

cats on steps

We at least see the dam and hydro plant on return to town.

Dam wall with water cascading

Follow the pipes and eventually you will pop out again at the waterfall.
Follow the pipes and eventually you will pop out again at the Robinson Waterfall.
Hindu festivities with people covered in water and tumeric
Whilst I wouldn’t recommend completing a 4 hour trek starting at 4pm we did get to see this Hindu celebration with loads of tumeric.

Where to eat in Cameron Highlands

Restoran Ferm Nyonya for excellent Beef Rendang and a tasty Penang style fried Kuay Teow. I hear the steam boat is good too.

Beef rendang with rice served on a banana leaf
It was so good, we ate here twice.
fish curry and rice with chickpea side
Good, cheap Indian food on the main street of Tanah Rata next to Starbucks.

How not to travel in Malaysia

Add two hours to every bus journey.

You see when bus companies say that a journey is 3 hours what they really mean is that it’s more like 5 – 6 hours and that all depends on your driver. You may have a driver like the one we had from Cameron Highlands to KL who argued with two passengers to get off the bus because they were eating and I swear they rode in the luggage compartment because they were back on board 20 minutes later.

He loved his bus he did. He adhered to his own rules, stopping at a random spot for about 30 minutes so he could have his breakfast. I didn’t dare take a photo given his extensive rule list of bus behaviour.

What was going to be a tight run to KL airport already was turning into a new resolve that we would just forfeit our flight and spend another night in KL. Turns out nothing really is on time and our Air Asia flight was delayed an hour, so the moral of the story is don’t let Suzy organise transportation.

Note to self – re-read why I’m crap at navigating.

Budget for 2 people

Minivan transfer from Perhentian Islands (Kuala Besut port)140RM
Accommodation at D’Native (3 nights)230RM
Half-day tour80RM
Food (average price per meal)8-15RM
Beers (depending on local or import)11RM

Enjoying a cuppa listening to James Warren.

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Cameron Highlands – Drinking tea in smurf village
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