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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

DRIVE TO CAMERON HIGHLANDS


DRIVE TO CAMERON HIGHLANDS
We couldn’t take the hot and humid weather in Singapore and wanted to go to a place which is nearby, affordable and has a cool and bracing weather.
Cameron Highlands (CH) is a popular tourist destination for people in Singapore who can go to a cooler place to de-stress for a short weekend getaway and there are many travel agencies offering packages of coach plus hotel to Cameron Highlands in Singapore. When we started enquiring for these packages which are quite attractive we realized that it wouldn’t be suitable for us simply because it takes around 9 hours of travel time and also because these buses don’t come with a toilet facility inside the bus. We, then, started enquiring for buses with toilet facilities and learned that only Grassland tour operators have a bus with toilet facilities but this bus operates only from Singapore to KL and they don’t go up to Cameron Highlands.
Hubby dear told me let’s choose another destination. Let’s go to Genting highlands again.
I told him firmly that Cameron Highlands it is or nothing.
Traveling with 2 young children who may be restless on such a long journey of about 9 hours and may need to use the toilet “often” not exactly with the intention of using one but for the sheer pleasure of stopping and the thrill of getting down and back into the bus would become irritating for the driver and the other fellow passengers. This kind of deterred us from thinking of taking a bus which is the cheapest and most ideal way of traveling to CH.
While we were pondering on this, hubby dear half heartedly offered to drive down to CH. This was a very adventurous move considering the high speed driving on express ways in Malaysia, the heavy vehicles traveling to and fro, the sheer distance of 612kms and also because of the route and the many sordid tales that run around in Singapore, where people keep warning,”its dangerous”, “drive during the day and not after sun set” and added to all this is the responsibility of 2 kids who are going to be a distraction for any driver. My hubby-my knight in shining armor, decide to brave it all for the pleasure of the majority “me and the girls”.

TIPS if you are planning to drive
Use a GPS if you have, its really handy.
If you have your own transportation and especially if you are a first timer to travel to Cameron Highlands please be extra careful & use low gear when you're driving.
If you are driving a manual car, go easy on the clutch and make use of engine brakes, once u reach the bottom of cameron highlands, it will be about 2 hours drive up to the top. (it’s not like Genting).
Try to drive your car within your skill limitation, always in low gear because that will help you to negotiate corners better.
I strongly recommend you take the Simpang Pulai way. Although its further by about 50 km, the time taken is about the same. This is because the road is much wider and view is good, also less sharp bends and blind spots. It’s just as scenic as the old road. You can stop at the beautiful natural waterfall on the way.
But do expect heavy rain so remember to check your tires. Not too sure about landslides, as fortunately I did not encounter any on my way up to CH.
There are many trucks and buses on the roads along the ways. Be extra alert and cautious if you are going to Cameron Highlands from Tapah. There are certain sections where you can over take slower or heavy vehicles but I still don’t recommend overtaking.

Normally the local trucks and buses will give you signal to overtake when it is safe enough.
Avoid traveling alone at night if you are not an expert in driving especially for first timer. And please take note that there are no street lights all along the way and it might be a long drive and there is very limited mobile phone coverage.
If you are going down the mountain in the night (which is not recommended) due to lack of street lights, kindly use the high beam especially for the sharp turns and bends. Drive very slowly.
The new roads are better with road reflectors.
Do have a co-driver to talk to you throughout the trip so that you don’t feel sleepy.
Take care and have a safe trip.

Drive from Singapore to Cameron Highlands
Distance – 612 kms from Singapore and
Approximate time taken – 7 hours 30 minutes.
 We decided to start early and left home on the West of Singapore at about 7.00 am which was considered quite late. We took the Tuas Second Link and smartly managed to avoid the traffic congestion that we usually meet at the Johore-Singapore Causeway link. Since the immigration is not too crowded, we breezed through it and were into Malaysia.

Petrol Stations
Before you start your journey to Cameron Highlands please make sure you have more than half tank of fuel. Because petrol stations in Cameron Highlands are only available in the following towns :
1. Ringlet (First town from Tapah) - Shell & Petronas
2. Brinchang (Middle of Cameron Highlands) - Shell & Petronas

Route to Cameron Highlands
We were using the GPS(Global Positioning System) which helped us a lot and I had also done some research on google on the ideal route to take to CH.
"Give yourself about 8 hours from second link.
We had a few stops in between Machap, Pagoh, Seremban, and another stop at Tapah. You head all the way to the north using Ipoh as your destination.
Old Route: - You can exit at Tapah Toll to go up to Cameron Highland reaching 1st town Ringlets, Tanah Rata and then Brinchang.
New Route (Highly Recommended):-

Alternatively, you can go further up north from Tapah on the same highway for another 50plus km and exit at the Simpang Pulai Toll. After toll payment u come to a junction turn right, keep right and turn right again at another junction. This road will lead u all the way to Cameron Highland. There are signs that show u to turn to Kampong Raja, Brinchang etc.
Then u will reach Brinchang, further down is Tanah Rata and Ringlets and of course eventually down to Tapah. I suppose most people will be staying at Brinchang or Tanah Rata. In short u will be going up from the other side of Cameron Highlands.
Road signs are clearly marked so there is no fear of getting lost on the new road. It takes about one and a half hours to reach Simpang Pulai from Tapah by car.
This is definitely a better proposition than the Tapah route because of the long three hours drive up the mountains.
Going up Cameron Highlands from Simpang Pulai also means one reaches Brinchang first (about a 20 minute drive).
Compare 3 hours and 20 minutes and decide which is better.

Earlier motorists taking the North-South Malaysian Highway used to turn off at Tapah to head up the long and winding road to the hilltop of Cameron Highlands, this route is the old route, (this is mountainous and quite heady)

Brinchang is the highest accessible point by road in Cameron Highlands. If one travels from Tapah, he hits the town of Ringlet (the lowest point of the highlands) first. Mid-way between Ringlet and Brinchang is the town of Tanah Rata where the bulk of activities are, such as a golf course, eateries, restaurants, rest houses and hotels.

We took the Simpang Pulai route and found the roads wider and it’s safer to drive as well.
Landslides are not common as a lot of excavation works are being conducted, that accompanied with the rains cause soil erosion. I also read that the preparation of broad platform terraces, cut out of the natural slope, is a major source of soil erosion
Landslides do occur in the highlands and this gets worse during the wet and rainy season at year end. The barren patches among the natural forests do look ugly and it’s a call to man to take care of our mother nature or else face nature’s wrath.

Finally we reached Cameron Highlands, We left Singapore at 7:00 am  and we reached the Equatorial Hotel located at Brinchang at 6:00 pm. We had taken a lot of breaks and went slow.

THE BEAUTIFUL EQUATORIAL RESORT
Nothing could be more welcome than the beautiful grand entrance of the Equatorial Resort. Finally we would be off the road and in a room resting ourselves.
The Equatorial Hotel is perched at 1628 meters (5,300 ft) above sea level, surrounded by majestic mountains and gentle undulating valleys. It is the only resort situated at the highest accessible point of the highlands. 

The hotel is excellent. Location wise, it is ideal. Between walking distances to most attractions like the Butterfly Farm, Strawberry farm, Honey bee farm, etc.
141 attractive, self-contained low rise apartment suites and 268 superior rooms, deluxe rooms and suites in the hotel tower
Spread over 13 acres, the Tudor styled resort offers 269 rooms in its tower block and 145 low rise apartments comprising 1, 2 or 3 bedroom units that offer breathtaking views of the highland landscapes.
It has all the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay including IDD telephone, CTV, mini-fridge, tea and coffee making facilities.
The staffs are very friendly, but since we went during the school holiday’s, which is a peak season for them, we had to patiently wait in the queue to check in. The huge lobby area with a high ceiling and a beautiful chandelier, waiting area with generous and comfortable seating, a beautiful stone fireplace with a lot of seating around.

And an indoor play area with special attention to the needs of children what more could I have to ask for?
There is the Golden Phoenix Chinese Restaurant, Coffee Shop with verandah dining, Cricket Bistro and Cricket Lounge for dining and drinks, as well as the Singalot Karaoke Lounge to croon the night away.
The hotel has an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, tennis courts, squash courts.
For conference facilities, there is a multi-purpose hall, the Cameron Ballroom and 8 function rooms.
We had booked a one bedroom Suite as we didn’t want to feel claustrophobic with the four of us in a small hotel room with a King size bed and no space to move. We had chosen the room with a valley view and when the bell boy brought us to our room, I was in for a pleasant surprise a the room was big enough with a huge living room, a generous kitchen, a bedroom, 2 bathrooms and a huge balcony overlooking the valley dipping down. 

The view was absolutely breath taking.

We had a coffee table and chairs in the balcony to sit down, sip our coffe/tea and watch this breath taking view. We could see almost the entire town from our ground floor balcony.
We had a parking space for our car just outside the room.

We settled ourselves and then after refreshing ourselves went out to explore for options for a hot meal.
It is very convenient to visit the market besides the hotel, it is about 5 minutes walking distance

History of Cameron Highlands
Cameron Highlands is located in the Pahang state of Malaysia.  It is 1500 (5000 feet) meters above sea level. We went in March when it has rains but the weather is quite cool. Day-time temperature’s in Cameron Highlands is at an average around 24 degrees Celsius. If it rains, it can get cooler than this. In the night it can go up to 16-17 degrees Celsius and if it rains even up to 12 degrees Celsius.
The Cameron Highlands got its name from William Cameron, a British surveyor who was commissioned by the then colonial government to map out the area in 1885.
In a statement concerning his mapping expedition, Cameron mentioned he saw “a vortex in the mountains, while for a (reasonably) wide area we have gentle slopes and plateau land.”
When approached, the late Sir Hugh Low, the Resident of Perak, expressed the wish of developing the flat terrain as a “sanatorium, health resort and open farmland”. A narrow path to “Cameron’s Land” was then carved through the dense jungle. Nothing much happened after that.
Forty years later, Sir George Maxwell visited the locale and decided to transform the place into a hill station. A development committee was formed in 1925. Later, a road was constructed from Tapah to the highlands.
The building of the road was a challenge. The crew not only had to deal with the weather; they also had to live with the risk of being down with malaria.
When the road was completed in 1931, the British and the locals moved in to settle on the slopes of the mountain. They were soon followed by tea planters and vegetable growers who found the fertile soil and cool climate to be especially suitable for the growing of their crops.
By the mid-1930s, there was a remarkable change in the territory: it now had a nine-hole golf course, several cottages, three inns, a police post, two boarding schools, a dairy, nurseries, vegetable farms, tea estates, a Government Rest House and an Experimental Agricultural Station.
The district continued to grow until the outbreak of the Second World War. During the Japanese Occupation (1942–1945), there was hardly any development in the area. When the Japanese withdrew in August 1945, the place underwent a transformation.
Today, the haven is not only the biggest and best known of Malaysia’s hill stations; it is also the highest point in Malaysia which is accessible by car.

Weather in Cameron Highlands
The weather in Cameron Highlands is cool throughout the year.
The temperature there ranges from 14 degree Celsius to 28 degree Celsius. Rain is common all the year round even though the monsoon season is between November and February. However, the dry season is between February and April. If you really plan to enjoy the coldness in Cameron Highlands, you may make your way there between December and February. By the time, the temperature there can drop to 10 degree Celsius at certain places. The local guide told us that the weather is not as cold as it used to be.

Clothing to wear
You can make do with shorts and t-shirt during the day. The temperature can drop in the late evenings or when it rains and a light jacket would come in handy during times like this. Generally it can get very cold at night especially during the rainy season.
If you are planning to spend most of your day in the outdoors, do carry an umbrella with you because it rains a lot here. For the ladies please wear proper footwear as for some attractions you have to go down the hill and it’s slippery and wet.

Sightseeing
I'd suggest you go by car, because you have a lot more flexibility on what time you want to reach there & leave, compared to adhering to rigid coach schedules.
It’s also better to go on weekdays, because it’s less crowded & you're less likely to be intimidated by the sheer swell of the weekend crowd.
Best time to visit Cameron Highlands is during the off peak season. Cameron Highlands is normally very crowded during the school holidays, weekends and festive holidays. You might be caught in traffic jam around the towns and the tourist spots during the peak season. Besides that, it is also advisable to visit at Cameron Highlands on weekend nights, so that you can visit the famous night market at Brinchang.
We had been to the

Raju Hill Strawberry Farm
The staffs are extremely friendly, very eager to assist you. They offered us 2 boxes full of strawberry to eat on the way when they knew we are driving back to Singapore. Their sugar-free strawberry jam is worth buying.


Cactus Valley & Butterfly farm
I liked the wonderful collection of cactus they have, You can even buy some planted neatly in small pots.
The butterfly farm was like a mini zoo, with some farm animals, butterflies of course and a huge collection of reptiles and some farm animals.


Rose Valley
Rose valley was quite disappointing. I expected to see a valley full of roses, but seemed just like a collection of roses in a nursery.


Bee farm (Apiary)
This beautiful sanctuary for the bees, where they freely fly from one flower to another, collecting nectar. The farm has a surprisingly large number of beautiful floral varieties, rows and rows of wooden boxes of bee hives with honeycombs inside, and many gigantic replicas of honey bees in vibrant colours found in the midst of the tress, bushes, and flowers. The kids enjoyed it thoroughly.
We even got the pleasure of watching the beekeeper climb up the tree to remove honey from the hive.
This farm is not handicap friendly or for the dependant elderly. You have to climb up and down stairs. But it’s worth a dekko.


Mushroom Farm
I loved the mushroom farm, The mushrooms were cultivated in bottles and there were so many colors of mushrooms that I didn’t know existed.


Tea Plantation
This is one of the main attraction that's got to be in your "must see" list. 


You can visit the factories to learn about the tea making process. 

The Indian guide at the Boh Tea plantaion was extremely friendly and knew many languages. He made the whole sight seeing cum educational trip a pleasurable experience. 
You can also sit down and enjoy a cup of tea at the cafe. 
The view overlooking the plantations is beautiful and perfect for the picture album. 

There are a few tea plantations. We visited the  Boh Tea Plantation as pat of our sight seeing trip. 
There’s also the Sungai Palas Tea Plantation & Cameron Valley Tea Plantation.

But, what impressed us the most is The Bharat Tea Plantation. Please do visit this Tea plantation.
The walk in the tea plantation was very convenient and we had the best snapshots there standing nestled among the tea leaves. 

The Bharat Plantations café is very popular. Its called Anytime is Tea time Cafe.The cafe has a wide variety of tea and snacks. 
I highly recommend the Masala Chai and cardamom Tea. They are wonderful.  
I also highly recommend the Ginger Oat Crunch...please do try this!!!.

You can enjoy the beautiful view and have tea at the café with some snacks.

Shopping
There isn’t much shopping available in CH. But the Pasaraya Jimat is quite impressive and carries almost everything.

There are a lot of shops selling souvenirs. They sell many strawberry related souvenirs.


Brinchang Night Market
Also known as the 'Pasar Malam' or Night market in Malay. This night market only operates on the weekends (Friday and Saturday nights) but during the school holidays, it operates every night starting from 6:00 pm until 11:00 pm. Its a huge market situated opposite Brinchang Police Station by the road side.
The Night Market has stalls selling everything such as cooked food, Vegetables, fruits, beautiful bouquets of fresh flowers, fruits, potted plants of different varieties, Clothes and Souvenirs. 
They also have some very talented local artists who can make cartoon caricatures of you or artistically make a beautiful wooden nameplate for your door or a personalized name plate, keychain etc. or you can have your name engraved in Metal/ wood etc.

Capsicums, Zuchinis, Carrots, Brochollis, Potatos, Beans look very attractive - most sellers offer three packet for RM5!

We could find strawberries galore at the night market.

 They were selling cactus at RM10 for 7 pots


Besides these we saw a beautiful Indian temple on our way from Brinchang to Tanah Rata. I loved the location, the beautiful architecture.

Opposite to the temple was the Satya Sai baba centre.

  
FOOD- PLACES TO EAT
There are many types of cuisine that can be found in Cameron highland. It ranges from local to Western to Southern Indian to Chinese and many more. At night (especially during weekends & holidays) restaurants are packed since there's very little to do after the sun goes down.
You can get everything from Western, Chinese, Indian and Malay food to Thai and Japanese food here. Most restaurants are located in Tanah Rata and Brinchang.
Indian restaurants abound in CH and they can cook vegetarian food/ snacks for you.

Street nibbles
First the street food or street nibbles as I call as you can buy these and nibble on the way while sightseeing or shopping.
My husband absolutely loved the steamed purple skin sweet potatoes. You can see many people selling this on the street. They are served hot in small plastic bags. It’s a delight to bite into the warm creamy soft, somewhat sweet delight while walking leisurely in the cool weather.


We loved the roasted sweet corns as well.

Strawberry dipped in chocolate. This is a local favorite too I suppose and they call it Strawberry Coklat. You can find these everywhere 1 stick = RM 2 & 3 sticks = RM 5.


First Brinchang, as we stayed at Brinchang.
BRINCHANG
FU GUANG VEGETARIAN FAST FOOD RESTAURANT   (Highly Recommended)
No.5 Jalan Pasar, Bandar Baru Brinchang (39100)
Landmark : This hotel is located at the back side of the Green Garden Hotel. A friendly CH local was kind enough to show us the way.

The prices are extremely affordable.
Chinese Herbal Tea for RM1.00 (recommended)
3 dishes + rice = RM 3.50 (recommended)
Bee Hoon (Fried noodles) (Highly recommended)
They got a few starters too…
The business hours are between 8.30am to 3.30pm only.
The lady who owns the place is very friendly. She said only recently they hiked the price by 0.50 cents as everything is getting expensive and difficult to manage. A while ago the Rice Set with 3 dishes used to cost only RM3.00, Now, it costs RM3.50.

You can tell that the place is very popular among the locals.
The vegetables are home grown, so they are fresh and crispy. The portions are quite decent. She gives fairly big portions of vegetables. They don’t cook a lot and keep. I noticed that as and when a vegetable finishes they immediately make a fresh one to replenish the dish. So the food is fresh, tasty, crunchy and hot.

I asked her why she doesn’t keep the shop open until night. She was telling me that everything gets sold out and they go home to rest to prepare for the next day.

Ee Feng Gu Farm and Trading  
75, Batu 43, Green Cow, Kea Farm Brinchang, Pahang (39100)
605-4961951, 4962755
Vegan, Chinese

Hotel Sentosa
The Hotel Sentosa is very strategically located in the midst of the Night market just besides Pasaraya Jimat.  They have a few Indian vegetarian dishes and the chef is from India and understands about vegetarian food. He is more than willing to rustle up vegetarian food/ snacks for you.


Strawberry Moment Dessert café
23-24, Jalan Angsana Satu,
Brinchang Point, 39100, Cameron Highlands, Pahang.
Tel: 605 491 2061
I absolutely loved this place. They have a wide variety of strawberry dishes.
The chef’s recommendations are the strawberry salad, the strawberry strudel, ice baby, mango fever. They also have a selection of cakes, crepes, fresh fruit juices and ice creams. 

TANAH RATA
Tanah Rata is more happening as far as the food scene is concerned. Less than ten minutes drive down from Brinchang,

Restaurant Kumar
26, Main Road, Tanah Rata, 39000 Cameron Highlands, Pahang
Tel/Fax: 05-4912624

Restaurant Sri Brinchang
25, Main Road, Tanah Rata, 39000 Cameron Highlands.
Tel: 05-4915982
You can find dosas (Rice lentil crepes), Idlis(rice lentil steamed cakes), vegetarian set meals etc in both these restaurants.


Restaurant Bunga Suria
Saw this restaurant Suria’s Cameron Tandoori Special. I didn’t try it, but saw a few Europeans inside. I guess it’s popular with the European tourists.

Starbucks Coffee
If you want a piece of the city, you can always visit Starbucks for Brewed coffee, espresso-based hot drinks, other hot and cold drinks and snacks.
Unit 22 & 23, Ground Floor and 1st Floor,
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands,
39000 Pahang Darul Makmur
Tel: 605-491 5648

T-Cafe or The Lord's Cafe
Cameron tea, Cream scones, apple pie and banana pancake
Mango Lassi is one of the recommended drinks
Address: 1st Floor, 4 Jalan Besar
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Pahang
Tel : 019-5722883

Breakfast at the Equatorial Resort
The rising sun over the hills is a spectacular sight in the mornings. 


We had to pay separately for the buffet breakfast, but it was worth it as they had a huge spread, a mix of  western and asian with local delicacies and the lovely tropical fruits. The chef was kind enough to specially rustle up vegetarian food for us.
After having the sumptuous breakfast, we started off to come back home to Singapore.

Conclusion
In short we had a refreshing trip, we enjoyed and so did the kids.
With all the developments taking place, roads being made wider through the mountains, excavations taking place, de-forestation, the place is getting commercialized. The guide was telling us that Cameroon is now buzzing with activity, the weather is less cool compared to what it was before. One of the local residents of CH who helped us to search for a vegetarian restaurant told us that the peace and quiet is affected greatly by the tourists.
Mankind’s greed to get the most out of everything has made us contemptuously neglect the environment.
Where does man want to go when he is stressed from the pressures of life from a so called developed country, he wants to go back to nature and find peace there.
Let us preserve our nature and naturally beautiful places like Cameron Highlands for ourselves and our future generations. 

5 comments:

sowmya's creative saga said...

looks like a nice place to visit..loved the strawberries..expecting strawberry recipes in your blog now...the place looks like mahabaleshwar!!

Jack Witson said...

Getting this information on drive to cameron highlands is not very easy but this page have made it quite easy for me.
Bus from singapore to kl

ketikketok said...

Cuti-cuti for a unique Spa Therapies Vacation. Visit Mini Agro-Forestry Aromathrepy Village Cameron Highlands.

Savita Sachdev said...

Very informative, seems I have already visited cameron highlands...ha ha . rather I am now more inclined to go there.

Bella Rose said...

Thank you so much for your blog posting
Absolutely informative

Planning to visit next month with my son.
Worried I might not find the Pulai Simpang turnoff

And after reading several posts, I'm worried about the drive up the mountain.

Any more suggestions or tips would be wonderful.

Regards

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