From the beautiful carpets of tea plantations to the fresh air and lower temperatures, Cameron Highlands are a very popular destination among tourist that are looking to get away from crowded and warmer places around Malaysia, like Kuala Lumpur.
As mentioned on my previous post, it’s very easy to get there: just take a bus for RM35 ($9) and in 2-3 hours you arrive in Tanah Rata, the main town of CH. There’s a smaller town further north called Brinchang, which you can reach by foot or by taxi for about RM10 $2.50.
Apart from visiting the tea plantations, a (if not the most) popular activity is trekking. Lots of numbered jungle trails spider through the entire area, forming paths that take you to water falls, temples, mountain summits and tea plantations. Depending on your level of fitness, you can pick the path that most suits your skills. Jungle trail #1 is the hardest. You can buy a map of all the trails for about $1 around Tanah Rata or at your hostel. Father’s Guest House sells them and they have the map of each trail singularly displayed on the wall, with more details compared to the one map.
As tea plantations are closed on Mondays, most people opt for a day of trekking and exploring Brinchang. The most popular and easiest trails are #4 and #2 that pass by the Parit Falls (the Robinson Falls on track #8 are no longer a natural beauty due to the pollution brought by rude and inconsiderate tourists) and end at the entrance of the Sam Poh Temple. (Avoid tails #9 and #9a – robberies and physical assaults have been reporter to happen quite often on that path and the police are still to do something about it).
Built in 1972, this Buddhist temple is the 4th largest in the country. It is very well maintained and has a few statues, including a rather large one of Buddha, with fruits and flowers as offering and incense burning at the entrance of each hall. It’s a good way to end a long trek.
Now, if you are feeling adventurous or if you are quite fit, trail #1 is for you. It’s a 3km uphill path through the jungle that takes roughly 3 to 4 hours depending on your skills and ends at the summit of Gunung Birchang (2000m) – the path continues on trail #14 which takes you to the peak of Gunung Irau (2110m) and is the toughest trail of all.
You can take a taxi from Tanah Rata to the entrance of the trail for RM15 ($4).
I’m not gonna lie: it was tough (spoiler alert: I could barely walk the morning after. My body was in pain!). Despite the fresh air, the humidity made it hard to keep you dry. Sweat quickly becomes your prime accessory and dirty will start to get all over your shoes and hands. You’re going to have to grab tree branches to pull yourself up on the hardest and steepest steps and hunch down to get passed some plants.
Make sure you bring water with you and a snack in case you need some extra energy to finish the walk.
Once you find the yellow sign that says you are 680m far from the summit, be happy, but not too much. There’s still a long way to go – about half an hour or so.
Four hours and probably 3000 less calories later, the vegetation ended and the sky appeared. It was a sincere moment of joy, not only because we were finally out of the jungle and I could finally sit down, but also because I had just accomplished something out of the ordinary that not everyone can say they have done. Quite a proud moment to say the least!
There’s an observation tower right as you arrive at the top. The day was cloudy so unfortunately the view wasn’t the best, but that didn’t really matter. We were happy to be there!
At this point you don’t have much of an option, unless you arrange your plans before you leave. I saw some people arriving at the top and having a van waiting for them to take them to the Boh Tea Plantation, for instance. But having planned a DIY tour, the next step was to walk all the way down to the plantation. The map said it was a 7km downhill walk that could take approximately 60 minutes, but it turned out to be slightly longer than expected…
And I will tell you all about it, on my next post!