GETTING AROUND CAMERON HIGHLANDS
The district of Cameron Highlands is actually quite large and as the name implies, surrounded by hills. We were told there was a public bus that runs periodically but we never saw it. The only way to get around is by foot or extremely overpriced taxis. If we were to return to Cameron Highlands again we would book a bus ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh on Bus Online Ticket and from there rented a car for the duration of our time in Cameron Highlands. Missing Ipoh is one of our major regrets from two months in Malaysia, but now we have a good reason to go back to the wonderful country some day.
WHERE TO STAY IN CAMERON HIGHLANDS
We stayed in the Kea Farm area, which is 3km north of Brinchang, a more populated district with some grocery stores, restaurants, ATMs, and a taxi stand. We paid $6 USD for a one-way taxi to go to Brinchang from Kea, which is only 3 KM. The main hub of Cameron Highlands is Tanah Rata, which is where the Cameron Highlands bus station is located. A taxi from Kea to Tanah Rata cost around $20 USD one-way to go 8.5 KM. Kea is quite isolated and not as popular among tourist so it is important to bring cash and any items you may need with you.
We were invited to stay at Kea Gardens, a lovely family operated hotel located in Kea Farm complete with their own strawberry field! The property is built into a hill and offers sweeping views of the farms and hills below. Our ground floor room was very cozy with glass stained windows, wooden accents, and strawberry tea. The property has a large open courtyard sprinkled with flowers, fountains, and bench swings with unlimited vistas of the lovely Cameron Highland surroundings. This area is a bit off-the-beaten-path and what it lacks it amenities it makes up in charm with local farmers selling their produce and homemade sweets right outside the hotel door.
WHERE TO EAT IN CAMERON HIGHLANDS
Although Cameron Highlands is a major tourist destination in Malaysia it hasn’t become over-commercialized, which means there are limited dining options, especially in Kea where we were staying.
Cameron Highlands is known for strawberries so be sure to try everything strawberry flavored! There was even fried chicken with strawberries and onions. I indulged daily in strawberry popsicles, chocolate covered strawberries, and flash dried strawberry snacks. The daily farmer’s market outside of Kea Gardens was our favorite place to try all-things strawberry as well as steamed sweet potatoes, fried mushrooms, sweet corn, durian, and more.
Steamboats quickly became our favorite meal but the first time we ordered one we had absolutely no idea what we were doing and tried to observe the families around us who were expertly preparing the soupy dish. After witnessing our struggles a sweet lady tried to show us which ingredients were meant to be cooked together, and in what order. Basically, the noodles and egg are the last to go in and first are all the leafy greens, followed by the fish. You finish eating each set of ingredients before adding in the next which makes for a flavorful broth. We tried several steamboats in Cameron Highlands and our favorite was Cameron Organic Produce Steamboat Restaurant in Brinchang. As the name suggests all of the ingredients are farm fresh and organic. The taste can be accredited to the ultra-fresh veggies and seafood but also to the open flamed used for cooking. Many other steamboats that we had were prepared using gas or metal stoves and the taste difference was vastly apparent.
The best street stall we discovered in Tanah Rata was the Yong Teng Cafe. This stall is located just off of the main road along with several other food stands. The local food here was delicious and very affordable. They also had English translations on the menu which helped us choose what we’d like to eat. Yong Teng Cafe is owned and operated by an elderly couple who are both deaf and mute. Don’t be surprised if they simply take your order by having you to write down what you’d like and when your dish arrives point to the name on the menu so you’ll know which plate is what. These two were so sweet and even though we weren’t able to exchange words we were able to share with them how much we loved the food through hand motions and drawings.
Our favorite restaurant near our hotel Kea Gardens was Cafe Lorong. Just a short walk downhill took us to this colorful establishment. I had the best strawberry shake of my life here and we split several local noodles and rice veggie dishes. The food her was simple and tasty. The establishment is Muslim at caters to Halal eaters.
WHAT TO DO IN CAMERON HIGHLANDS
There are many incredible nature experiences waiting for you in the hilly Malaysian district. From farm visits to jungle treks, you’ll have endless opportunities to learn about the local flora and fauna.
ORCHID AND ROSE GARDEN
This garden absolutely blew our minds with the abundance of local flower and plant species. More than 3,000 plants live here and a majority are exclusively found in Cameron Highlands. We were invited on a private tour and we learned about the native and hybrid flora. Not only is this a garden but there is also a fascinating jungle trek and massive farm. All of the plant species throughout are clearly marked with their names on rustic wood signs. We’ve shared more from our tour of the Orchid and Rose Garden on this post: Photo Journal: Cameron Highlands Orchid and Rose Garden.
The Mossy Forest is one of the most fascinating natural places we’ve had the chance to discover. The low-slung clouds here keep the forest wet at all times which is what has let a thick moss grow on all sides of every tree here. We’re brought up in Kansas that moss is a way to track directions but here it’d be absolutely no help if you get lost. But getting lost isn’t an option as guests are required to view the forest from a wooden path in order to protect the natural sanctuary. Illegal guides will offer to take you trekking in the forest but please don’t do this, you’re footprints alone will cause irreconcilable damage.
Cloud rainforests like this are becoming increasingly rare due to the development and are crucial to the health of our planet. They can be found around the ring of the equator. There is so much moisture here that if a tree were to be cut down there would be no rings in its base to count and see the age. The conditions also mean that plants take an exceedingly long time to grow, so please do not cut down these trees as it would be incredibly difficult to replace them. During our explorations, we saw tiny wild orchids and massive pitcher plants lovingly referred to as monkey’s cups.
BOH TEA PLANTATION
The Boh Tea company is the largest and most established tea brand in Malaysia but their tea fields in Cameron Highlands are considered small as they’re around 235 acres. The tea fields are actually called Sungai Palas and have been operated since 1929. Some of the tea bushes are actually nearly as old, over 70% are at least 80-years-old. Did you know that tea is actually a tree that can grow to be 11 meters tall and not a bush? The plants are trimmed down to waist level to make it easier to remove the leaves, which is done here with a man-powered machine, not by hand. Each plant offers a variety of leaf ages, the younger the leaf the better, and more expensive, the tea. From these leaves, any sort of tea can be made – Oolong, black, or green. It is the process that creates the type of tea, not the leaf.
Over 50,000 kilos of tea is harvested each month at Sungai Palas. Cameron Highlands mild and moist climates make it possible to grow and process tea year round. The workers are mainly foreign men from the sub-Indian continent who work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. Do note that the Boh Tea Plantation is closed on Mondays and the center is free to visit. The fields are always open to explore and offer breathtaking views of the tea covering the valleys and slopes of Cameron Highlands.
WHAT NOT TO DO IN CAMERON HIGHLANDS
While the above experiences were absolutely breathtaking there were a few things that we wish we had skipped during our trip to CH.
CAMERON HIGHLANDS BUTTERFLY FARM
We don’t usually support the captivity of animals but this butterfly farm had excellent reviews and was a part of the day trip we had paid for that also took us to Boh Tea Plantation and the Mossy Forest. I was shocked and saddened to see that the butterfly farm also had many livestock and reptiles in cages. There was even a pile of 5 snakes wrapped around each other. The butterfly farm itself was incredibly sad, there were more dead butterflies on the ground than fluttering around the greenhouse.
EE FENG GU BEE FARM
The Bee Farm is right next to the Butterfly Farm and we were impressed with their conservation efforts and were interested to learn more about bees in Malaysia. As you may know, there is a worldwide bee crisis. Unfortunately, at the apiary, we couldn’t find any employees to chat with and there were no signs providing facts about the Bees. The farm itself was run down and not very appealing. Weathered statues and wilted flowers were all we could find. The bees, however, seemed happily buzzing in their hives and that is, of course, the point of this project.
CAMERON HIGHLANDS WATERFALLS
There are two waterfalls in Cameron Highlands in Tanah Rata that are fairly easy to walk to. We love waterfalls and were excited to set out to see them both. Sadly, they were incredibly disappointing. The trail to reach the Robinson waterfall went through a construction site that stank of sewage. The jungle trek to the waterfall was beautiful and ultra lush but once we arrive at the massive fall we were heartbroken to see endless amounts of trash floating in the water and stuck in the surrounding foliage. The Parit waterfall was even worse as it doesn’t take more than a 5-minute walk to arrive at the fall from the parking lot. What was once a wonderful natural swimming pool is now more like a garbage dump.
CAMERON HIGHLANDS ROSE CENTER
It goes without saying that any other flower farm would pale in comparison to our experience and the Rose and Orchid Garden but the Rose Center was really disappointing. It should have been the height of the season for blooms but instead, the flowers here were wilting and unattended to. We actually went here on our first day and wish we would have waited. This would, however, be a nice place to bring children as there are many colorful sculptures and paintings that I am sure would thrill them. This place felt more like a run-down amusement park than a flower sanctuary.
Thank you Bus Online Ticket, Kea Gardens, and Orchid and Rose Garden for collaborating with us and making our Cameron Highlands experience so memorable. All opinions and photos are my own. This post contains affiliate links, please read the Miss Filatelista disclosure policy for more information.