Dec 13 2011
For many people, the whole point of being in the tropics around now is to escape the depth of the winter back home in Europe and North America. But that does not mean spending the whole time somewhere as steamy as Kuala Lumpur. For a good Goldilocks solution (neither too hot, nor too cold), why not follow in the footsteps of Malaysia’s former colonial rulers and head for the hills?
Starting in India, and spreading to other Asian (and African) dominions, the British solution to uncomfortably hot temperatures during colonial times was to build so-called hill stations. These places, normally located 1,000 to 1,500 metres above sea level, offered not just cooler climes, but a chance to recreate idealised versions of rural England and Scotland.
Compared to most other hill stations, the Cameron Highlands (an area of about 700 square kilometres, most of which is above 1,200 metres), was a comparatively late developer. It was not until the 1930s that it started attracting appreciable numbers of visitors, but these days, tens of thousands of tourists flock there every year.
While Cameron’s three main settlements — Tanah Rata, Brinchang and Ringlet — all suffer from over-development, it is still possible to escape the crowds. Well-marked walking trails, mock-British architecture, and worthwhile attractions, such as the beautiful visitor centre at the BOH Tea Estate, all speak in the area’s favour.
Cameron is not nearly as reliant on tourism as most colonial-era hill stations because of its role as one of Malaysia’s foremost producers of fruit and vegetables. Crops such as potatoes, tomatoes and strawberries, which are not suited to tropical heat, thrive in Cameron’s mild, wet climate. Having such an important alternative source of income means the area has a more real feel to it than say Fraser’s Hill.
It might have been expected that such a colonial institution as the hill station would not have survived the end of British rule in 1957. Instead, it opened up a whole new market of potential visitors: Malaysians.
Although Cameron has plenty of accommodation, particularly in Tanah Rata, it can get very busy during public holidays and school breaks. Booking ahead is especially advisable over the Christmas period. This goes for bus tickets too. At least seven buses a day depart from KL (Puduraya), taking four-five hours to reach Tanah Rata, but these can get booked out days in advance during peak travel periods. Follow this link for more information about getting to and from Cameron, and how to get around while you are there.
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