Enough for a day or so
Published/Last edited or updated: 22nd August, 2019
As you may have gathered, we’re not fans of the Highlands’ two main towns, Brinchang and Tanah Rata. Don’t fret though, as it isn’t all bad news. There is some wonderful scenery outside the towns and some good forest walking too. Here’s what to do.
The Highlands primary attraction is rolling hills covered in tea plantations. These can be extremely photogenic (unlike the two towns). Alongside plantations, there’s a “mossy forest”, a few waterfalls and some walking trails. Most of these highlights can be seen in one rather full day, or for those with more time, spread across two days.
These points of interest are a bit far flung from the two towns and can be time consuming to reach. You can visit these under your own steam by hired car or scooter, but doing a tour can make sense—and save you money. A typical tour will take in the Mossy Forest, a tea plantation (most likely Boh) and a few viewpoints.
Both half day and full day tours are available, but the full day tours will appeal most to those with kids. These often feature attractions like the butterfly farm, strawberry farm and Time Tunnel Museum. A half day tour seems a better bet to us. We used Discover Camerons and both the tour and the guide were excellent.
If you are planning on doing it yourself, scooters are for hire at a kiosk beside Planters Hotel. They cost 30 ringgit for a half day and 50 ringgit for a full day. If you are not licensed, please read up on how this may affect your travel insurance if you have an accident. Also watch out for the police, who will fine you. Please wear a helmet. The Cameron Highlands Discovery Map is decent and is available for sale at chemists.
Our first stop was at a photogenic spot within Boh Tea Estate. There the guide gave us a comprehensive talk about the history of tea and we took plenty of pics. From there, we pushed onto the Boh tea factory, shop and restaurant. The glass walled restaurant is once of the most photographed aspects of the Cameron Highlands and it is a cracker. You can also buy tea to take away or to drink (though be prepared to queue). We loitered here for perhaps an hour.
Onwards to the “Mossy Forest”. This is a section of forest that is, well, very mossy. One area has wooden walkways along with an observation tour, but it costs 30 ringgit to enter. Guides will suggest it isn’t worth the money (we largely agree though the view from the tower is good). Instead they’ll point you to an “unofficial trail” which you can wander for free. Your call.
After the moss, the tour took us to another couple of tea plantation viewpoints, then it was back to town. Rather than return to town, we had the guide drop us in Brinchang, then we walked back to Tanah Rata via a forest trail.
According to our map there are twelve trails in all. We took trail two then three then five, which led us through some pleasant stands of forest. The walk took us about three hours at a slow pace and we only saw three other people on it. It was no Taman Negara, but it was still very pleasant. The trail was in decent condition and not too much work. It also beats sitting in the traffic between Brinchang and Tanah Rata for hours.
It was on one of these very trails that American spy-turned-silk-king Jim Thompson disappeared on Sunday, 26 March 1967. He was never found, so do keep your eyes peeled.
Other trails will take longer and the quality of the lesser travelled trails can be patchy. When we asked about trail ten to twelve, we were told it would take all day and the condition of the trail was “bad”. Ask around and be sensible about your fitness. Always take sufficient water and a hat. It is not advisable to walk alone, although we did.
If forest walks are not your thing, there are two accessible waterfalls from Tanah Rata. Robinson Waterfall is about a twenty minute walk to the southeast of Tanah Rata. Parit Waterfall is a five minute walk to the north. Both are pretty, but were badly littered with plastic and other rubbish when we visited. We would not even consider swimming at either, so consider these fairly minor distractions.
You could do a tour (or DIY) in the morning, then walk a trail in the afternoon and will have covered the main bases. Unless you have a strong interest in tea, or like walking, it is difficult to justify a longer stay in the Cameron Highlands.
Those with an interest in the forest will be far better served at Taman Negara. The towns, especially Brinchang, are just not particularly conducive to lingering. We suggest pushing on the next day—we wish we had.
If you want to do a tour, we have no hesitation in recommending Discover Camerons. Another operation who we found impressive was Eco Cameron Travel & Tours. If you are looking for a freelance guide, we met Jalis Ardi on trail three and he seemed to really know his stuff.
Discover Camerons: 67B Persiaran Camellia, 3, Tanah Rata. https://www.discovercamerons.com/
Eco Cameron Travel & Tours: 72-A Persiaran Camellia 4, Tanah Rata. T: (05) 491 5388 http://www.ecocameron.com/
Jalis Ardi: T: (013) 938 2810 https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011906584123
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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