Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Cameron Highlands were a three-hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur. This area wasn’t on my radar either. I’m glad we went, however, because it became my favorite spot in Malaysia. Leave it to Marc to find the hidden gems.

In Cameron Highlands we hiked in the jungle. The first hike we did was to a smaller hill right outside of town. The hiking there was more of a constant scramble up tree roots and mud slides. There were ropes in some areas to grab onto to help pull yourself up.

The trails were quite thick with foliage in some parts, too. I feared the whole trail would be that way, but about halfway through the trail turned into pavement. It twisted and turned around hills and through farms. There was a variety of vegetables being grown all over the hills.

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They were creative with what their landscape was like. Green beans, cilantro, cabbage, and radishes were seen. We got to the tea plantations and we were stunned. Tea plantations cover every inch of the hills. Tea grows slower at high altitudes which develops the flavor more fully. Harvesters would groom the tea plants to waist height for easier picking. We saw a few harvesters on our hike.

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They were in groups of four or five with large machetes. They filled large white sacks with the tea leaves and then carried them on their backs to load up in a small truck.

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The green of the tea plants were a magnificent green. It looked as if someone filtered the hills, oversaturating the greenness and the blue of the skies.

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We had a cup of black tea picked from the same hills we walked through at the top of the tea plantation. There was a small cafe overlooking the hills. Our view was beautiful. We shared a piece of chocolate cake to go with our tea.

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We hitchhiked back to our lodge. It was my first time. Almost immediately after sticking our thumb out somebody stopped. I thought that was too easy! He actually said RM3/each once we got in the car, so it would have been awkward saying no and getting out. It was a short ride and Marc ended up giving him RM10 because we didn’t’ have smaller bills! Our better hitchhiking stories come from the next day.

We wanted to hike Mt. Brinchang, a 2000m mountain about 16 km north of Tanah Rata (the small town we were staying in). We successfully hitchhiked (without paying) to Brinchang with a nice young family in a bright red, shiny car. They were taking a long weekend away from KL in the Cameron Highlands. They brought us to Brinchang, and it was a short 1 km walk to the trailhead. Well, the trailhead was closed. There was another young couple from Bangladesh trying to figure out how to begin the hike as well. Before hardly introducing ourselves, the young man, Omar, said that they would like to accompany us to the top. At first I was annoyed, but I remembered I was trying to be more sociable and outgoing during the trip, so we said yes. That was a mistake. They weren’t in as good of shape as us, and they obviously had little hiking experience. They could tell that we did because soon after beginning they noted our hiking ability! It was treacherous beginning, climbing through a muddy, hilly jungle into a water treatment plant. Then we went under some broken fences, over a small dam, and scrambled to the top of a 6 foot drop off.

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Once we made it to the actual trail it was quite enjoyable. It was similar to the hike we did the previous day. We climbed over steep roots and through thick vines. Again,  some areas had rope to help you climb up. We were stopping frequently to allow the other couple to catch up. I could tell Marc was getting anxious with the couple’s slow pace. I reminded myself to be mindful, to notice details in the jungle around me, admire the fauna.

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I practiced breathing and chanted “it’s about the climb” to myself. Sounds cheesy, but reminding myself that it’s all about the climb helps me slow down! The couple was a selfie couple, so they stopped every few feet to snap a photo thus attributing to their sluggishness. Oh, and to add to that the girl had asthma. She was wheezing and using her inhaler frequently. I felt a little nervous for her. I ran through my head what I would do to help if there was an emergency with her!

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It took about three hours to reach the top, and we ended up ditching the couple without telling them. I felt bad but they were just so slow. It smelled like rain so we really wanted to finish the hike before it started pouring! There were two viewpoints near the top where we could see layers of jungled mountains stretching before us.

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It was getting cloudier by the minute, and sure enough once we reached the top we could see nothing. It was too overcast. I was glad to be done with the hiking, but I could tell Marc was really disappointed in the “view.” Little did I know our hike was only half done. We ended up hiking all the way back down to the next small town. It was another 7 km. Along the way down we walked through a creepy mossy forest. Skinny, tangled branches creating a ceiling of forest above us. It was quite foggy and it seemed as if we were on a horror movie set.

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A short while after that we came to an actual “Mossy Forest” that was developed into a tourist attraction. Boardwalk trails and staircases were put up through an area of the forest to admire the thick moss growing over everything.

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We saw the family that gave us a ride to Brinchang there. Further on our hike down to the town we saw more farms and tea plantations.

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There were loads of cars going up and down but I didn’t feel like hitching a ride down for some reason. It felt good putting on the steps. Up until the past week or so I felt like I haven’t been moving enough. Especially in Indonesia we did a lot of laying around. Malaysia has been full of walking and now strenuous hiking here.

Of course I made up for all the walking with sweets! Once we got to the small town we had a piece of carrot cake. At least we always share…

The town had a lot of market stalls selling strawberries from the local farms, vegetables, and fried foods. We gobbled down a carton of the delicious strawberries, and they tasted so fresh like from the garden at Mom and Dad’s. We also had fried broccoli (YUM) and fried crab. We walked for awhile down the road in the direction of Tanah Rata. Our plan was to hitchhike back, but we were having some trouble because there was a bit of traffic. Our mouths watered at the sites of pickup trucks, how we longed to hop in the back of one! After a half a mile or so, finally we flagged someone down. And guess what, it was a covered pickup truck that was loaded with vegetable crates. We piled in the back and sat on the crates, wide smiles plastered across our faces. We were giggling like children about having our wish come true.

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One night in CH we went to a hostel bar down the road. It was off of the main road and darkly lit. We were getting close when a large white dog starting bounding toward us, a huge grin on his face. It was as if he greeted us warmly, “Hello, travelers! This way for some fun!” I replied, “Lead the way!” The dog ran off and up some stairs to the hostel. We didn’t think that was where the bar was so we kept walking and found ourselves at a dead end. The dog was actually leading us to the right place; it was at that hostel! We love the dogs here.

The bar was very chill. They lit a bonfire and we sat around with a few other young travelers sharing stories about ourselves and what it means to backpack. Very cool vibe, we loved it. We wished all bars could be as relaxing as that one. Chill and quiet so you can have a conversation.

We ate only Indian food in CH. What is our deal?!

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