Bangkok to Bali - Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

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One morning in Malaysia we took a public bus for  6 hours to one of the countries most famous attractions, the Cameron Highlands.  Our hotel where we were staying was located in Tanah Rata and it reminded me of a typical Old English settlement - it's fascinating to see how far the colonialism reached and to be honest how out of place it looked in an Asian country.

Our hotel
With an area of over 712 sq km, Cameron Highlands is an extensive mountain range within Malaysia and is one of the many reasons why the country of Malaysia is so fascinatingly beautiful.  The area was named Cameron Highlands after its   founder William Cameron who served as a government surveyor throughout the British ruling in 1885. 


We only really had one full day to take in the places beauty and a so a number of us, Nicole, Sven, Eric, Naomi, Emma, Jenny, Gabby and myself embarked on an all day trip that would take in a vast area of places: a jungle trek, tea plantation, insect farm, and strawberry farm.


Our plan of blending in with the natural surroundings had a few flaws.


After a ferocious game of Jungle Speed the night before (more on Jungle Speed in a later post) we were up early and off in 4x4's up some huge mountain.  The route was treacherous, bumpy and very close to the edge of going back down the mountain fairly quickly. I hadn't been this nervous since 'Action' Dan Vodden drove his land rover sideways and then onto its roof around a roundabout in the UK.


We eventually reached a point where we must continue on foot.  This part of the expedition had three aims.  The first was to see the largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia arnoldii, the second was to experience our first waterfall swim and the third was to visit a traditional jungle village.  The route to the flower had its obstacles, crossing rivers over fallen trees, but on the whole it wasn't too difficult.



Sven in deep conversation with one of our guides 
Sven and Nicole negotiate a tricky part of the path
 Gabby getting a helping hand onto one the makeshift bridges
Halfway to the flower, we took a rest and the guides showed our group how to extract pure water from the bamboo that's growing in the area.  With his Crocodile Dundee knife he sliced upon a number of bamboo shoots and handed them out to he group.  It tasted like water and grass to be honest, but was refreshing and quite cool, shaded from the sun by being in the core of the plant stem.


The guide talking to the group about the area, the plants and the insects
Naomi was downing the shoot like a shot of vodka!

Where I appear to be using it like an instrument!
After our short stop we headed on to the Rafflesia arnoldii.  The flower itself is unusual in its creation (or at least to me as a non-gardener).  The plant itself is in fact a parasite that lives on a vine of another plant (called Tetrastigma) - it is the only place where it can grow and takes all its food and nutrients from this host.  It is also unusual as it has no roots, leaves and chlorophyll.  Because of the unique conditions for its growth, and due to its popularity as being the largest flower it has become endangered and there are significant conservation work underway to protect it.  We were visiting one of those sanctuaries managed by some of Malaysia's biggest universities and so certain areas were off limits and all potential growth was tagged and catalogued.


When you see it, and if you're not really into gardening like me, then you are somewhat unimpressed.  It's just a big flower with really thick rubbery petals.  On reflection I didn't really appreciate it's rarity and its conservational importance but I couldn't see myself going at such lengths again to see it (you could say, that box - see a big flower -  has now been ticked).


Beware of Canadians!

Rafflesia arnoldii 
Box ticked!

New growth tagged and catalogued


Our next exciting step into the jungle was to swim in a waterfall.  The weather was hot and a refreshing swim was the perfect way to relax and cool down.  Admittedly as we arrived at the waterfall it wasn't the biggest I had seen, in fact I was a little disappointed - foolishly thinking I'd see Angel Falls, but despite it's size it was still in beautiful surroundings.


 Naomi braving the cold
So Naomi, Jen, Gabby and I got changed and jumped in.  It was freezing!  No reflection on the 40c heat we were experiencing.  It was like being showered in ice.  Whilst standing on nails - thankfully for me though I kept my flip-flops/thongs on (yes, I now seem to be calling flip flops - thongs!).  We posed for a few photographs and for a bit of fun I thought I'd try and push Gabby all the way into the water.  Big mistake.  She quite instinctively pushed me back (succeeding in dunking me in) and as I was down I could feel something terrible about to happen.  One of my flip-flops released itself from my foot, elevated to the surface, and before I could grab it the Philippine thong shot down the river so fast that it was gone before I knew it.


Bugger!


I had no other footwear apart from my Vans.  But those were back at the hotel, a hotel we weren't going to go back to for another 8 hours.  But Naomi had a plan.  Though we have different size feet - significantly different - I could wear one of her spares for the rest of the day.  This plan worked for about five minutes as since they didn't really fit me they kept popping out and Naomi was, let's say a little concerned that I may brake them beyond repair.  So I went native on my trek back through the very muddy jungle which at first it was uncomfortable but my feet began to harden up and it turned out to be pretty good. Though at the time of this feeling I forgot to realise that I had a tea plantation, insect zoo, butterfly farm and a strawberry farm to visit.


Does the shoe fit, Cinderella?
Before the tea plantation we visited a traditional jungle village and took our hand to shooting with darts - which was a lot harder than it looks - well for me it was.  Eric who was up first got straight on the bullseye, whereas I think they are still looking for my dart!!!


Eric 'Robocop'

Eric's first shot on target



Leaving the village we headed on a thirty minute drive to the tea plantation.  The looks from the visitors as I entered the stunning tea plantation were very interesting.  It reminds me of the looks I give to people who go into large supermarkets still in their dressing gown - though I doubt those people lost their normal clothes in a waterfall.


My footprints were left everywhere!


Apart from the looks from other visitors, the tea plantation was spectacular and vast.  As you're in the supermarkets next to the person in the dressing gown and pick tea from the shelf, you really don't realise where it comes from and the logistics and hard work involved in getting it to the ASDA Wal-Mart in Barnsley.


  
Tea as far as the eye can see 

Jen brought Mr PG Tips back to his home
The next stop on our trip was to the butterfly farm and the insect zoo.  To be honest many of us were exhausted and couldn't really bothered with it, but once we were there we all enjoyed it.  Some of the butterflies were like birds, they were huge, but they were also very friendly and one landed on my shoulder and happily sat there whilst I went around the farm.



My new friend for the afternoon
Is it a bird?
After the butterflies we were led into the insect zoo.  Now this was fascinating and didn't just contain insects, but also snakes, scorpions and a tortoise.  A few of the girls took amusement to my fear of spiders and making me jump every few minutes, not helped by the fact that I was still barefooted throughout the whole day!



 Suffice to say I zoomed in for this shot

Once that white-knuckle ride was over we hopped back in our mini-bus to head to the strawberry farm which, I may add, was over priced and not that interesting - though the strawberries did taste rather good!


Strawberries

Naomi's audition photo for Strawberries
With all the planned visits over we had an opportunity to stop by a place where a landslide occurred.  We all read about the disaster that happened two days prior, it was tragic.  Seven people were killed, including a family of three (a 15 year old girl was one of those) with the last body not being found the following day (a 22 year old male).  About 600 people were evacuated and a number were injured.  Each of the families of those that died were give compensation of RM5,000 (Malaysian Ringgits), which sounds a lot but is in fact only $1,500.


You hear about landslides a lot on the news back in the UK, not knowing how bad it could really be, but you do hear about how many died and the devastation - but the next day that's it, you hear nothing more about it.  That's a shame and most certainly a problem with our entertainment driven society.  Though the landslide happened on day x, the following days people are still suffering, still trying to rebuild their homes whilst at the same time some people alive or dead are still buried - but no, the following day we will get a story about an overpaid footballer caught texting some random girl - how is that important?

When we turned up there it looked exactly how we saw it in the papers.  The saddest part of it was seeing someone's living room in half, with the curtains still on the broken window.  A few of us discreetly took a picture whilst in our vehicle and headed back to the hotel, all a little more grateful and extremely fortunate that we can get to experience this amazing country despite some of the tragedy we got to see.  


But our adventure continued after the Cameron Highlands where I headed back home to Kuala Lumpur!




The landslide

The curtains in the window









3 comments:

  1. Great read and photo's as per norm Dave.Love Mum,Dad n Dan.xxx

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love the one of the tortoise haha!

    ReplyDelete
  3. If you come again to Cameron Highlands, don't miss out this cool place- Gallery House of Magic Potions- Aromatherapy from Nano Micro-fungus. Located in Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands. The link page at www.deegate.com

    ReplyDelete

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