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Thirteen years ago when Dad had backpacked around Asia on his own he fell in love with the tiny “one street town” of Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. At 1440m above sea level it is a lot cooler than the lowlands. We debated if we should take the trip to the Cameron Highlands or simply catch the train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang but decided that it would be a shame to miss them on the trip.
The Terminal Bersepadu Selatan bus terminal was much like an airport with departure gates. We boarded the coach and left Kuala Lumpur behind. We all had a sleep on the coach as it made its way along the expressway. After a toilet break we started our ascent towards the Cameron Highlands. The winding road hadn’t changed in 13 years and after an hour and half of swaying left then right we arrived in Tanah Rata.
The bus stopped on the main road, directly outside the tour office of the company running the bus. The kids and us got out and moved our bags to the pavement area and out of the street. We were immediately greeted by the driver of the guesthouse minibus who was picking us up. With bags bundled into the back and us all settled we set off. The Eight Mentingi Guesthouse was not too far away and we were checked in and in our room soon enough. After three weeks of AirBnB apartments and space we were back into a small room with two double beds. The room was fine but the toilet/shower room wasn’t the best. It was a small room that served as both a shower and toilet. There was water all over the floor – we worked out this was coming from a leaking shower head, so we placed this in a bucket and mopped up. The sink was practically hanging off the wall and there were mosquitoes everywhere. Later we found out that the sink also leaked too!! We were here for five nights so we would try to make the best of it.
It was a short walk into town, which had expanded a bit in the thirteen years since Dad had been here, though not by too much. It still only took a short while to cover most of the town but we found a nice park at the far end of town and the kids took off to play. While Mum and Dad waited we were gifted some fruit and snacks by a large Malaysian family who were having a picnic. We chatted a bit to them and talked about where we were from and our travel plans. On our way back to the guesthouse we booked ourselves on a tour for the following day.
After a bad night’s sleep on the brick pillows we woke early for our tour. The lady from the tourist agency pulled up in a tiny car to pick us up. We were expecting a coach, but apparently the coach driver got himself lost looking for the guesthouse. It wasn’t long before we were on the coach for our tour of the Cameron Highlands countryside. First stop was a butterfly farm where stick insects, leaf insects, scorpions and snakes were on display along with the various butterflies. We all got on the coach which then stopped 100m down the road at the Bee Farm. This was nothing to shout about and we didn’t stay too long.
Our next destination was the much anticipate Boh Tea Factory. The driver stopped in the tea plantations for some scenic photos to be taken before heading to the factory. We had a quick tour of the factory, but not in so much detail as we had previously had in Sri Lanka. Still at least the kids got to see the machines in action this time to fill the gaps in what they had learned while we were in Ella. We watched a video on the process too and the kids got to see that in Malaysia they use modern machinery to pick the tea plants and process them alongside traditional methods.
Rose Valley was next on the list. However, we decided against paying the fee to see roses growing and opted to walk around the street market and purchase some corn and fruit to eat for lunch. After a short stop at a strawberry farm, where we decided not to pick any, we headed to Sam Pho Temple before arriving back in Tanah Rata for the end our tour. Overall we felt it was quite rushed. However, we saw more than we would have done independently.
We still had three days to spend in Tanah Rata, and in that time we slowed the pace right down. Happy not to do any more tours we simply chilled out in the relaxed guesthouse, wandered around town or took the kids to the park. Our one big win was when the room next to us vacated. We popped our head in to find that they had a bigger bathroom, with a working shower and no visible leaks! They also had super soft pillows! We arranged to swap rooms as soon as possible!
On our last day the owner of the guesthouse, Smith, showed up and Dad recognised him as the owner of Father’s Guesthouse in 2003 when he travelled the world solo. Dad and Smith spent about half an hour catching up on the years in between and what they had both been up to.
After five days in the highlands it was time to move on. With backpacks on we took the short walk into town to catch our coach on to Penang.