Monday, May 30, 2011

Cameron Highlands - Beauty & the Beast

Why beauty and the beast? Beauty because Cameron Highlands is still beautiful in terms of nature, scenery, landscapes, fresh air etc. Beast because of all the manmade developments which are spoiling the place.

Boh tea plantation -
It has been many years since I went up to Cameron Highlands. On my last visit I used the new road from Simpang Pulai, so it is even longer since I used the old road from Tapah. Luckily both going up and down, the road was amazingly quiet, being midweek, and also one week before school holidays. However it was still nerveracking to see idiot car drivers overtaking on blind bends. Insane lunatics. In comparison the lorry and van drivers were generally good (though not all).

The road has not been widened since it was built in colonial days a century ago. Now it has to take full size coaches, petrol tankers and goods lorries. they are so large they are bound to stray over the centre line on the bends. Even saw a 1Malaysia mobile clinic which is actually a full sized coach.

I was quite shocked to arrived at Tanah Rata and see all the developments, and even more shocked to see those surrounding Brinchang. The Equatorial Hotel is one of the largest -
Many of the buildings are apartments, built to cater for visiting families, mostly from Spore and Msia. I was surprised to see how many are built on hillslopes, but amazingly there have been no landslide accidents.

New bus station -
And all these developements mean a lot more visitors can stay. This of course means a lot more goods have to be taken up - food items, general supplies, furnishings, petrol etc etc. This means an increase of heavy vehicles on the roads.

By staying midweek, CH itself was not congested. I would hate to be there during peak season. The cheap guest houses were empty and it was easy to bargain for a room. Just out of interest, before going, I looked at Agoda and saw one hotel was advertising at RM62. When I got to CH I did check out that hotel, and was offered the same room for RM40 - and that was BEFORE negotiating. I didn't stay there as the hotel was totally empty and slightly out of town. Having checked out several places, and rejecting those that were partioned rooms with no windows, and those that had street and restaurant noise, I took a quiet room for RM25 right in town. And one great thing is parking is free everywhere.

My first trip to CH was as a backpacker in 1988. I paid RM9 for a room. I ate many meals in Restoran Kumar........ and this is still one of the most popular eating places now in 2011 and was packed in the evenings despite there being 3 or 4 similiar restaurants in row. Some of those and also the cheaper guest ouses now employ S.Asian workers and everytime we walked past the restaurant they would try and get you to go in. It seems most of the plantation workers and also construction workers are also from S.Asia.

Food prices seemed quite reasonable, no more than KL. This surprised me as most things have to be taken up to the highlands.

Brinchang -
Nissen hut

The increased development has resulted in brown coloured rivers. Sg Bertam is just a muddy flow, and the lake at Ringlet was red brown in colour.
Muddy but no rubbish

I found that a couple of trails, the paths have collapsed, and nothing seems to be done to repair them. Trail No 4 the path has collapsed and is hard to get around
Some of the trails are overgrown and unkempt. It seems like with other places in Malaysia, that the focus of tourism is more on the commercial aspect rather than nature. I was surprised at the number of farm and market shops all competing to sell fruit, veg, flowers, souvenirs etc. I did buy some strawberries, but they were completely tastless and not at all nice. Local produce -

There is no real tourist office any more. However there are many shops selling tours. Going up to the summit of Mt Brinchang, there was a fleet of about 12-15 minibuses and Land Rovers. I have heard plenty of comments on how developed CH has become and people claim it is no longer cool. I didn't notice this. It was cool enough for me. The clock at the entrance to Tanah Rata registed 22C at 2pm. And up on top of Mt. Brinchang in the Mossy Forest it was definitely cool! Masts on the summit -
The Mossy Forest
Graffiti -
Sg Palas tea
It was nice to see the old Land Rovers
Tourists vehicle
There are still the nice old buildings, such as the convent -
Muslim children at the convent -
and then more highrise.
Bala's is one of the older hotels -
Smokehouse , and the new Strawberry Park
Irish House
The farmers are planting on steep hills
Ringlet construction -
Brown lake

In summary, I was disappointed at how developed CH has become and how the emphasis has changed more to a commercial aspect rather than nature. I won't be in a hurry to go back.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission