Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Cameron Highlands

After a few short days in the capital, we headed north, past miles and miles of palm oil plantations, some lovely untouched misty rainforest, and into the strawberry fields and tea plantations the Cameron Highlands are known for. The air here is fresh and cool, and there’s more masala dosai than I can handle. I didn’t expect to find such incredible Indian food in Malaysia, but when the British started the tea plantations in the 20’s, they brought workers over from India, and happily, they brought their amazing cuisine with them.

We made our base in Tanah Rata and spent our days reading and relaxing, hiking through mossy forests, and exploring the nearby insect museum and tea plantation. The fields of bright green, evenly trimmed tea bushes are quite picturesque rolling through the valleys and up the steep slopes. And it was interesting learning about and seeing the process of how you get from tea leaf to steeped cup of delightfulness.

For Earth Hour it was the Cameron Highland’s own version of Tanah-Rata’s-got-Talent in the town square with various songs and dances performed over the hour, including a flash mob dancing to Josh Groban’s song Brave. (Though technically I don’t think it’s a flash mob when they announce it ahead of time by saying “now please make way for the flash mob that is about to assemble. Please, make way for the flash mob.”) But it was cute, and for the second chorus Mark and I got up and tried to follow along. It was fun!

One day, Mark went on a hike to some neighbouring peaks while I chose to relax with my new read. Not far onto his trail, he came across a dog that had gotten caught in a length of wire. One end was wrapped around a tree, and the other around its hind leg. It’s hard to say if this was an intentional trap of some sort; it’s an odd place to lay a trap, but a similarly odd place to leave a chunk of wire. In any case, the tangled dog was angry, scared, and undoubtedly in pain (though there didn’t seem to be blood), and was barking and growling. Thankfully, a woman who lives at the trailhead, Mrs. Tan, came by for her daily walk, and she said she would go back and get some wire cutters (the snipers in Mark’s leatherman not being up to the gauge of wire). Using Mrs. Tan’s snips (which also were not ideal for the job), Mark sawed through the wire as close as he could get to the dog without being bitten, unfortunately leaving a short trail of wire from the leg, but setting the dog free. Mark offered him some of his muffin, but he wasn’t interested, and hunkered down near the base of the tree. There was really nothing else that could be done, so Mark continued on his hike. When he returned from his hike, we went back together to see if the dog was still there (stopping en route to buy him a hotdog on a stick, because what dog doesn’t like hotdogs, and it’s the closest thing to dog food we could find), and we did find him, in the same spot, nestled farther into the hole by the base of the tree. He growled in defense, and didn’t seem interested in the hotdog, so we left it with him. Poor little guy. It was so heartbreaking to leave him there, but I really don’t know what else could be done, given the high number of street dogs and the lack of animal welfare facilities. I’m just glad Mark and Mrs. Tan were there at the same time and were able to set him free.

We also saw a mother cat and two kittens who’d made a home in one of the big, rambling trees in the town’s park. We brought them a hotdog later too.

Can you see the little kitten hiding in the tree?

Tea leaves!

Wild orchids!

Pitcher plants!

Our amazing forest guide and tea expert.

Mossy Forest.

At the BOH Tea Estate.

Slug disguised as bird doo.

Heaped and coiled whip snakes.



  1. Wow, wow. Amazing writing. Wicked bugs. u-uuuu the snake!

  2. The tea plantation photos of some of my very fave from your trip thus far. How beautiful are those rolling hills? Wow. I almost can't believe it is real!

    Katelin xo

  3. Wow, so much tea, and amazing insects and flowers!
    Haha, hotdogs for all of the dogs and cats of the world!