By Samir

We flew out of Phnom Penh, Cambodia and landed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. They have two terminals connected to the same runways – but the entrances to the two terminals are 18 kilometers apart. Somehow, we ended up at the local terminal despite coming in on an international flight, so there was no arrival card and no customs to clear – just a quick immigration stamp. After a bus ride in excess of 90 minutes, we found our place for the night. It was our first time booking a dorm room – a room with 8 bunk beds on flimsy metal frames containing thin, over-used mattresses. We had brought chains from Home Depot, so we chained and locked up our luggage before going to sleep. We tossed and turned and barely slept. And then we had to deal with shared bathrooms – two toilets shared by 25+ guests. We decided to skip the shower, and headed by bus to the Cameron Highlands.

The weather in Asia in March/April has roughly had a high temperature of 90 degrees, with varying humidity. Most days have been bright and sunny. The Cameron Highlands are in the mountains north of Kuala Lumpur. Our days were overcast there though with relatively low humidity, and somewhat cooler temperatures. The hotel manager told us that it rained there, EVERY SINGLE DAY, year-round, sometime in the afternoon. And indeed, it did rain every day we were there.

We decided to take a tour into the mountains where we encountered several farms – a tea plantation, a butterfly farm, an insect farm, and a strawberry farm amongst others. The tea plantation, owned by the Boh company, used some different equipment from the one we saw in Munnar, Kerala (India), but the general process was the same. It was interesting that at the end of the tour, our tour guide strongly derided green tea while promoting black tea. But the gift shop prominently displayed their selection of green teas…

An amazing morning landscape

The butterfly farm & insect farm were in one location, and provided some great sights. Some of the butterflies were huge! They also had a section on snakes – we saw a snake actively molting, which was kind of cool.

Such vivid colors

Strawberries are grown year-round here, in massive, sheltered hydroponic farms. Fresh strawberry juice tasted really good and was offered by most restaurants in town. I was a little disappointed though – the strawberries were mostly pretty small and not super sweet, not like the ones you get sometimes back in the states.

We also took a side jaunt through a mossy forest and came away with muddy shoes and clothes. At one point, I stepped down onto a boulder, which tumbled out from underneath me, rolled down the path, side-swiped Rachel’s right leg (instantly covering her pants in a fresh layer of mud), and then thunderously rolled down the mountain. Our guide was practically screaming as he ran back to see if a person had fallen.

a plant that eats insects

I wandered around town one evening, saw kids playing soccer in a field, saw parents watching kids clamber over a display of large fruit (which was a little random), saw a few temples (from the outside only), and then saw an amazing sunset with some great colors.

By Rachel:

I’d go back to the Highlands for the weather! What a respite after the heat we’d been in the rest of SE Asia so far! Plus, I still love the rolling tea plantations and wanted to be a giant again so I could roll around in them.  Sigh. We also met a fun couple from New Zealand (Lisa and Blair) on our tour of the Highlands and ended up hanging out with them a bit there and in Penang. Plus, the place we stayed (Kang’s Travel Lodge) though lacked character in the rooms had a nice common area and was kind of set behind the main street so it was easy access to everything plus had a quiet feel to it. And the food was great – we had a good mix of Indian, Malay and Chinese food while there. 🙂

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