As you may have figured out, this blog is gonna be kinda like this. No posts for a few days, then several in a day. In a town like Trang (good cafes, good wifi set-up, not much to do) I can get a lot done. When I’m in, say, Hanoi or Phuket, a few days may pass before I get around to posting anything.
The road to the Cameron Highlands was an interesting one. The conventional way to get there from Melaka is to catch a bus to Kuala Lumpur and then transfer to a Cameron-bound bus. I knew getting to KL would be easy, but there was no way to book a ticket to the highlands from there in advance, and I was worried about the connection since I would have to cross town from one bus station to another. Instead, I got a ticket from Melaka to Tapah, a town where the highway to the highlands splits off from the main freeway, where I was assured that buses left every two hours. I was also told that the bus to Tapah would take under four hours.
Five hours later, I rolled into Tapah in pouring down rain. A bus had just left, the next one was not due to leave for three or four hours. Oh well.
For a town that is quite literally on the backpacker trail – everyone heading to Cameron Highlands from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur has to pass through – it sure felt far away from the usual circuit. From the frequent stares and smiles and ‘hellos’ I got, I don’t think whitey makes an appearance in Tapah too often.
The hours passed rather quickly. I read and talked to locals, mostly kids that came up to me. Though the last thing I wanted to do was get stuck in Tapah overnight, I felt like I was looked after the whole time I was there. The lady who worked at the bus station was super nice. She let me keep my bag in her office, and she didn’t sell me a ticket until she was certain the bus was coming. I never felt stressed out or like I might miss the bus, since I knew this lady wouldn’t let me.
The Cameron Highlands itself (themselves?) was a welcome surprise. After the scorching heat of Melaka, the highlands seem to hover around 65 degrees and hazy. Shorts and a jacket weather. There wasn’t a whole lot to do except hike in the jungle and enjoy the weather or visit various tourist traps that I skipped like butterfly parks and reptile displays, or ones that I hit like tea plantations and the town carnival.
I set up shop in Tanah Rata, the most touristy of the three main Cameron towns. According to Lonely Planet, Ringlet is the mainly Malay town, Tanah Rata the Indian one, and Brinchang the Chinese town. Tanah Rata is most touristy, I presume, since it’s the middle town, it’s the one with the main bus station, and it has two more bars than the other two towns combined (meaning it had two bars).
The bars close early in Tanah Rata, but I met some exceptionally interesting people, people that I hope I run into further on down the road. One bar, Traveler’s Bar, either had nobody at all hanging out, or a group of middle-aged white dudes. As the beer was expensive, I only went once. The other bar was attached to my hostel, and had a pool table, a bonfire, and offered beer at near 7-11 prices.
If I ever decide to write a book, Tanah Rata is at the top of my list of places to do so. Everything I would need is there. Cool but never cold weather, cheap lodging, excellent Indian, Chinese, and Malay food, lots of wifi, interesting people, and no reason to stay out late. It even has a good breakfast place that I could go to every single day and order the exact same thing, as I’ve discovered that I rather like doing.
Sorry if this post is a little boring, but hell, it’s my third one today.
On to the pics!
Downtown Tapah. I wish I had pics of the kids I talked to or the lady that helped me, but I’m kinda bad about that. I pretty much avoid awkwardness to the point of awkwardness. Hopefully I get better at that on this trip.
Tanah Rata town. It looks like Tapah in this pic, but they don’t have much in common. For example, to the right, you’ll notice a Starbucks. I don’t think Starbucks is looking to expand into Tapah anytime soon.
This was on my walk to the Boh Tea Plantation. It started pouring during this walk. I hid under a couple of trees for a while to wait it out, but the rain simply wasn’t stopping. Real first world problem eh? It rained on my breathtakingly scenic walk to the tea plantation, where I would drink tea grown here for three times the price of the same exact tea that was trucked a cool 6 miles into town.
Robinson Falls near Tamah Rata. This was a big waterfall, it was hard to get a decent picture with any of my sub-par photographic technology. This was also a series of waterfalls, and the jungle trail really never got close enough to it to see it on its biggest drop, which was not this one. It was cool to hear it though.
After leaving the Cameron Highlands on an unexpectedly interesting bus trip, I headed to the familiar stomping grounds of Penang… Coming up next!