The Cameron Highlands in Malaysia are often overlooked in favour of the beach resorts on the coasts. But missing this area would be a mistake. Reminiscent of the English countryside, with mock tudor houses, afternoon teas, and lush green rolling hills the Cameron Highlands offer its visitors a variety of things to do and here are my top 12!
1. LEARN ABOUT JIM THOMPSON
You will hear alot about Jim Thompson when you go the Cameron Highlands, in fact if you had a drink or a dollar every time his name is mentioned, you would leave either drunk or rich! Jim Thompson was an american businessman who revilatised the Thai silk industry through the 50’s and 60’s and is known in this area due to his mysterious disappearance from the Cameron Highlands which sparked one of the largest land searches in South East Asian history and remains a mystery.
Depending on who you talk to, you will get different theories or stories from locals about what happened to him, whether he died in the jungle or left the Cameron Highlands by car, this makes the story of his disappearance come to life during your time in the region.
2. GO ON A NATURE TRAIL
This is a must do whilst in the Cameron Highlands. I visited this area 13 years ago whilst backpacking through South East Asia. We heard about a man called George, who had served in the British Army and everyday hiked around the jungles. All you had to do was go to the Cameronian Inn early in the morning and he would let you join his walk, but on the understanding he may walk for 1/2 an hour or the entire day and he would not slow down for you!
Hiking with George was such a unique experience, we hiked for several hours at his pace exploring areas we may never have seen on a tour. On my more recent trip my guide Madi from the Cameron Highlands Resort I thought it was a long shot, but I asked about George as I wanted to know if he was still there and maybe I could meet him again. Turns out everyone knew him as George Of The Jungle, and sadly he had tried to commit suicide in the woods some years ago and then left the area. The tours now are more organised with trackers and naturalists and you will definitely know how long you will be hiking for!
3. EXPLORE THE TEA PLANTATIONS
Its impossible to miss the tea plantations, they are all around you! But driving through the lush green hills is not enough and you should visit a tea plantation to understand more about the growing process and how the leaves are made into the tea that you drink.
BOH Tea Plantation is the most famous and said to be the best in the area. BOH, standing for Best Of Highlands, has a formal lookout deck where you can enjoy views over the plantation, or wander down and explore the plantations, before heading into the factory for a tour.
4. EAT YOUR WEIGHT IN STRAWBERRY’S
Everywhere you turn you will see another strawberry farm and if like me you grew up going strawberry picking you will want to visit one and pick your own! Picking your own strawberrys is more expensive than buying them, this is because when tourists pick them they wander up and down and cut the biggest and best ones, which can damage the rest of the strawberry’s on the plant. However, at around $5 for a huge punnet of strawberry’s we picked they were alot cheaper than western prices!
5. TRY A STEAMBOAT
Steamboat is the most popular dining experience in the Cameron Highlands. If you have not heard of it before it is similar to shabu shabu and you are given a pot of hot soup to cook your own seafood, fish, meats and vegetables and season to taste.
There are plenty of places you can try this throughout the Cameron Highlands, with large signs above restaurants in the main town. But if you want a guide then CameronHighlands.info has a great post on the best steamboat restaurants. Otherwise I highly recommend the Gonbei Steamboat restaurant at the Cameron Highlands Resort.
6. GO ON A TEA TASTING TOUR
As mentioned earlier BOH is the most famous of the tea plantations, but there are a few to choose from and you will see them around as you drive through the Cameron Highlands. At BOH you can go on a short tour of the factory to see the tea making process in action and then follow this with a tasting of some the teas on offer.
7. VISIT THE CAMERON HIGHLANDS LAVENDER
A relatively new addition to the region, Cameron Highlands Lavender is focused on flowers and lavender. You can spend an hour or so wandering through the gardens and seeing a variety of lavender flowers from different countries. There is also a shop and tea room, and the most popular thing to try is the lavender ice cream!
8. HAVE AN AFTERNOON TEA
It’s seems to be all about tea here in highlands, so its quite right that a traditional English afternoon tea is on offer in most hotels. We enjoyed a delicious afternoon tea at the Cameron Highlands Resort in their Jim Thompson Tea Room, which offers a selection of flavoured teas to be enjoyed with sandwiches, cakes and of course scones. If, like me you are from the UK and have been travelling for some time then this is a must!
9. HIKE IN THE MOSS FOREST
The mossy forest at Gunung Brinchang is a natural environment that is only sustained at the highest elevations of Cameron Highlands and also in some other mountain ranges across Malaysia. The height plus the low-level clouds driven by winds blanket the forest with a constant mist and moisture that creates an ideal biotope for moss, ferns, lichen and orchids. Located about an hour from central Cameron Highlands, you can take a taxi or arrange a driver for the day to hike there.
10. VISIT BUTTERFLY AND BEE FARMS
There are a number of butterfly and bee farms all over the Cameron Highlands and if you haven’t visited one before then you should go to one. I would recommend doing some research in advance, on this trip we did not go to any of the farms as I had had poor experiences at them in the past in the highlands, plus our guide told us many of them don’t have any bees there anymore. However, it is a popular activity so it may be something you want to add to your itinerary.
11. INDULGE IN A STRAWBERRY SPA EXPERIENCE
Have you ever had a bath filled with strawberries? Well at the Cameron Highlands Resort you can! During my stay I indulged in the three hour Fresh Strawberry Escapade. This involves a strawberry tea bath, followed by a strawberry body polish designed to soften and refine skin texture and finally a strawberry aroma massage. This was of the most unique spa experiences I have ever had and I would recommend booking a treatment at the spa even if you are not a guest at the resort.
12. TAKE IN THE VIEWS
Whilst there are lots of activities to do in the Cameron Highlands, the real beauty is in stopping and enjoying the magnificent views over the tea plantations. Sadly the Cameron Highlands is growing in popularity, and with that come high rise buildings spoiling some the best views. But there are still plenty to be found, simply drive around and make careful stops at viewpoints and enjoy the moment.
I hope this post has inspired you to visit the Malaysia and the Cameron Highlands. Unfortunately, the region is under government control, and is not a protected area. Many locals were concerned about development here and the quickly changing landscape. I would encourage you to visit sooner rather than later to enjoy it before it becomes too touristy and loses some of its charm.
Please share your own tips for the Cameron Highlands with our readers in the comments below!