Cameron Highlands is a very popular highlands retreat for Malaysians. At a high altitude of almost 2000 metres above sea level, it is known for its cool weather, tea plantations, nurseries, mossy forest and rich wildlife. Named after British geologist and surveyor William Cameron in 1885, Cameron Highlands is a district located in the state of Pahang, sharing some of its border with Kuantan and Perak.
My papa had been to Cameron Highlands twice before. Once with Grandpapa, Grandmama & family. The other time was with Papa’s college mates on a road trip back in the year 2009. However, this was me and my Mama’s first trip to Cameron Highlands. That is why we were so excited! We can’t sleep the night before.
The next morning, we woke up at around 9 o’clock in the morning. Sigh….. We were late! Originally, Papa wanted to depart from home at 6 o’clock in the morning to avoid the dreaded traffic congestion during the long holidays. It took ages for mama to shower, dress up and stuff huh!!! I was ready a decade ago. Nevertheless, we got ourselves ready in no time and begun our journey to Cameron Highlands.
Driving from KL to Cameron Highlands – which route is better?
There are two common routes to Cameron Highlands if you are travelling from Kuala Lumpur. The first is the older Tapah route while the second is the newer Simpang Pulai route.
The Tapah route enables you to reach Cameron Highlands in about 3 hours, however, the road is steeper, narrower and more winding. If you travel via the Tapah route you will pass by the beautiful Lata Iskandar waterfalls and then reach Tanah Rata first.
Simpang Pulai route
The Simpang Pulai route takes an extra 1 hour, making the total travelling time 4 hours, but the upside is that the roads are wider, less steep and less winding corners. If you are coming via Simpang Pulai, before reaching the Brinchang town, you’ll have to go through several small towns in Cameron. You’ll also face the notorious bottleneck at the Kea Farm Market. During holidays, this bottleneck often results in a bumper-to-bumper crawl of up to tens of kilometres.
As my Mama is very prone to car sickness, my Papa decided to go for the Simpang Pulai route. Didn’t want Mama to vomit in the car hehe. We went for a brunch and then departed late from KL at 12 pm. You know what! My mama even asked Papa to stop by Watson to get some facial mask sheets before driving to the highland. OMG…I can’t believe it -_-’ Traffic was smooth all the way up till Simpang Pulai. We then began an uphill climb towards Brinchang. The weather, however, turned bad really quickly. It rained and fogged heavily. Papa had to drive very carefully. Mama just dozed off inside the car.
Snooze Too Hotel Cameron Highlands
Due to the rain and fog, we reached the Tringkap Bee Farm at 5 pm. We got down for a pit stop to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. We then resumed the climb towards Brinchang. At this point, the traffic has started to build up, and we had to endure another hour of stop-and-go traffic, while the rain drizzled on. By the time we reached Brinchang, it was already late around 6 pm. We quickly checked in to Snooze Too Hotel and settled down. The hotel is easy to find, but parking spaces are severely limited due to the dense development.
When I and mama got off the car, we looked at each other and knew what we were thinking. It was cold!!!! BUT my mama was wearing shorts and I was wearing mini skirt hee hee…we were literally shaking. We immediately ran up to our room as we hope there would be a heater there but NO! Arrrrrgh I felt so humid and my fur looked terrible because of the humidity. Mama was so tired, as always she told us she would rest her eyes for a while, which for mama it literally means she will sleep deeply for a big while (I and papa know it well). I and papa were watching some movie on TV while waiting for mama to have some rest.
Kwan Kee Steamboat, Brinchang
By 7.30pm, the rain had started to subside while Mama’s stomach had started to growl. Papa did some research beforehand and suggested that we try the Kwan Kee Steamboat which is located just a stone’s throw away from our hotel. Eating steamboat in this chilly weather is one of the best things you can do in Cameron Highlands.
In this restaurant, the steamboat broth was boiled using charcoal. The steamboat pot design is also unlike anything we’ve seen before. It has a very long tip to prevent the burning soot from escaping and falling onto our food. We have chosen the herbal chicken soup base. The steamboat set came with vermicelli, eggs, prawns, chicken slices, fishballs, meatballs, golden needle mushrooms, watercress, tofu, dried bean curd sheet and an assortment of other vegetables. It was a very satisfying meal.
After our dinner, on our way home, we stopped by the mini night market at Brinchang. There were only a couple of stalls selling strawberry chocolate, fried food, fresh vegetables, steamed corn, magnets, and other tourist souvenirs. Mama tried the strawberry chocolate, bought a few Cameron Highlands magnets. I got myself a strawberry sling bag. Yaaaaaas! I managed to get something for myself! Will have to show it off to all the bear furriends on my Instagram hee hee.
Brinchang Night Market @ Gold Hill
Not too impressed with the mini night market, we decided to drive to the famous Gold Hill Brinchang night market. To our knowledge, the Brinchang night market has been relocated a few times, and the latest location is close to the Gold Hill apartments. It is normally open on Friday and Saturday nights. We were only planning on staying two nights from Saturday to Monday, so we had to make the visit on that Saturday night itself. You’ll definitely have to drive coming from Brinchang, we did not recall seeing anyone attempting to trek on the dark and hilly road at night. About 10 minutes later, we reached Gold Hill. Most people just parked along the roadside. We managed to find a parking space too and had to walk a bit to reach the night market.
Brinchang Night Market is huge. You will be spoilt for choice as there were so many stalls selling various fruits, vegetables, succulents, food and souvenirs. The hot items sold here were the Cameron strawberries, Cameron sweet corns, fried tempura, pure Cameron honey, and various Strawberry-related knick-knacks. As we reached there at 10 pm, the market was almost approaching the official closing time of 10.30 pm. Things could be quite hectic as the peddlers shout out unbelievable discounts to sell off their remaining items for the day. Meanwhile, some peddlers were already busy packing up to go home.
Papa got himself an iced sea coconut drink and a serving of grilled mutton as supper for that night. Mama said she was feeling full and did not get anything. I saw a few kids queuing up the candy floss, I was so tempted to go get one too but my mama didn’t allow. She said I would just end up having it all over my face and my clothes. So boring…ARRRRGH! That night, Papa munched on the tasty grilled mutton while watching the action film “The Rock” on TV. Mama, not a big fan of Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery, went to bed early.
BOH Tea Centre Sungai Palas
The next morning, Mama woke up very early at 8 am and got prepared for our trip to the BOH tea plantation. Papa was shocked because normally Mama will only wake up at 12 pm for brunch. We checked out from the hotel at 10 am and headed straight to Sungai Palas. Traffic was smooth all the way. If one is not careful, one can easily miss the junction turning into the BOH tea plantation. Coming from Brinchang, the junction is located on your left, not long after passing by the Lavender Garden Cameron Highlands.
The road leading into the BOH Tea Centre was very narrow and winding. Certain stretches would only allow a single car to pass through at one time. There were some dangerous tight corners where you couldn’t even see the cars coming from the opposite. Traffic marshals were present at strategic spots to direct the traffic flow. If you do not want to run into the risk of rubbing shoulders with trucks, buses and land rovers, you could opt for an all-inclusive day trip package from Tanah Rata instead.
While Papa was navigating the treacherous pathway, Mama and I were busy taking in the magnificent sight of BOH tea plantation. It was green and hilly everywhere. After 15 minutes, we have successfully reached the parking area. There were so many cars! We were quite lucky to find a parking spot.
Then, we followed the crowd to the BOH Tea Centre. So excited to see and touch the tea leaves up close. We followed the wooden steps uphill. It was quite a steep climb. Along the way, many people were taking photos in the tea plantation area.
At the top, gosh there was already a 30-metres-long queue for the food and beverages counter. Papa waited in-line to purchase the tea and scones set, while Mama tried looking for a seat at the glass viewing platform/cafe. Thanks to Mama, we managed to reconvene at the cafe after 20 minutes. Mama got us one of the best seats against a vast backdrop of lush, green tea plantations.
Papa got us 2 tea sets, the Palas Supreme tea with regular scones (RM12.50) and the Cameronian Gold Blend with green tea scones (RM12.70). Papa went to the loo first and let mama take pictures for me while waiting. You know what, quite a few people saw me sitting there with all the tea and scones in front of me, they looked so surprised and stopped by my table just to take lots of photos of me. I extremely enjoyed being paid so much attention and couldn’t stop smiling hee hee. My mama pretended that she didn’t know because she didn’t want to scare away those people. I was probably the beary first bear who visited this place haha. I felt so happy and boasted it to papa when he was back to our table.
After that, we paid a customary visit to the BOH Tea Museum, the BOH Tea Shop and walked down the hill a bit to the tea plantation. Now that the strawberry bag I bought yesterday proved useful. Papa asked me to pick some tea leaves home and put them in my bag. It was a bit difficult for my rounded paws to do that but I tried my best with papa’s help. Papa recorded a video of me working hard on picking tea leaves too…hee hee. We then left the BOH Sungai Palas Tea Centre. As it was approaching 1 pm, more vehicles were coming in. We backtracked along the same dangerous road to exit the BOH plantation. Luckily, the traffic marshalls on duty helped us navigate around the bottlenecks.
Water Cress Valley Cameron Highlands
The Water Cress Valley was our next stop. We were quite hungry by then as it was already noon. Originally Papa and Mama wanted to have lunch over here as we have read good reviews online about this place. Too bad, the lady boss told us that the ala carte menu was not available for lunch. We could only choose from the set menu, the cheapest which was RM60 for 2 people.
Feeling that this was not a good deal, we declined the offer. Instead, we paid RM1 each to visit the watercress farm. To be frank, there was nothing much to see except for rows upon rows of cascading watercress. The farm area was not shaded, and no one in their right mind will tour the farm in the middle of the scorching sun. We took some pictures and left the place shortly.
Restoran Old Frenz, Taman Tringkap
It was late afternoon already and three of us were super hungry, papa continued driving along the road until we reached another small town uphill of Cameron Highlands. A small restaurant called Restoran Old Frenz stood out to us. Therefore, we have decided to get our lunch there.
Papa ordered a plate of fried rice; while Mama ordered her all-time favourite — a plate of Singapore fried noodles. The food was tasty, the portion was big. Most importantly, the prices were reasonable albeit slightly more expensive than in KL. We were glad that we have made the right choice by coming here, instead of dining at the grossly overpriced Water Cress Valley earlier.
Cameron Lavender Garden
Next stop, we went to the Cameron Lavender Garden. The entrance had a very big and eye-catching strawberry fountain. The entrance fee was RM10 for adult and RM7 for kids 5-12 years old. It was free for little bears hehe. Inside, we had lavender ice cream while admiring the beautiful Hokkaido lavender fields. Suddenly there was a heavy downpour. Luckily the entire Cameron Lavender Garden was covered so we didn’t get wet.
There was an ice cream shop at the entrance, papa knew me best, he bought a cone of Hokkaido lavender ice cream for me without me asking! I shared with papa, we both agreed that it tasted nothing like lavender hahaha but it’s ok cos we just needed to take pictures actually. As we climbed higher, there were beautiful petunias and gerberas to see.
We were slightly disappointed as the strawberry farm was closed off to the public. We probably arrived at a wrong timing, there were no strawberries to pick anyway. There was a strawberry jam factory where you can buy freshly-made jam. Try spotting the administrative office, built to look like a castle painted in purple. The rain started to subside at 4 pm, so we gave the souvenir shop a quick tour and headed towards our hotel in Tanah Rata.
Avillion Cameron Highlands
As usual, the traffic from Brinchang towards Tanah Rata was a slow and painful crawl due to the single lane road design in Cameron Highlands. After we escaped the bottleneck at the Kea Farm Markets, the traffic became smooth once again, only to slow down once more near the Tanah Rata town area. As Papa had studied the location map earlier, he quickly found the entrance to the Avillion Hotel basement car park. We pulled up at the carpark in a designated area for Avillion hotel guests. The car park entrance was free.
The check-in process was smooth and easy. We finally settled down in our room at 5 pm. We booked for a Superior Studio, but thanks to the goodwill from the management of Avillion hotel, we were given a free upgrade to the Deluxe Studio.
Our room was very spacious and comfortable. It took me about 1 minute to run from one end to the another, because I have short leg, but you get the idea. It even came with our own private “courtyard”. I and mama were very very satisfied with the hotel and our room for tonight. I told you, my papa is da BEST! After a long day, we decided to take a nap. Our bed was very comfy, there was a sofa in the living area and another tiny sofa at the bay window looking over the courtyard too. Three of us jumped into bed and cuddled. Papa enjoyed the movie on TV with me again while mama feel asleep in no time haha. It was still drizzling outside. What a nice cool, weather in Cameron. I enjoyed our quality time together here so much.
Mayflower Restaurant Cameron Highlands
Around 8 pm, we woke up refreshed and ready for dinner. Papa heard good reviews about this Mayflower Restaurant located just beside the Avillion Hotel in Tanah Rata. It was literally just across the road. It was a rainy and cold night. Once we stepped outside, we literally can see our breath as we spoke to each other, something you don’t get to witness everyday in the typical hot and humid climate of Malaysia.
The signboard of Mayflower Restaurant in catchy bright yellow was easy enough to spot. We managed to secure a seat near the corridor. What’s good in this weather? Steamboat of course. Achievement unlocked, two nights in a row of steamboat for dinner in Cameron Highlands. We also ordered a pot of hot Chinese tea to give warmth to our bellies. The steamboat turned out to be delicious and worth our ringgits. The food was freshly prepared and the portion was generous (compared to the Kwan Kee steamboat). The steamboat here in Mayflower was just a typical cartridge gas stove setup, unlike the ones prepared with charcoal and special long chimney in Kwan Kee.
After dinner, we walked to catch a glimpse of the old Tanah Rata town. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday night and it was getting late at 9pm-ish. Not a lot of shops were still open for business except for a few of those pubs. Most of the weekend crowd had headed back home I guess. The main road of Tanah Rata town was eerily quiet and dark. We quickly grabbed some snacks in a nearby convenience store then headed back to our hotel.
On the way back, we stopped for a detour at the Mr DIY shop located in the shopping mall beneath the hotel. Mama bought a ribbon for me. Never felt so happy! That night, the television was playing the Iron Man 3 movie about Tony Stark versus the Extremis villain. Papa enjoyed watching it although I could ensure you that he has watched the movie thousands of times.
Bharat Tea Plantations / Cameron Valley Tea House 2
The next morning, we went to the famous Bharat Tea Estate located near Tanah Rata. We had a late breakfast at the lobby of Avillion Hotel before checking out, carrying all our luggage with us.
Following the instructions of our faithful Waze, we reached Cameron Valley Tea House 2 in no time. As far as I know, Cameron Valley Tea House 2 is the one with the better view and scenery compared to Cameron Valley Tea House 1 and 3. On our way up from Simpang Pulai, we have actually drove passed the Tea House 3 aka Cameron Valley Tea House Kuala Terla, somewhere in between the small town of Kampung Raja and Tringkap.
There were plenty of parking spaces for Cameron Valley Tea House 2. We got down and decided to skip the tea and scones at this place. Papa and mama were both not feeling hungry yet, after the decent brekkie at the hotel. There was a balcony for us to take pictures. We were taken aback by how beautiful the views offered by this humble tea house. The viewing platform at BOH Tea Plantations Sungai Palas has got nothing on this (aside from the awesome glass platform and A+ for their marketing effort).
If you only have time to visit ONE tea plantation, I would highly recommend that you come here. The views of Bharat tea plantation and contours of the undulating hillside is unlike anything we have seen before. You’ll get better views here and easier access into the plantation compared to the BOH plantation at Sungai Palas.
If you wish to get down to the platform below for a closer view, you’ll have to pay a fee of RM2 per adult. As usual, kid bears can go in for free. There was a big warning sign prohibiting any usage of aerial drones here. The steps going down to the tea platform below was really steep, so watch your steps! It rained the night before, some paths were still wet and slippery, we had to be careful not to step on the mud and puddles. Gotta keep my white shoes clean, or Mama will not let me out next time.
It would be better to come here earlier in the morning. There wasn’t any shade around in the tea platform. Since it was around noon, the sun was too hot for us. My fur almost got burnt but it smelt good after, like the natural fragrance of sun-dried clothing. We left the place after taking some pictures and videos.
Ye Olde SmokeHouse Hotel, Cameron Highlands
Next, we went for this historic English Tudor boutique style hotel located in Tanah Rata. This is the most impressive place out of all the places that we have visited in this trip! Built in 1939, it is situated right next to a golf course and boasts a beautiful English-style garden. You could come here for a special English traditional breakfast, ala-carte lunch and dinner. Bear in mind (pun intended) the price point is on the premium side. Alternatively, you could just sample their English afternoon tea with tea and scones (just like us), to relish the ambience of the English colonial heritage.
This hotel and restaurant is a long walk away from the hustle and bustle of the nearest Cameron towns. If you like peace and tranquility, you’ll enjoy coming here for a holiday. Drive slowly as you might easily miss the turning into the hotel, because the entrance was located around a bend. We parked our car at the parking lot. As we walked towards the hotel, the gardener(or maybe the security guard?) who was watering the plants spotted us from far away. He greeted us with a big smile and spoke in perfect English, “Coming for lunch? This way sir and madam.”, and then he lifted the rope barricade to allow us in. As this is a private compound, you’re not allowed in if you are not a hotel guest or a restaurant patron.
As planned, we opted for two sets of afternoon tea and had chosen a seat at the lush garden outdoors. We arrived at the right time and the entire garden was ours to roam around haha. Mama ordered scones with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam, and English breakfast tea. While waiting, Papa lost himself in the charming garden, taking the time to admire every leaf and flower. The English garden was very well maintained, butterflies could be seen flying amongst the beautiful flowers. There’s even an iconic red English telephone booth right next to our table. I tried to go in there to make a phone call but the door was locked, what a disappointment kiki. So I went to play on the swing.
The scones and tea arrived after about 15 minutes. The waiter, a polite and friendly elderly Indian gentleman, served the tea to me personally. I was so excited, Such an exemplary service to a kid bear! He even asked if I should drink milk instead because I am still a kid! Papa and Mama were very pleased with the taste of the scones and tea. They took their time to savour the tea while enjoying the magnificent English country garden.
After the tea, we strolled around the garden and took some pictures. My favourite spot was the small little fountain in the garden. I could sit on the two metal benches beside it all day long, listening to the sound of flowing water and chirping song birds. If you are coming here, I’ll say the best feature of this hotel is the experience of having an afternoon tea in the sculpted garden, soaking in the ambience in a relaxing environment.
Before leaving the place, we went to the toilet situated within the hotel. That’s when we also managed to catch a glimpse of the interior old-English architecture and decor in the lobby. It was a surreal experience. Sitting on the sofa inside the lobby, one could easily think that this was a house in the British countryside and not in Malaysia. It had nostalgia written all across, with low ceilings, decorative candle stands, dark corridors, stone steps, century old paintings on the wall, wooden window panes and even a real fireplace with coal.
Big Red Strawberry Farm
On our way back home, we saw this Big Red Strawberry Farm which is actually a stone’s throw away from Snooze Too Hotel Brinchang. Seeing that we still have some time left, Papa wanted to visit this farm and find out why it’s so popular. The farm was located on a slippery slope. We parked near the Cactus Valley and then walked on foot.
Alternatively, you could just drive all the way up until the Big Red Strawberry Farm entrance, because over there you’ll find plenty of parking spaces, saves you the strenuous climb uphill. We did not go into the Cactus Valley because Cactus Valley requires an entrance fee while Big Red Strawberry Farm is free! The strawberry farm is massive, but there are not just strawberries here. You could see a collection of interesting giant cacti, and other flowers and plants here. Some rather cheap succulents were also on sale. Save yourselves the tickets and no need to go into Cactus Valley haha.
The whole strawberry farm runs on a hydroponic system, which means no soil. There were other vegetables grown hydroponically and they all look very healthy and crunchy for a salad. You could pick your own strawberries here, but we didn’t because we have to go back soon.
At the end of the farm, there was a strawberry-themed gift shop and cafe. You could order all the strawberry-flavoured indulgence dessert you like from the massive menu board. We’ve decided to skip this too, as we just had our tea and scones from The SmokeHouse Hotel. Mama bought some chocolates for her colleagues while I tried on the Strawberry shades.
Satisfied, we walked back down the slope to our car. The slope was a one-way road so we had to continue driving uphill before we were able to exit. No way Papa is going to drive here again after experiencing the treacherous downhill slope. The angle of the slope was literally 45 degrees downwards. Very dangerous and intimidating for human and bears alike. Check your brakes and drive slowly. If you can manage to find a parking spot at the foot of the hill, better to park your vehicles there and walk to the Strawberry Farm instead. You will not regret it.
Kea Farm Market
After escaping from the hilly slopes of Big Red Strawberry Farm, our last and final stop before going back to KL was this Kea Farm Market. It is a farmer’s market located in Brinchang. There were a lot of additional parking spaces, but a lot of selfish people parked their vehicles along the shoulder of the road. Add that to the fact that a lot of farmers would also bring their produce to sell in this market, made this stretch of road a perfect recipe for traffic congestion. A lot of the time, the traffic backup on Cameron Highlands originated from here. Worse is on long weekends and public holidays.
We came here on a Monday so traffic was ok. You can find the usual Cameron strawberries, sweet corns, sweet potatoes and other fresh farm produce here. Not too crowded here as most of the weekend crowd was already gone. You can also find some food stalls, souvenir stalls and cactus stalls here.
We have read that a lot of unethical peddlers brought sweet corn grown in Ipoh and sold them here, trying to pass off as Cameron sweet corn (which fetches a higher price). Not all, but most of those fake Cameron sweet corn were sold in a bundle, and they would be very careful to leave the husks on so that not to expose the kernels. Kernels of real Cameron sweet corn have a distinct colour, texture and pattern.
If you’re in doubt, buy from this uncle’s organic produce stall. He handed us samples of his corn, it was so good you could even eat it raw. He educates visitors on the difference between authentic and fake Cameron sweet corn, displaying samples of each. His sweet corn was priced into grade A, B and C. Papa and Mama bought 6 cobs of grade B Cameron sweet corn. Grandma later boiled these into the soup at home, and my god they were heavenly juicy, sweet and delicious! Should have bought more hehe!
Papa got a “Ayam Gunting” or fried chicken cutlet for his late lunch. Mama, as usual, didn’t feel that hungry so she did not eat anything here. We also got some big juicy strawberries here before heading home to KL via Simpang Pulai junction. On our way back, we also went to Ayam Garam Aun Kheng Lim Ipoh to get some a packet of Ayam Garam for Gugu.
That basically sums up our trip to Cameron Highlands. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Papa and Mama will certainly be back for another vacation, probably staying in the Ye Olde Smokehouse Hotel, perhaps? Something different. Haha! Also, hopefully the authorities will do something to address the notorious traffic congestion problem in Cameron Highlands. It seems that the existing trunk roads can’t cope with the rapid ongoing development of the Cameron Highlands. See you soon in our next adventure!