Named after William Cameron, a British surveyor in 1885, this hill resort is quite popular with visitors. At an average altitude of 1,500m above sea level, the air is cool and fresh and there are plenty of tea and flower plantations around for visitors to explore. The only way to get there is by road, and with the opening of the new highway from Ipoh, travelling time is now shorter and safer.
I’ve been to Cameron Highlands many times since childhood, travelling with my family. But there was a big break of time where I have not been there for almost 20 years until 2008 when I took a road trip from Singapore. A lot has changed after so long, and not all for the better. Deforestation and over building of luxury condominiums has taken its toll on the natural beauty of the place. Temperatures are now warmer and landslides common due to the loss of forest cover. If you ever need a lesson on how human activities like over development and deforestation are contributing to climate change, this is the place to be.
Cameron Highlands used to be a retreat for the British to escape the tropical heat of the lowlands, and the place as I remembered from my childhood days was reminiscent of the English countryside with cosy cottages. However, nowadays a lot of it resembles any Malaysian small town with ugly blocks of non-descript buildings. However, there are still small bungalows and houses built in old English style that you can rent for a vacation stay.
Cameron Highlands is all about relaxation and escaping the heat, although it is now much warmer than it was before. There is nothing much to do here except the usual hiking to see waterfalls, tea plantation visits, butterfly farm visits, buying local produce like vegetables, fruits and flowers. Nature lovers would be happy here, but for the rest of us, it might become boring pretty fast.
And for this visit I set out to look for one of the places that I had stayed during my childhood…
If you’ve never been to Cameron Highlands before, you can consider visiting. There are buses that go there from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, or you can rent a car and drive up. The new highway that connects from Simpang Pulai in Ipoh is easy to drive and is wide enough for 2 cars. The old highway from Tapah is narrower and more winding. Look out for landslides especially during the monsoon season. Avoid any Malaysian holidays where huge crowds of local tourists will congregate here and the narrow roads get congested with numerous busloads of people.