From the outside, Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands is like the Gatlinburg, Tennessee of Malaysia. The city has plenty of its own tacky tourist draws, such as oversized smurf statues overlooking a valley with a ferris wheel and giant strawberries. But once you get past these small details, you’ll find yourself in a very relaxed, beautiful hiking haven.
If you can manage to find yourself a scooter to rent, that is the most fun way to explore all of the tourist traps and get them out-of-the-way on your first day. Asking around at the different travel agencies all over town will eventually get you to a scooter if you are persistent, although expect higher rental prices and outdated scooters that may not be fully automatic.
Before you make too many plans for your day, make sure you have enough time to make it to the Cameron Valley Tea Plantation by sunset! Once you’ve got your scooter, or alternatively you may have to travel in taxi or go on a guided tour, head to the rose garden just a few villages away and pay the dirt cheap admission to walk around and check out all of the cool, exotic flowers they have to offer. This place is a macro photographer’s dream. Once you’ve got your flower fix (it took Allie a while to get hers), head back towards town and stop in at the butterfly and reptile garden, where you’ll get to see the amazing native butterflies of Southeast Asia (they blow American butterflies out of the water). Outside of the butterfly enclosure, there are tons of colorful and creepy reptiles and amphibians in different enclosures and another small flower garden.
From here, head over to see one of the many famous strawberry farms in Cameron Highlands. If they’re in season, buy an empty carton and pick your own fresh strawberries! If not, sit down and order yourself one of the many fresh strawberry items on the menu. We got delicious strawberry milkshakes. After your strawberry hankering is satisfied, it’s time for the grand finale: the Cameron Valley Tea Plantation at sunset! If you get there an hour before the sun starts to set, you’ll have some amazing photo opportunities!
Definitely spend at least a day hiking the many trails around the area. A quick google search will give you different trail maps and descriptions. Trail 1 is definitely worth doing despite the fact that most websites warn of unkept, wild trail that is hard to navigate and can easily get you lost. Despite these warnings and the many weary faces of locals when we mentioned we wanted to do the hike, we decided to go for it.
We picked a day with a nice forecast and got up early to grab a big breakfast as well as an extra meal to go. You could easily find yourself hiking all day on trail 1, so take LOTS of food and water! We were lucky enough to hitch a ride with a guide that drove a big truck that could take us all the way to the beginning of the trail, but if you don’t have that fortune you may have to take a taxi to the road in Brinchang that leads to “Jungle Trail No. 1.” A short walk up the road will lead you around a sharp curve followed by signs on the left-hand side marking the start of the trail. You will then see a sign that claims that the trail is only a few kilometers long, this is super not true, so don’t get your hopes up. The trail is long and extremely strenuous and you may be very surprised at how long you’ll be hiking. But the trail is AMAZING! The amount of nature on the trail will blow you away. We heard gibbon calls, saw colorful birds, a few big bugs, some crazy views above the clouds and lots of beautiful mossy trees. We took our sweet time taking everything in on the trail, knowing that our 3 liters of water each would get us through most of the day, and were probably hiking for a total 5-6 hours.
Once you reach the lookout at the top of the hill, carefully climb the sketchy tower for a breathtaking view if you dare, and then start a long walk back towards Brinchang. If you’re willing to risk getting caught by supposedly very tough park rangers (we risked it and did not see anybody), veer off to the left after walking down the road a bit and climb some steep roots into the “Mossy Forest.” It is well worth it, but remember that I warned you about the rangers! The mossy forest, just as many other bloggers have claimed, is truly like stepping into a scene from Lord of the Rings.
Another warning: our 6 hours of hiking could have easily turned into a couple more if we had not caught a nice hitchhike as we began to near the Boh Tea Plantation walking down the main road. Hitchhiking is advisable and almost essential if you plan to be able to stand up by the end of the day! I know that I’ve really dramatized this hike, and probably scared many of you away, but if you’ve got the guts to brave exhaustion and are willing to get muddy while you work your way up steep, slick, root-covered hills over and over and over, this hike is well worth it and easily one of my all-time favorite hikes ever!
Grab yourself some Indian food at one of the many awesome “Nasi Kandar” restaurants in town when you’ve finally made your way back and reward yourself with a relaxing down tomorrow! Good luck and enjoy my favorite of all the places we stayed on Peninsular Malaysia!