Leaving bustling and intoxicating Kuala Lumpur for some serenity in the beautiful Cameron Highlands – I hear it’s a gorgeous part of central Malaysia…
If you’re not staying in Ipoh and catching a connecting bus to the Cameron Highlands, then take the 11:00hrs train, so you arrive in time for the 15:00hrs connecting bus to the Highlands.
Otherwise, you’ll have to hang around for almost 3 hours for a connecting bus (RM18.50), which leaves at 18:00hrs – nothing much in Ipoh town really.
Although the cost of the bus is at a tourist price, the locals take these buses and pay the same price, as I don’t think there is a cheaper option.
Discovered the hard way that travelling on this bus in the late afternoon on a Friday (or Saturday) is a really bad idea. This is when the night markets in Brinchang are on, which are very popular with locals. So, expect traffic jams to add another 2 hours onto the 2-hour bus trip. Today, it took almost 2 hours to travel the last painfully slow 5 kilometres.
Loads of activities await travellers when arriving to the Cameron Highlands of which many involve food, of course.
Big Red Strawberry Farm
From Brinchang main town centre, walk north for 10 minutes and the sign for this strawberry farm is on your left. Pass the Cactus farm before walking up the hill to your Strawberry Delight.
Pick your own strawberries for RM25 for 1kg but you must pick the kilo and not eat any along the way – supervisors watch. The café here serves scones, jam, cream, and tea amongst the usual fair.
The best place for scones is the café next to the Brinchang Hotel (owned by the same hotel) and at RM18 for 2 good-sized scones, real cream, jam, a pot of tea (with fresh milk), and very authentic. This café offered much better value and quality than the scones and tea at the Boh Tea Plantation. Although if you trek/travel to this plantation, it’s lovely to sit in the café, sip plantation tea, and watch the spectacular ever-changing scenery of the plantation fields and the weather unfold.
Bring a raincoat as it rains hard in the afternoon.
Boh Tea Plantation
From Brinchang, take the local bus and ask to stop at the Boh Tea sign (Vegetable Market, down from the Honey Bee farm) on the highway.
From the sign, the easy walk to the Boh Tea Plantation provides stunning scenery and well worth the 6 kilometre round-trip walk. You may even catch the Indian tea pickers in the fields – very picturesque.
Have a spot of freshly brewed leaf tea and cake at the Cameron Valley Tea Shop, which offers a scenic vista of the plantation and a great vantage point for photos. There’s also a souvenir shop, and a hallway explaining the plantation’s history.
Trekking in the Highlands
There are many guided treks and tourist trips on offer in the Highlands that bus you around in a mini buss and include lunch, which sets you back a small fortune.
Although, you can enjoy most of the treks (if not all) independently at only a cost of a local bus fare, your own water, and food.
Gunung Beremban trek
If you feel like a hike to Gunung Beremban, then from Brinchang walk through the Sam Poh (Buddhist Temple).
At the back of the temple, take the stairs leading up to a house then walk round the house until you see a goat track with a white triangle sign. Along the path, there’s another sign that show’s you the way and a trekker added the time left to finish. This is where you start the trek, which takes you scrambling over exposed tree roots and climbing up and down hills; this is a difficult trek.
After a 2-hour hike, take the right at the T-junction, walk back around the Gold Course and into Brinchang again, which still takes 3.5 hours.
Gunung Brinchang trek
An arduous trek to Gunung Brinchang starts beyond the Night Market area and JBA Quarters.
You’ll see the Path 1 sign and this path is sporadically marked so keep an eye out for markers until the top; this took a couple of hours of hard climbing. When you get to the top, there’s a fenced-in transmitter tower and besides that, some stairs leading up to a viewing tower.
If the weather is kind, you’ll have a great view, otherwise, enjoy the clouds!
You can walk back the way you came or take the tarred road, which is not so arduous. This road takes you past vegetable farms and eventually past the Boh Tea Plantation path (leading left); think the round trip was about 12 kilometres.
Jasmine Hotel (No.29-32 Brinchang – RM88 but RM128 for Friday night) has great friendly staff, clean large rooms with bathroom, and slow Wifi in the room. You won’t need an air-con as it’s chilly of an evening in the Highlands. A great location and only a few minutes’ walk to the Night Markets, which serve up some of the best food yet in Malaysia, at cheap Hawker prices.
Tana Rata is where most travellers (especially backpackers) seem to stay as there’s loads of cheap Hostels in this town. Although I found the restaurants a little more expensive in Tana Rata and there’s much more western food on offer than in Brinchang.
I much preferred Brinchang for its accommodation, local restaurants, and especially its night markets.
A local bus (around every 2 hours – RM2 each way) runs between the two towns and beyond. Didn’t catch a Taxi once in 7 days as we either used our legs everywhere or caught the local bus.
The Taxi drivers here can get a bit pushy and nasty, and the word is that they rip tourists off, severely.
Food glorious food
There’s a plethora of cheap and expensive restaurants just outside the Jasmine Hotel.
For breakfast, venture to the Indian restaurant (next door to Jasmine’s), which serves delicious Roti Canai Telur (Indian flatbread cooked with egg and onion) and wash that down with a cup of strong black brewed coffee for around RM3.75, think this is the cheapest you’ll find anywhere in Malaysia. Didn’t try this restaurant for dinner but I’m sure the food would be delicious and cheap (staff are friendly also). This place is always bustling with locals (my golden rule).
Brinchang is famous for its wonderful Steamboat dish and prices vary greatly.
You must try this deliciously fresh dish, which is a pot served up with a spicy (or non-spicy) stock on a gas cooker in the middle of your table. About 2 or 3 plates full of greens, noodles, seafood, chicken, and more, are laid out and accompanied with small dishes of sauces and spices.
Throughout this dining experience, you place whatever you’d like to eat next, in the boiling stock. Cook this for a few minutes and continue to graze like this for as long as it takes to finish all the dishes. – typically, a couple of hours or more.
The Wy Att restaurant just up from the Jasmine Hotel charges RM35 for 2 people, which is very reasonable and excellent quality.
You must try the Brinchang markets just up from the Jasmine Hotel, which are on each Friday and Saturday nights (18:00-22:00hrs).
Very popular with the locals, the deliciousness that is cooked up in front of you at the cheapest of prices will make your mouth water and arrest all of your senses.
You can’t but help want to try everything on offer from scrumptious chicken-stuffed Murtabak, many types of Mee Goreng, Nasi Goreng, Malay muffins (more like delicious delicate crepes with crushed nuts and a dab of creamed corn), roasted chestnuts, fresh strawberries, massive apples, and other fresh produce.
Loads of clothes and trinkets on sale also.
Stay here long enough and your waistline will rapidly start expanding, like mine is already!
Fresh strawberry juice is the specialty of the Cameron Highlands as strawberries are grown in this region. Most restaurants serve fresh strawberry juice and it’s delicious, fresh, and wholesome.
You will gorge yourself in the Highlands for ridiculously cheap prices…
Leaving the Cameron Highlands for Taman Negara
Sad to leave Brinchang as it’s proving to be a favourite so far, for its serenity but especially, the wonderful food.
Need to press on with Taman Negara next, for a spot of jungle trekking…