Cameron Highlands has been a feast for my senses. Every day I discover a new plant, fruit or vegetable that I have never heard of or seen before. Cameron Highlands is a lush tropical paradise located approximately 200 kilometers northeast of Kuala Lumpur. The elevation ranges from 3,600 ft. to 5,200 ft. above sea level and the mean annual temperature is about 64 °F. During the day, the temperature seldom rises over 75 °F. It has rained hard every day that I’ve been here. The first day I was here it was sprinkling lightly and a local man was walking in front of me with an umbrella. I noticed he glanced up to the sky and then started to run. I took that as a sign so I ran for cover too. I’m glad I did because soon the sky opened in an utter deluge, but typically the sun comes out afterwards and everything smells so fresh!
Mossy Forest is an ancient forest that they say is millions of years old. In some places of the forest the moss is several inches thick. It’s a dark and damp rain forest that reminds me a lot of the Olympic Peninsula in my home state of Washington. It looks like something out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. It’s not easy to get around in it. You have to climb over ancient stumps and giant twisted tree limbs. Our guide said that 70% of the plants in the Mossy Forest are medicinal. In fact, it’s where Tiger Balm originated. Thank goodness, the plants are all now protected.
Awhhhh…..the sweet smell of flowers! Whether they are natural flowers peeking out of the rain forest or carefully cultivated in a greenhouse, flowers are everywhere! The greenhouses here are literally stacked on top of each other in sort of retaining wall shelves climbing up the hillside. It fascinates me because where I am from we all consider the land on a hillside to be useless, but here they utilize every square inch. There are orchids, anthurium, birds of paradise, and the most beautiful fuchsias ever! I’ve seen poinsettia trees and many hanging flowers that I don’t recognize and wish I could take home with me.
Delicious fresh fruits abound. The fresh dried versions are just as good and for sale on every corner. The local fruits consist of guava, passion fruit, lychee, mango and oranges. They also grow a lot of strawberries hydroponically in the greenhouses. I had a great time at the Big Red Strawberry Farm and its neighbor, Cactus Valley. There is no admission price to these places so you can just wander through the greenhouses and grounds unattended while relaxing and enjoying all the various beautiful plants. I spent over two hours walking around before I realized I had yet to even pass the main parking lot!
The vegetables here are exotic and delicious. I don’t recognize many of the green leafy types. I’m sure many have Asian origins, like Bok Choi and Gai Lan. They also cultivate green beans, leaks, onions, fresh ginger, sweet potatoes and a plethora of other fresh veggies. I really wish I had access to a kitchen so I could cook myself a fresh stir fry.
By far the most popular thing to see and do here is to tour one of the many tea plantations. I visited the BOH Tea Estate and it was as beautiful as it was fascinating. It consists of over 5600 acres and is owned by a Scottish family that founded it back in 1926. Some of the tea plants are over 80 years old. In Malaysia, because they harvest every few weeks, they are able to grow the plants for 120 years or so, but in India and Nepal, where plants are harvested only a few times a year, the plants can grow for over 500 years!
Whatever your botanical or agricultural fancies, Cameron Highlands has something for everyone. I suggest that you indulge in the freshness and nature as much as you can if you are fortunate enough to visit the area.