Cameron Highlands is perched on the mighty peaks of Banjaran Titiwangsa in Malaysia and named after a British government surveyor William Cameron. The major tourist draw here is the vast tea plantations that dominate the highlands.
Their welcome here is friendly and congenial; in fact, I was tempted to stay longer. I had imagined staying in a mammoth Tudor-style hotel like Old Ye Smoke House overlooking a never-ending sea of lush green manicured tea plants. I imagined surrendering myself to the sweet smell of fresh flowers, freshly picked vegetables and the refreshing morning dew. That’s why it was a little discomfort when I learned the tea plantations are far from the main settlement of Cameron Highlands called Tanah Rata where I spotted my cordial hostel. I had to book a tour to be able to see the tea plantations; I must admit it is the main reason why I came here, aside from the cold weather.
“You see that tree out there?” asked our tour guide. “That’s a tea plant, they grow that tall that’s why the tea plantation workers have to trim them from time to time.” Cameron Highlands provides a perfect environment for propagating tea. The van pulled off by the roadside and an extensive mountain range of tea plants was unveiled before our eyes. Like the rest of the tourists, I exclaimed with excitement! ”There are 4 main types of tea, the tour guide explained; black, white, green and oolong. But the teas grown in the Boh Tea Plantation are black tea, so once we go to the tea shop, you order black tea if you want to take home the tea from Cameron Highlands, the green tea is not made in Camerons but imported from Japan. “
If only I could run into the wilderness and immerse myself into the tea plantation a little longer. The feeling of walking into a vast river of picturesque rolling hills with Camellia Sinensis is simply ineffable.
We were also toured to the Boh Tea Factory where the tea processing is introduced and shown to tourists. Visitors can also enjoy a cup of tea or buy the packed teas at the charming shop and bar beside the tea factory of Boh Tea Plantation. One can’t help but notice the charming houses with blue green roof situated at the foot of the tea plantation. They serve as the house of the migrant workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. I expected to see locals picking tea by hands but our guide said, it’s kind of old-fashioned already and impractical, so the tea pickers uses hedge-cutter like machine with a cloth bag trailing behind over tea plants instead.
“You see all the beauty around you, behind all that is the maltreatment of the migrant workers.” I remember Father said. Sometimes there are things and experiences you encounter on your journey that you wish you could write. Perhaps it would be a great story but somehow deep in your heart there’s this fear that it could put the locals you’ll write about into big trouble. It’s a battle between a catchy story versus responsibility.
I came here for tea plantation but at the end of the day, I realized, Cameron Highlands is not all about the teas or Tudor-styled apartments. It’s also about the genuine warm welcome by the locals on a cold lonely day, and watching a stranger-turned-friend enjoy his cup of tea.
***This is part of my Malaysia series.***