30 August 2009

Cameron Highlands

Do you know where your tea comes from? Do you know what tea leaves look like before they end up in your cup? I do at last!

Cameron Highlands are famous for three things: Tea plantations and strawberries and cool climate that fosters both.

After two hours of driving in circles around the office (yes, really!) trying to find the right way out of KL (don't trust Google Maps) , we eventually manage to get out of the city (the trick is to ignore the bad signage) and hours later, hit the dizzying roads up and around the mountain, passing Orang Asli settlements. We reach a beautiful water fall and shortly after spot the rows and rows of tea plantations growing on the hills the valley on both sides. Tea for a nation.

After seven or so hours strapped to the car, my workmates and I pull ourselves out of the car, check ourselves into a colonial-style villa and go to have some “tea and scones” as advertised in a few places a long the winding roads. I feel like the Queen of England, sipping my cup of local tea and having some home-made strawberry jam while over-looking the tea home-made plantation (the cafe is on top of one of the valleys), together with (local) visitors.

I feel like a trek to stretch my legs and perhaps get a peek at a Rafflesia (world's biggest flower) but my companions prefer, zoning out in our salon (the common room is a spacious living room with high ceiling, carpet, warm cozy sofas around a TV. It's a documentary by National Geographic on how the Orang Asli get their honey - really fascinating actually: They trace the (giant!) bees in the jungle by looking for water. Once they find say, a water pool, they look into the canopy above and usually find a bee's nest. An elder starts chanting to make sure no-one gets bitten while they climb onto the tree and cut off the nest with a knife, only aided by some fire and protected wrapped cloth around their heads and hands.

Visiting one of the many strawberry farms was supposed to bring back childhood memories for all of us, however we did not get to pick them ourselves. We saw a lot of nurseries with most unusual plants and flowers through that even the local tourists snapped pics of in wonder.

While up there in the village of Tanah Rata, we saw several advertisements for Chinese steamboat, (a Chinese “dish”) and decided to go for it: You pick a soup and/or just hot water and get it served in a large metal pot on a gas heater placed usually in the centre of the table. Then you get plates of tofu, fish balls, shrimp, green vegetables, heap of rice noodles/egg noodles, meat if you want. Also, you get an eating bowl each, a Chinese soup spoon and two metal cooking utensils to put your food in the water and fish it back out again to put on your plate. The point is, you can cook what you want and how you want it and share with a group of people.

Trip absolutely recommended!

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