Had we been contestants on the Amazing Race, we most certainly would have come in last on this leg of the journey and been left crying on the mat with Phil telling us that we did not win. Let me take you back in time to when it all went wrong…
The day before our departure, as we were casually shopping in KL Sentral – the major hub for all train lines as well as ginormous mall – I commented to Ray that we should go ahead and buy our train tickets to Ipoh (where we would catch a bus to the Cameron Highlands). Ray, of course, told me to quit my worrying; we’d buy them the next day. The next day, however, we found out that tickets for the morning train were sold out. And, no, I did not have a complete breakdown; I calmly asked if there was another way to get to Ipoh. We were directed to the bus station and got in line there to find out that all morning (10 a.m.) bus tickets to Ipoh were also sold out. So, without doing any more thinking, we purchased tickets for the 3 p.m. bus.
We then proceeded to eat and work on homework with the kids and generally play around on the Internet until it was time to leave. After arriving in Ipoh, we decided to take a taxi for the remainder of the journey. The taxi ride ended up being 2.5 hours due to traffic jams in the highlands. But, we finally arrived and checked in to our lovely hotel (Lisa did the booking again) in the Cameron Highlands around 9 p.m. When we got to our room, we encountered an issue with the electricity and the manager had to come up to help us. As he was working on the power, he asked us about our trip. We told him about our adventure of taking the bus to Ipoh and then a taxi to Cameron Highlands. And this is where we realized our race was over… the manager stated, “Why didn’t you just take a bus from KL directly to Cameron Highlands?”
Well, duh… Ray and I felt about two inches tall. We made so many mistakes on this leg – from not buying tickets early to not thinking things through at the bus station. We could have saved hours of time (not to mention quite a few dollars) by stepping back for a minute and reevaluating. But, water under the bridge.
So, on to Cameron Highlands…
We decided to visit this location because it is up in the hills and the temperature drops significantly. During the day it seldom gets above 77°F and at night rarely drops below 48°F. While all the locals were in mittens and scarves, we were commenting on how similar the temperatures felt to Bellingham on a warm summer night. It was so nice to escape the heat for a couple days.
There isn’t a whole lot to do in the Cameron Highlands if you don’t want to shop. If you do want to shop, there is a market every night that is jam packed with stalls selling everything you can possibly imagine. After living out of a backpack for more than a month now, none of us wanted to add anything more.
There are two major crops grown in the highlands – strawberries and tea. So, on our one day in town, we set out to find both. We hired a taxi for a few hours and went straight to breakfast at a strawberry farm. I had a strawberry muffin, strawberry pudding with fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream, and strawberry coffee – really a lot better tasting than it sounds. Does anyone remember Strawberry Shortcake cereal? It was a favorite of mine and the coffee sort of reminded me of the strawberry taste of that cereal… so sweet and yummy! The boys all had strawberry waffles or pancakes topped with ice cream and fresh strawberries and an accompanying strawberry drink. RJ and Ty both wanted to visit there again!
The farm grew a lot more than just strawberries. There were rows and rows of lettuce as well. Both strawberries and lettuce grew in raised hydroponic tubes. All plants were under a greenhouse and at night the hills were lit with grow lights. I am guessing that the climate in the highlands is well-suited to growing a variety of fruits and vegetables as there were vendors selling all kinds of things everywhere we went.
Next we were off to a tea plantation. We could smell tea in the air for most of the drive to the factory. It turns out that our taxi driver was born on the plantation and his father and grandfather had both worked there. He grew up on the plantation, attended school there, and knew just about everything there was to know about the tea growing, harvesting, and processing. He even got out of his taxi to give us a personal tour through the tea plant.
We had a much easier time getting out of the Cameron Highlands. The hotel manager, who was exceptionally helpful, knew the bus station manager and had the bus pick us up right form the hotel the next morning – no buses or taxis to worry about and he made sure that we got the most direct route to our next location!