Dearest friends who have fond memories of the Highlands declare it’s been ruined by overdevelopment. I was told that the Sultan is building a “5-star” hotel, and shown the plot of land that has been cleared for (horrors) a mall. Some things I learnt this week especially from listening to local folk chatter:
- The weather is no longer what it used to be. Yes, it’s still cool, especially when compared to the rest of South Asia, but there was a time when you’d wake up to misty mornings.
- There is no protection of the forests, flora, fauna, nor the wildlife. This is the most heart-breaking bit of information I gathered. The highlands is still beautiful (to me). It is heart-wrenching to see it steadily ripped apart.
- Popular attractions here aside from the pull of the weather include the Boh Tea Plantation, Strawberry Farms, Flower Farms, Bee Farms, jungle walks, golfing, imbibing tea, steam-boat dinners, and if in need of nostalgia, the Time Tunnel Museum. I skipped the farms, the museum, meandered through the tea plantation, and then got very lucky with a real taste of local flavour, when invited over to friends’.
- There is quite a choice of accommodation available. But if your definition of 5-star Colonial-digs is The Raffles Hotel, or the Peninsular, you’ll need to bring along humour and manage expectations.
- While lacking in elegance and sophistication, the Cameron Highlands Resort delivered in spades with earnest service and excellent house-keeping. The floors were so well polished, my bed always meticulously made, and every staff member smiled my name.
- To get to Cameron Highlands from Singapore, I flew Firefly airlines to Ipoh (1 hr 20 mins), and then arranged for someone to drive me up the mountain range. The drive without traffic took 2 hours.
- Lastly, as a woman traveling alone, I found the Highlands to be friendly and welcoming. People seemed to watch out for each other, and quick to help. I was wolf-whistled at while walking along the freeway from Binchang town to my hotel, hit on by a boy (!) my daughter’s age (19) from Ottawa- but in no way felt endangered at any point in time. Having said that, please know that I once lived in NY and LA, I am not a damsel, and when necessary, emanate dragon-bitch energy.