Cameron Highlands is a highland region located about 20 km east of Ipoh and about 150 km north of Kuala Lumpur in Pahang, Malaysia. Cameron Highlands is a beautiful holiday destination and the only place where you can find tea plantations and strawberries in Peninsular Malaysia. At 5,000 ft (1,500 m) above sea level it is the highest area on the mainland, and enjoys a cool climate, with temperatures no higher than 25 °C and rarely falling below 12 °C year round. Actually, Cameron Highlands is a district in the state of Pahang Darul Makmur although the road entrance is via Tapah and Simpang Pulai in the state of Perak Darul Ridzuan. The size of the whole Cameron Highlands district is roughly as big as two and a quarter Singapore.
Much of the character of the highlands remains unchanged since colonial times. It is endearingly known to some as the ‘little corner of England in Asia’. The cool climate on the picturesque plateau and its surrounding hills and forest make this a popular retreat for golfing, jungle trekking and exploration of the many plantations and gardens. It has become a very popular resort among Malaysians and overseas tourist as well.
Cameron Highlands was found in 1885 by William Cameron which was eventually have the area named in his honour. William Cameron, a British colonial government surveyor, accompanied by his companion, Kulop Riau, went on a mapping expedition of the Titiwangsa Range. In the expedition, they used elephants to carry them for months in a journey to explore the Titiwangsa Range. They started their adventurous tour from Tanjung Rambutan and started to trace the Kinta River to its origin. They then went through the Titiwangsa Range in a south – easterly direction.
Not long after that, they stood on the summit of Mount Pondok Challi. Cameron reported that he saw a plateau, of an elevation of 4,400 to 4,500ft, at an altitude of ~6000ft (1,800m) above sea-level and the temperature falls between 8°C and 25°C. But Cameron failed to mark his find on the map. In the 1920s, the location of the plateau was finally confirmed by a consensus of reports from subsequent expeditions. That’s how Cameron Highlands was discovered. It was not fully developed until 1925 that it was then proposed by Sir George Maxwell as a hill resort.
The fame of Cameron Highlands then grew during the colonial era when British planters realised the potential of its fertile mountain slopes for growing tea, then a prized commodity. In 1929, John Archibald Russell, who was the son of a British administrative officer started a tea plantation which is now the famous Boh Tea Plantation. The Cameron Highlands are still home to many tea plantations, being Malaysia’s largest tea-producing region. The area is also known as a major supplier of legumes and vegetables to both Malaysia and Singapore with its many farms, and is one of Malaysia’s prime tourist destinations.
During the colonial era, Cameron Highlands mountain resort was a haven for the British who were stationed in Malaya. It provided relief from the hot and humid tropical climate. With its temperate climate, a number of them decided to make it their retirement home, setting up bungalows and mansions.
Days are spent pruning roses, tending to strawberries, sipping English tea, and of course for a little more social mingling, they would head over to Mr. Foster’s Tudor styled Smokehouse.
The British military had a large presence in Tanah Rata. There was of course the Emergency period during the 1960s which the rag tag communist army tried to destabilize and take over the country. By 1971, the British Army former military hospital has now become a Roman Catholic convent. It still stands on the hill overlooking the main street.
If you think the present 60km of twisting road leading from Tapah is difficult to negotiate, imagine how the pioneers of yester-years carve up the road by using only oxcarts in the 1930s!
From the historical points of view, here are some of the many events that had taken place from its humble beginnings in Cameron Highlands.
From 1896-1902, the narrow path to the Highlands was widened and improved. Meanwhile further surveys were carried out to identify the actual plateau of this area. In 1925, Sir George Maxwell visited the highlands and decided the present Tanah Rata and Brinchang area would be developed into a Hill Station. Between 1926-1931, areas were zone accordingly reserving it for its various function such as Agriculture Department, Township, and Residential Sites, Areas of Service, National Park, General Administration and Recreational Areas.
After the Japanese occupation there was further interest to develop Cameron Highlands, but progress was hindered in the 1960s due to communist insurgency, a period know as the Emergency. When the fierce fightings were declared over, the Hill Station was carefully developed into a popular resort. Even now, much development is still in progress, though nowadays the development seem rather haphazard resulting in various enviromental damage.
Still without a doubt Cameron Highlands is still the most refreshing comparing against the other highlands around Malaysia.
Apart from the cool weather, key attractions in Cameron Highlands include:
- Agrotechnology Park
- BOH Tea Plantation
- Brinchang Hindu Temples
- Butterfly farm
- Butterfly garden
- Cactus Point
- Cactus Valley
- Flower Farm
- Golf Course
- Habu Bee Farm
- Honey Bee Apiary Farm
- Hot Spring
- Jungle Trekking
- Kampung Taman Sedia Homestay, Tanah Rata
- KasiManis Strawberry Farm
- Kuala Woh
- Lata Iskandar Waterfall
- Market Square
- Mountain Hiking
- MultiCrops Market
- Night Market
- Parit Falls
- Robinson Falls
- Rose Centre and Rose Valley
- Rose gardens
- Sam Poh chinese temple
- Strawberry farms
- Sungai Palas Tea Centre
- Taman Agro Tourism
- Taman Unc Sam
- Tea House
- The Smokehouse Hotel
- Time Tunnel
- Vegetable gardens
There are nine towns in the Cameron Highlands. Among others, Brinchang, Tanah Rata, Ringlet, Kampung Raja, Tringkap, Kea Farm, Bertam Valley, Kuala Terla and Blue Valley. Brinchang and Tanah Rata are famous for accommodations, food and facilities.
How to get there
You can either travel by car or by public transport to Cameron Highlands. If you are going to travel up there by car, you will have to take the North-South Expressway. From there, you may use the Tapah toll exit and then proceed via route 59 straight along the way to the highlands. Tapah toll exit is the main entry point to Cameron highland. From here, you will have to go through a long and meandering road, about 60 km up to the hill resort. It takes about 1 ½ hours. You will need to have enough rest and alertness when you are driving up to Cameron highlands. This is because there are numerous sharp turns and narrow bends along the way. But overall, it is a rather safe drive. If you are a first timer, no worries. There are plenty of signboards along the way. So even if you generally have no sense of direction, you will still find it difficult to get lost. If you use this way, you will pass by the Lata Kinjang waterfall. Peaceful and refreshing, the flowing sounds of the mountain streams will immediately relax you. You will be able to enjoy the mesmerizing view below the large stones. Besides that, there are many stalls selling a variety kind of stuff, from foods to souvenirs.
Besides the Tapah toll exit, there is a new way to get to Cameron highlands and that is the Simpang Pulai-Kampung Raja Highway. You can exit the expressway at Simpang Pulai, Ipoh and proceed via a new route 145 to Cameron Highlands along the way to the top. You can expect to reach the first town at the northern end, Kampung Raja, in approximately 1 hour. This new highway is a godsend for those who prefer a less-dizzying drive. This road is carved through solid granite mountains. It is linked up further to the east with Gua Musang in Kelantan. Therefore, if you are coming from Kuala Lumpur, you may skip the Tapah toll exit and look out for the Simpang Pulai exit. It is about 25 km ahead. After the toll, turn right at the first traffic light and after another 500 m, you will have to turn to right again at the traffic lights. When you reach the Blue Valley junction, about 55 km from Simpang Pulai, take a right turn and you will get to Kampung Raja. From there, there is only one way and it will lead you to Brinchang then to Tanah Rata. It takes about 75 km from the Simpang Pulai toll to reach Brinchang.
If you do not want to go after all those hassles of driving up to Cameron highlands, you can just take the public transport. The bus will take you directly up till the Tanah Rata bus station. There are daily buses to Cameron highlands operating from Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Local travel agents can also help check on the tour buses that are available from Singapore and Johor Bahru.