Category Archives: Pahang

When Things Go Bump In The Night

Tanah Rata, after the rain. The mist enveloping the small town does lend a eerie atmosphere. (@ all rights reserved)

Hand on heart, we will all admit to being travel enthusiasts.

As we travel far and further afield, whether it is within the borders of our own country or to visit the land of others, we develop talents that only seasoned travellers have, like how to plan and put together the best travel arrangements that we possibly can on our limited budgets and how to respond to the unexpected.

Many of us have would also have adapted to the many demands that travelling, whether for business or for leisure, and whether it’s on a limited budget or otherwise, requires.

But things can still go wrong and do go wrong, in compliance to Murphy’s Law and normally when you least expect it too. When it does, most often than not, due to the experience accumulated from our travels, we are able to adapt.

In most cases, admirably and with thanks, in no small measure, to the kind heartedness of the locals as well as a prayer or two.

But there are situations that are not only beyond our control but beyond anybody’s. Especially when it is not of this realm. And for that, you need a special kind of skill set.

Streets of Tanah Rata (@ all rights reserved)

I consider myself lucky that, most often than not, I do get ‘good and clean’ (in both senses of the word) hotel rooms.

But there have been times that as I am about to enter a room, I get that ‘hairs on arms standing’ feeling. More times than I care to remember, actually.

Normally, after observing certain rituals or procedures that I have been taught over the years, I do get a peaceful night’s sleep.

It’s even better when you are already exhausted and the lights go out on you the moment you place your head on the pillow, only to wake up early the next day with the lights and yesterday’s clothes still on.

That’s not so bad as when you experience ‘the hairs on your back stand’ situations. Sad to say, that too has happened to me a few times as well.

Whenever I experience these kind of situations, I have been known to check out straightaway as I did at a hotel on Penang Island, in Kota Bharu and in Port Dickson.

Talk about instant checkout. And looking at the expressions on the faces at the reception desk when you return the room keys, they pretty much have an idea why you checked out in such a hurried manner.

There has however been occasions when these ‘hair standing on back’ occasions manifested themselves, few and far in between they may be.

One of the most recent ones was during our trip to Cameron Highlands. To say that it was creepy is an understatement.

My wife and I were booked in for 3 nights and looking back, the first night itself should have served as an indicator of things to come.

As we remarked many times to friends, the hotel was first-rate, the room large and expansive, the bed was extra-large (like, there was no foreseeable way you could sleep-roll off the bed), the pillows were very, very comfortable, the shower and the toilet worked well and there was a mini bar and mini fridge.

The latter being ideal for us, allowing us to stock up with our favourite drinks.

Cameron Highlands, a small town steeped with the history of colonial times. (@ all rights reserved)

My wife did however remarked that it felt cold in the room. As we were up in the highlands and that it was raining when we arrived at the resort, we did not think too much of it even though there was no air conditioning unit in the room.

In fact, the sight of no air conditioning in the room seemed a novelty to us lowlands dwellers, where a bright and sunny day means it’s a hot day.

As we were already tired from the day’s travelling, we got settled in, went for an early dinner and upon returning to the resort, went to bed early.

The morning after, over breakfast, my wife complained of a splitting headache as she did not get a good night’s sleep. Again, we did not think too much of it, being newbies in Tanah Rata, as we were.

We went on our planned itinerary for the day, after which, since as we had no plans to go out for dinner, bought some snacks and drinks before returning to the resort.

Settled in for the night, watched TV (same as in most hotels we stayed in, here was not much on offer. Must have got a bum deal, these hotels.) and without knowing it, we were out for the night.

Until the telephone call.

It was 2 in the morning when the phone rang. It did struck me as odd that my wife did not pick up the phone despite the phone being on her side of the bed.

It struck me as even weirder that she asked me not to pick up the phone when I walked over to her side of the bed to pick up the call. I mean, it could have been the front desk.

Upon answering the phone, there was nothing at the other end. More like it was just a vacuum. Thinking that there might be a bad connection on the other end, thought nothing of it and went back to sleep.

It did not take long before the phone rang again, and this time before I could answer, the ringing stopped.

At my wife’s behest, we changed sides and continued with our sleep. Or tried to.

Everybody knows of the saying that you always save the best for last. They or whoever they may be, must have known that particular saying, for they did save their ‘best’ for our last night at the resort.

Apparently, the magical hour seems to be 2am, there or thereabouts. And this time, we were rudely awaken and I do mean rudely.

Insistent hard knocks on the door, coupled with the incessant ringing of the door bell and someone trying hard to open the door were the order of the day. Or is it ‘order of the night’?

As I rushed to the door, thinking that it might be an emergency of some kind, my wife pleaded with me not to open the door. And somehow, I complied.

The same happened within five minutes or so and this time, we called reception to send security up to check. Needless to say, we barely had a wink after that and only fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion.

We had planned for a late check out but after the night’s events, we decided to check out as soon as we had breakfast.

Looking up from the bottom of the valley. (@ all rights reserved).

On the way to breakfast, we checked with the front desk and inquired as to the night’s events.

The words were comforting but we did notice glances being exchanged between staff at the front desks.

After breakfast, we decided to take the bull by the horns and leaned on strongly at the staff at the front desk.

And this time, the beans were spilled, with the staff being surprised that it was our room that was ‘disturbed’, as the norm would be a room a few doors away.

As I returned to the room with a concierge to collect our belongings, my wife stayed behind at the front desk. Tired, weary, and wary, I guess.

It was only after we checked out that my wife mentioned that she insisted at having a look at the CCTV recording of the corridor outside our room. What she recounted made the hairs on my back, never mind my arms, stand.

Recordings of the CCTV showed absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing. For an hour on both sides of the time it happened, absolutely nothing. Which gives credence to the report from the security personnel.

We had looked forward to a ‘happening’ holiday. Well, we got more than we bargained for. Well, next time we go up to Cameron Highlands (if we ever that is), we might even go back to the resort where we stayed. With the knowledge that we have now, we’ll know which floor to stay this time.

Trouble is, ‘they’ might still remember us and come a visiting. Would not that be a bummer?

 

Date : 18 July 2017

Advertisements

Discovering Cameron Highlands : Ye Olde Smokehouse

IMG_20170429_150357
Ye Olde Smokehouse (@ all rights reserved)

Over the years, I came across newspaper articles (before the explosion that is the Age of Digital that is) which tells of places of interest located within the district of Cameron Highlands.

All of them were written by they who have had the good luck to have travelled to Cameron Highlands and enjoyed what Cameron Highlands has to offer.

IMG_20170429_150436
View of Ye Olde Smokehouse, as viewed from the car park across the road. (@ all rights reserved)

A few of them articles remained stuck in my mind. One of them, should ever I find myself in Cameron Highlands, or at Tanah Rata to be exact, was to dine at Ye Olde Smokehouse.

The articles that I read described Ye Olde Smokehouse as an old house, built sometime in the colonial era, with a fantastic ambience, a place to sleep and good food to boot.

For me, the good food is of course an attraction. That and the ambience but a stay at an old house built-in the colonial era? Mmmmm.

IMG_20170429_150124
A corner of Ye Olde Smokehouse. (@ all rights reserved)

The reviews, over the years since the day I chance upon that article, had been consistently good, and since I am, at present, in Cameron Highlands, so to Ye Olde Smoke House it is then.

We found Ye Olde Smokehouse in good time. This, despite it being off the main road and hidden from view behind some hedges.

I mean, given the proper landmarks and a bit of old school navigation, you‘ll get there. That plus a signboard or two.

And ‘good time’ means just before the drumbeats in the bellies gets any louder, to the point that dining anywhere will do. Just to quieten them drumbeats.

IMG_20170429_133145
Garden dining at Ye Olde Smokehouse. (@ all rights reserved)

As we had spent some time visiting the MARDI Agrotechnology Park and Cameron Valley (for the second time) earlier, we had built up quite an appetite, with the thought of having them satisfied at Ye Olde Smokehouse.

Ye Olde Smokehouse has its own car park, separated from the establishment by a small and narrow road. Although the word ‘lane’ would be more apt. But then again, it’s all semantics.

Lane or road, it’s quite convenient that, the car park that is. As we made our way from the car park into Ye Olde Smokehouse, its like being walking into one of those taverns usually found in the countryside of the United Kingdom or even mainland Europe.

IMG_20170429_135323
The dining area, adjoining the waiting area cum lounge. (@ all rights reserved)

No prior reservation to dine here is required, as told to us by the member of the staff.

Very convenient that, especially when you are one of them who likes to do things spontaneously.

Like us.

Of course, there is some waiting time but when you are getting comfortable in the lounge and taking in the atmosphere that is the Ye Olde Smokehouse, it does not seem like waiting at all.

Attended to by one of the waiters, we placed our order and waited the lounge, whilst availing ourselves to the comfort that it offered.

There is always the garden, should you feel like stretching them legs. Especially when you have been driving for quite a bit.

IMG_20170429_135452
Fish & chips and lamb cutlets – late lunch at Ye Olde Smokehouse. (@ all rights reserved)

As for me, I am always partial to a well laid and well maintained garden and I must admit, the garden at Ye Olde Smokehouse is a garden that I would be partial to.

Nestled in the garden were also few tables to cater to those who would prefer to do their dining there instead of the dining area.

On a sunny day, as today was, that would be very inviting. Especially up here in the highlands, a sunny day does not necessarily mean it’s a hot day.

It was not long before we were led into the dining area and yes, definitely, its like dining in a tavern. Led to our table, our orders were brought over by the waiter who happens to be a matured gentleman.

IMG_20170429_133037
Tables nestled in the gardens of Ye Olde Smokehouse. (@ all rights reserved)

It was noticeable that almost all the staff that we met were matured, in their fifties and sixties.

The way they handled the guests, with quiet dignity and polite deference, tells you that these are a cultured lot with loads of experience, wise to the ways of its guests and I’ll bet you, lots of interesting stories to tell.

Dining at Ye Olde Smokehouse is an experience. A delightful experience at that, and one to enjoy and savour.

It has to be said, as it’s not often that we get to travel to Cameron Highlands, what more to dine at Ye Olde Smokehouse.

IMG_20170429_133343
Paved walkways in the garden. (@ all rights reserved)

After a delightful Western meal complemented with coffee and desserts, we made our way to the gardens to relax and enjoy what it, in turn, has to offer.

If I were a cigar aficionado, I’ll most probably have a cigar and coffee at one of the tables found in the gardens. It’s that inviting and relaxing.

That I’d imagine would be another delightful experience, one more to add to the growing list of delightful experiences gathered during this trip to Cameron Highlands.

Next trip to Tanah Rata, most likely than not, its Ye Olde Smokehouse again for us. Maybe this time, we’ll have scones, homemade jam and butter with tea in the gardens.

Now that would be another delightful experience, would it not?

 

Date : 12 June 2017

Discovering Cameron Highlands : The Barracks

IMG_20170428_173242
The Barracks of Tanah Rata. (@ all rights reserved)

The Barracks is not the name of the local army camp but rather the name of this delightful bistro / café in Tanah Rata, the exact location initially being difficult to locate for this newbie in town.

Being a newbie, getting to The Barracks by a car can be quite trying. But then again, I did say I was a newbie to Tanah Rata and therefore, my inability to get about town does not count.

The Barracks - Garden Dining in Tanah Rata (@ all rights reserved)
The Barracks – Garden Dining in Tanah Rata (@ all rights reserved)

We got to The Barracks by foot instead, many thanks to my better half who had done some study of places to visit and places to dine.

Walking about town that is Tanah Rata, in all its misty glory, many thanks to the rain that fell just prior, we were suddenly caught in the second coming of rain.

And I don’t mean that Korean male singer cum actor, damn fine artiste he might be.

Luckily for us, we were already nearby The Barracks and fitted with our cheap and easily available but very colourful rain coats (so colourful that you can’t miss us), we found our way to The Barracks in good time.

IMG_20170428_165835
An ambience of a summer garden, for diners to enjoy. (@ all rights reserved)

A combination of the rain, the weather and the rhythmic drumbeats of the increasingly empty and gastric-induced tummies, made the first item on the agenda being to get some hot good food in our bellies.

The place looks very nice, with an ambience suggesting a cosy place to have a private meal for two, with the choice of either having your meal in the ‘garden’ or in the ‘barracks’.

Both options looked good, but for us, the ‘garden’ won. Wonder why.

Having seated ourselves and making ourselves comfortable, a look at the menu tells us that we have the option to go east or to go west. Good that.

IMG_20170428_171449
Hot meal on a cool day. Good tidings for an empty stomach. (@ all rights reserved)

There are times when I have this craving for fish and chips or sometimes, even a steak or lamb cutlets.

And today was no different.

But having gone through the menu, ever the Asian, I opted for a safe dish of rice and mutton curry, whilst my wife, my better half, went for something hot and something soupy.

Having placed our order, we began to size the place up. The ‘garden’ was never in any doubt and so, we ventured into the ‘barracks’ and see the place which gave the eatery its name.

Framed pictures of Cameron Highlands’ past lined the inside of the barrack. Makes for interesting reading, if you are into history. (@ all rights reserved)

Inside the warm and comfortable barracks, we noticed that the walls of the ‘barracks’ were lined with framed photos of days past.

The framed pictures were showing signs of age, some yellow in colour, whilst some in black and white, but all of which told of Tanah Rata’s history, of days past leading up to the present, before Independence and after Independence.

It was evident, from the framed pictures on show, Tanah Rata has an interesting history. Not surprising that.

The Barracks is not only known for its menu, it seems, but apparently for its ambience and its ‘garden’ as well.

The creative use of lighting combined with nature makes for a comforting ambience. (@ all rights reserved)

Orchids seems to be the main attraction, and I guess, being located up in the highlands, it should not be a surprise.

A visit to The Barracks should be on the itinerary whenever and should ever one visit Tanah Rata.

With an ambience like what The Barracks offer, it makes for a memorable experience, senses-wise and gastronomy-wise, whilst having your steak or a soup-in-a-bun or even your safe dish of rice with mutton curry (tasty that!).

Believe you me, it’s definitely worth the visit.

 

Date : 6 June 2017

Discovering Cameron Highlands : Sungei Palas BOH Tea Plantation

IMG_20170430_131111
Welcome to the BOH Tea Centre Sg Palas. (@ all rights reserved)

No visit to Cameron Highlands would be complete without a visit to the tea plantations of Cameron Valley and Sungei Palas (or more popularly referred to as Sg Palas).

For the uninitiated, Cameron Valley is the tea plantation belonging to the Bharat Family while the Sg Palas tea plantation is that of the ‘BOH’ brand.

IMG_20170430_112734
Making our way from the parking area to the tea centre. A walk past plots of tea shrubs. (@ all rights reserved)

Having visited Cameron Valley, one could not be faulted in thinking that a visit to the Sg Palas ‘BOH’ tea plantation would be no different from that of Cameron Valley.

As I rather enjoyed our visit to Cameron Valley, I must admit, I was pretty excited at the prospect of visiting the Sg Palas BOH tea plantation. Especially when the BOH brand is rather a favourite of mine.

And so we made our way to the Sg Palas tea plantation, and to get to the Sg Palas tea plantation, we had to make our way to Brinchang and from there, make our way to the plantation located not that far away.

The journey to the plantation itself was quite eventful as we had to, first, endure the Brinchang ‘ traffic jam’ and then later, the Sg Palas ‘traffic jam’, as we made our way to the plantation.

IMG_20170430_113648
Tea shrubs of BOH’s Sg Palas tea plantation. (@ all rights reserved)

The Brinchang ‘traffic jam’ was due to an ongoing experiment to try out a new traffic plan as the previous traffic arrangements were given a royal thumbs down, with what was described as ‘rather haphazard’.

Understandable that. The ‘traffic jam’, that is.

But the Sg Palas ‘traffic jam’ is something else. A tarred road, two lanes : one going in and one going out. One siding the sides of the hill and the other, with the slopes of the hill covered with dense foliage as a sidedrop. Ok if traffic is just sedans and compacts.

But holiday seekers travel in all shapes and form of vehicles.Some travel in their sedans, some travel in their SUVs, and some make the journey in a travel coach. So the name of the game is patience (lots of it!) and a give-and-take (lots of it too!).

IMG_20170430_113923
Visitors to the BOH Sg Palas visitors’ centre can gather knowledge from the many information boards lining the corridors. (@ all rights reserved)

The appearance of the local police directing traffic indicated that we were already nearing the plantation. And before long, having parked our car, we were making our way to the Sg Palas Visitor’s Centre, and passing several plots of tea shrubs along the way to the main station.

From arriving at the Sg Palas Visitor’s Centre, from where we were standing, we noted that the centre is made up of a cafeteria, the BOH tea shop, information centre and a tea factory.

Having noted all that, the first order of business was to get a drink at the cafeteria and maybe, just maybe, some scones with butter and jam (strawberry of course!) and enjoy the view from the viewing deck.

But lo and behold, the sight of the long queue and the cafeteria jam-packed with visitors, laid waste our plans. Must have been due to the long weekend holiday that.

So we opted for a long cool drink of one of those tea concoctions (tea with mango and peach respectively, to be exact) instead. To go, of course and minus the scones and the butter and the jam (strawberry, but of course!).

Since we could not avail ourselves of a table, never you mind a table with a view of the plantation itself, drinks in hand, we made our way to the Tea Shop.

IMG_20170430_121433
The Tea Shop – especially for tea connoiseurs of the BOH brand. (@ all rights reserved)

The Tea Shop is a tea connoisseur’s heaven of the BOH brand. The varieties of tea to choose from, some of which I did not even know existed.

Whats even more surprising, they have been around more than for a few years. But then again, that’s me.

Going through the process of what tea to buy can be a tedious affair, as I found out to my amazement. My better half however is more of a tea drinker than I am, and so the choices of tea to buy was left to her. Good decision that, I thought.

Having bought and paid for our selection of tea, we then made a beeline for the tea processing factory. The highlight of the visit, for me at least.

The tea processing facility was opened in 1935 and was reopened in 1972. Why and when it was closed, we could not find any answers to that. For now, that is.

IMG_20170430_125305
The board says it all. (@ all rights reserved)

Apparently, the whole process of making tea is made up of harvesting (or plucking), withering, rolling, fermentation, drying, sorting, tasting, and packing. Quite simple and logical really, come to think of it.

But to witness the processes being played out is quite a thrill, nerd that I am. It was wondrous to note that some of the machines, like that used in the rolling process, dated back to 1935. And what makes it even more wondrous is that those machines are still in use in 2017. A rarity that.

I also noted that the employees manning the tea processing facility tend to be quite matured. Long term employees, most likely. And with their wealth of experience, it does make sense.

Having been in and out of the processing facility, we wandered around the grounds of the Visitor’s Centre, snapping moments in time, not knowing when we’ll be back this way again.

IMG_20170430_125545
The rolling machines from 1935. In good operating condition. (@ all rights reserved)

It was not long after that we took leave of the Sg Palas BOH tea plantation, to make our way back to our accommodation at Tanah Rata.

The journey out was as eventful as the journey in, negotiating bends and incoming traffic at the same time.

But as the journey in, patience (lots of it) and a give-and-take attitude, will soon get you back, all in one piece.

It was as good that, the visit to Sg Palas, as the visit to Cameron Valley was. For different reasons, it must be stressed though.

IMG_20170430_124551
Sack loads of shredded tea leaves loaded onto the conveyor for drying. (@ all rights reserved)

However, the sight of vast ranges of tea shrubs, ready for plucking, does bring back reality to mind and that being the shrubs represents one of the biggest money earners for the local and national economy, with its products marketed not only locally but also in international markets.

And for BOH, it’s all down to that one man, J A Russel, who in 1929, established the BOH tea plantations despite the onset of the Great Depression. Fancy that.

But whatever and however one looks at it, one thing is for sure. Drinking tea, for me at least, will be never be the same again.

 

Date : 1 June 2017

Discovering Cameron Highlands : Cameron Valley

Welcome to Cameron Valley. (@ all rights reserved)

No visit to Cameron Highlands would be complete without a visit to the tea plantations of Cameron Valley and of Sg Palas. One belong to the Bharat family while the other is a member of the ‘BOH’ stable.

The tea plantations and the strawberry farms, that is.

I must admit, I was pretty excited at the prospect of visiting Cameron Valley and Sg Palas, and seeing, at close quarters, the very tea plantations that I have read and heard a lot of.

Furthermore, it’s not everyday that you can visit tea plantations especially when these tea plantations are mainly located up in the highlands.

We actually visited the Cameron Valley twice.

Why?

The story of how Cameron Valley came about and the people behind the establishment of Cameron Valley. (@ all rights reserved)

The first visit was when we were making our way to check in our hotel at Tanah Rata and upon noticing that we had more than enough time to make it to Tanah Rata, we stopped by Cameron Valley.

Parking was not that easy as the parking lot by the entrance was quite limited. Well, we thought that entrance was the main entrance, only to learn later that the main entrance was further up the road.

Alighting from the car, the air was cool and there was a very light drizzle.

Up close to the tea shrubs. Tea shrubs all around. (@ all rights reserved)

Walking around past the entrance, amongst the facilities were a cafeteria (with a view of hills of Cameron Valley entirely covered with tea shrubs, and you know what that means!), rest rooms (served with fresh ice-cold water!) and at the ready for visitors were transportation to the very bosom of the plantation.

But we were not that lucky as all available spaces on the remaining available transportation have all been booked up by the earlier visitors. We would have loved to be able to get a ride down to the very bosom of the tea plantation, which from where we were viewing, offers a hint of a small mini waterfall. Or so we thought.

View from the viewing area. Tea shrubs as far as the eye can see. (@ all rights reserved)

Anyway, to drown our sorrow in missing out on the transportation, we made our way to the cafeteria with a viewing area, to take in the scenery, enjoy the cool air (made cooler by the slight drizzle) and comfort ourselves with a pot of hot tea (made from the very tea leaves of Cameron Valley, processed of course) as well as scones with butter and jam. Strawberry that is.

Some comforting that. Cameron’s finest, as they use to say.

Looking up from the bottom of the valley. (@ all rights reserved).

And after all the scones were gone and the tea savoured, we continued with our journey to Tanah Rata to check in the hotel that we have booked for the duration of our little Cameron Highland adventure.

But not before deciding to make a second trip to Cameron Valley the following day, to try to grab a ride down Cameron Valley and get to that little mini ‘waterfall’.

The next day, after our planned excursion to MARDI’s Research Station, we followed up on our planned follow-up trip to Cameron Valley.

As luck would have it, no luck still with the transportation to the bosom of the plantation. On the spur of the moment, we decided to walk down to the very spot that we were fixated on. I mean, we were fit and the air is fresh and a walk in a tea plantation can’t be that bad.

The ‘mini waterfall’ at the bottom of the valley. (@ all rights reserved)

Or so we thought.

The walk down was as what we expected. We also noticed rest stations, made up of stools and round table made of marble or concrete.

The air was fresh, and the bright sunlight made the walk down to the bosom of the plantation pleasant. We went to the object of our trip down and to say it was a mini ‘waterfall’ would not be a correct usage of the word ‘mini’, never mind ‘waterfall’.

But still, we enjoyed the view and before long, made our way back to the viewing area. Remember that we said that the walk down can’t be that bad? Yes, it was not bad at all. Pleasant actually. But the way back was something else entirely.

On the way back up, suddenly the presence of the rest stations made sense. It was an excruciatingly painful experience, walking all the way back up.

These rest stations were not placed there for show but to give us a chance to catch a breather and enjoy the scenery, whilst on the way up from the bottom of the valley. And mighty useful they are too. (@ all rights reserved)

The air may be fresh but since we were up in the highlands, the air was also thinner. And suddenly age was no more a number but a reality and our respect for the tea pickers immediately knew no bounds.

Making our back to the hotel, we reflected on our visits to Cameron Valley. It was a very pleasant and enriching experience, seeing where one of Man’s favourite and popular beverages originated from, the ‘walk’ up back to the viewing area notwithstanding.

Would not mind coming back here, whenever the opportunity presents itself. It’s rather contenting, having hot tea and scones, and at the same time, take in the view that is Cameron Valley.

And content is the word.

 

Date : 29 May 2017

Discovering Cameron Highlands : Tanah Rata

Welcome to Cameron Highlands. (@ all rights reserved)

It was raining when we arrived at Tanah Rata. And by the time we had checked in and refreshed ourselves, the rain had thankfully subsided.

Good timing that, for the drumbeaters in our individual and collective stomachs had begun to increase their tempo, every beat louder than the one before.

So, anticipating a very cool weather (due to the rain and it being how-many-thousand-metres (?) above sea level), we proceeded to venture out and explore Tanah Rata whilst searching for suitable places to pacify those drumbeaters.

And as the rain subsides, mist suddenly envelopes Tanah Rata (@ all rights reserved)

Casually but smartly dressed in our best autumn clothing (wink wink nudge nudge!), we walked around Tanah Rata, making a mental note of what’s there and where.

The first thing that we noted was that Tanah Rata may be a very small town, but the drivers and the bikers were all up there on par with their cousins from the big cities, when it comes to speed.

So a word of advice. Do look right and look left and look right again. Or is it the other way around?

And were they really going that fast? I mean, everything is relative, right. According to good ole Einstein, that is.

And if you can start thinking about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in good ole Tanah Rata where the pace of life is slow, I guess your batteries do need re-charging.

Venturing away from Einstein, halfway through our walkabout, the pleasantly cool (and damp) weather took a turn for the worse when the heavens decided that once is not enough.

Raining cats and dogs, this time, we took no chances. Rain coats or the flu, no prizes for guessing which option prevailed.

I guess this kind of abrupt weather changes must be a common thing up here in the highlands for raincoats can be had very cheap. And readily available, I might add.

Plaque to commemorate the local post office. Officiated in 1956, the post office is one of the few remaining that were opened prior to Independence in 1957. (@ all rights reserved)

Umbrellas too. Though that was not our choice of protection from the weather.

The far side of town, from where we were putting up for the duration of our stay in Tanah Rata, is mainly taken up by budget hotels and with it, a serious need for more parking space that side of town.

Especially for travel coaches, who do tend to hog most of the available spaces.

As it began to get dark, Tanah Rata began to take on this mysteriously eerie look about it, what with the mist coming in and all, enveloping the whole of Tanah Rata.

Walking about town, you don’t really actually realise it. But being first timers in Tanah Rata, cameras were always on the ready, even though it’s just a camera attached to a mobile phone.

And as you snapped away, the backdrop of mist slowly enveloping Tanah Rata does play a bit on an imaginative mind.

Ye Olde Smokehouse – a landmark of Tanah Rata, where many would make a beeline for. Even if just to have evening tea. (@ all rights reserved)

Strolling around, we came across a post office (the only one by the looks of it) with a very memorable piece of history of its own, and with a plaque to back it up.

The little unassuming post office was officiated on the 25th of June, 1956 by the then Chief Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman.

The Tunku (as he was affectionately known) later became the first Prime Minister of the Federated States of Malaya upon Independence on 31st August 1957 and later, of Malaysia as well, upon its formation together with Sabah and Sarawak.

The Barracks – dining in a garden. (@ all rights reserved)

A little piece of history that, for a small town the likes of Tanah Rata.

Throughout our stay at Tanah Rata, the little town does grow on you as each day passed by, and in saying that, we began to notice new things that had escaped our attention the first time round.

Far from the hustle and bustle of the city life, it has its little attractions (or should I say, distractions) to make a short-term stay for city folks like us, a welcomed break and an opportunity to recharge our batteries. Cool air and all that.

Streets of Tanah Rata (@ all rights reserved)

Longer stay? Short term, yes. Definitely.

Long term? Well, being used to a fast paced life in the city and despite what we say and despite the whining about the fumes and the traffic and the people losing their empathy for their fellow man, we think we like being city folks a little bit more.

That said, I guess Tanah Rata will be seeing us again in the future.

Even if it’s just for a short break and to recharge them batteries.

 

Date : 23 May 2017

 

Discovering Cameron Highlands

 

IMG_20170428_164338
Welcome to Cameron Highlands. (@ all rights reserved)

Cameron Highlands, consisting of the small towns of Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang, is a popular holiday destination for Malaysians.

Located up in the highlands that is part of the Banjaran Titiwangsa (or loosely translated as the Titiwangsa Range), it offers cool weather (still!), fresh air (still!) and a chance to try out your collection of ‘autumn clothing’ again. If it still fits, that is.

IMG_20170428_163238
The streets of Cameron Highlands. (@ all rights reserved)

All this despite the rapid development taking place, each at different stages of development, with a number of new hotels expected to open their doors to eager patrons later this year or early next year.

Having wanting to spend some quality time there, a look at the calendar tells us that the Labour Day weekend offered a great opportunity to finally make that long-awaited trip to Cameron Highlands, and discover what Cameron Highlands has to offer, most if not all.

Not wanting to be complacent about the whole thing and thus ending up disappointed, we made our hotel reservation three months in advance (ample time that, I should think), with special thanks to one of those hotel apps, we finally, and excitedly I should add, began our adventure trip to Cameron Highlands early morn of Friday, the 28th of April 2017.

IMG_20170428_152020
Entrance to Cameron Valley tea plantation. A must for connoisseurs of tea. (@ all rights reserved)

And we shall not be seeing the inside of our apartment in Cyberjaya til late in the night of the 2nd of May.

I did say it was an adventure trip and the last time we were on a trip this long, domestically, was back in 1997. And that was with three kids in tow.

This time round, it’s just the two of us. Finally, and with the blessings of our five sons, I might add.

A day or two prior, ever the prepared one, my better half informed me (she loves doing the planning, she does) that there are two ways of getting to our destination.

Option 1 would require us drive up the North South Expressway (NSE), exiting at Tapah and from thereon, take the trunk roads onwards to Cameron Highlands.

IMG_20170428_131933
The cascading waters of Lata Iskandar (@ all rights reserved)

Taking this option would see us coming across the cascading waterfalls of Lata Iskandar (again!), the small but busy town of Ringlet, as well as the famous Cameron Valley tea plantation of the Bharats, before finally checking into our reserved accommodations at Tanah Rata.

Option 2, on the other hand, would require us to exit the NSE via Simpang Pulai and from there on, drive up towards Brinchang and our hotel at Tanah Rata.

From all accounts, Option 1 was the better bet and so it was.

The planned itinerary for the 5-day 4-night adventure trip cum holiday was :-

Day 1 : Cyberjaya – Tapah – Ringlet – Tanah Rata

  • Re-visit the cascading waterfalls of Lata Iskandar, and
  • Visit the Bharat Family tea plantation at Cameron Valley,

before checking into the hotel.

IMG_20170428_165835
The Barracks (@ all rights reserved)

Day 2 : Tanah Rata

  • Visit the Mardi Agro Research Station, and
  • Lunch at the must-go Ye Olde Smokehouse.

Day 3 : Brinchang

  • Visit to the Sg Palas ‘BOH’ Tea Plantation.

Day 4 : Tanah Rata – Brinchang – Tringkap – Sg Terla – Simpang Pulai – Kuala Kangsar – Ipoh.

  • The banks of the Perak River at the Kuala Kangsar riverfront,
  • The famous pottery of Sayong, the Labu Sayong,
  • Bukit Chandan, and
  • The grounds of The Malay College Kuala Kangsar.

Day 5 : Ipoh – Batu Gajah – Cyberjaya

  • The famous (or is it infamous?) Kellie’s Castle at Batu Gajah.
IMG_20170429_133145
The gardens of Ye Olde Smokehouse. (@ all rights reserved)

This trip to discover Cameron Highlands not only provided us the opportunity to discover and explore the joys of Cameron Highlands, which thus far we have only seen in travel shows and magazines, but it also gave the both of us the opportunity to visit places that we have long wanted to visit or re-visit, for one reason or another.

When we finally made it home sweet home, we were not only happy but mightily relieved as well. This trip was more than what we bargained for, in more ways than one.

It also reaffirmed that our personal and collective ‘antennae’ is still as strong as before, and when something that does not sit right with you, the ‘antennae’ goes all twitchy and such.

But more of that later.

For the moment, the memories of our time in the highlands of Cameron still lingers : getting stuffed on scones and butter and punched drunk on tea at both Cameron Valley and the Sg Palas tea plantations (you wish!), having steak and lamb cutlets for lunch at Ye Olde Smokehouse, having tea at The Barracks at Tanah Rata, strolling around the small but misty town of Tanah Rata after heavy rain (reminds you of Ole Blighty in late autumn or early winter), navigating narrow and winding roads uphill (just to see tea shrubs as far as the eye can see, imagine that!) and re-discover the joys of designer coffee (after all that tea, it is a joy!) at the only designer coffee outlet in Tanah Rata.

IMG_20170429_135323
Dining at the Ye Olde Smokehouse. (@ all rights reserved)

Memorable, and at this age, it’s a blessing.

Going back any time soon? Most probably yes, and now that we know which block of rooms to avoid, much the wiser.

But then again, it’s still a lottery. After all, ‘they’ are known to wander.

 

Date : 20 May 2017

Off The Beaten Track – The Titiwangsa Range and Lata Iskandar

The Lake Gardens of Raub (@ all rights reserved)
The Lake Gardens of Raub (@ all rights reserved)

It’s not often that I would venture off the beaten track. My wife does it more often than I do. Between she and I, I think she’s more adventurous than I am.

But once in a while, I do get that itch to do just that – get off the beaten track and see what is there on offer.

As it happens, we were in this old gold mining town in Pahang called Raub.

The thing was that, we had to be in Alor Star (or Aloq Staq, in Kedah slang) by nightfall and the usual route would require us to get back to Kuala Lumpur and from there, get on the North South Expressway and make our way to Aloq Staq.

All in all an 8-9 hours journey. IF we are lucky.

The scenery changed from that of plantations, of rubber trees, of oil palms to that of the natural jungle, in all its majesty.
The scenery changed from that of plantations, of rubber trees, of oil palms to that of the natural jungle, in all its majesty. (@ all rights reserved)

Having discussed our options, we decided to take the route that we have heard of but never ever travelled on – from Raub to Kuala Lipis and onwards towards Cameron Highlands and joining the North South Expressway (NSE) at Tapah.

That would cut our travelling time by a good few hours or so.

At that time, I did not realise that the route that we were going to take essentially meant that we would be traversing the Titiwangsa Range, the range of highlands that formed the backbone of the Peninsular Malaysia, and nor did my wife deemed it necessary to tell me that.

As we drove past rustic laid back villages, we took it all in – the scenery, the greenery and the sights of houses dotting the road sides.

It was not long before the scenery changed from neat and orderly planted trees to what seemed totally haphazard, as we make our way up gradual inclines along those wide winding roads.

Dotting the Titiwangsa, ensuring power is distributed throughout the country. (@all rights reserved)
Dotting the Titiwangsa, ensuring power is distributed throughout the country. (@all rights reserved)

We saw the power grids that dotted the view and I wondered what feats of engineering and logistics it took to get those power grids up and running.

Seeing those power grids in the middle of the thick and dense jungle, in between highlands, and what other obstacles that I could not even imagine, it makes for an awesome sight.

It was not long before we saw civilization again. This time, the vegetable and flower farms of Bertam Valley (I think).

Vegetable farms can be seen almost on every piece of land available in Bertam Valley. (@ all rights reserved)
Vegetable farms can be seen almost on every piece of land available in Bertam Valley. (@ all rights reserved)

There was not one single slope that was free from this kind of farming.  And to think, there was a muddy landslide a few months back which took the lives of several people there. I guess, the money they were making must be too good for them to give it up.

From the covered slopes of Bertam Valley to the small town of Ringlet next. This may be a small town by Malaysian standards but it was buzzing. We wanted to stop and have a coffee and a meal but as we had a schedule to keep, and so onwards it was.

Rows of petai plucked from the jungle, better than the ones obtained near the fringes of the jungle. (@ all rights reserved)
Rows of ‘petai’ plucked from the jungle, better than the ones obtained near the fringes of the jungle. (@ all rights reserved)

The air had turned cold by this time which tells us we were way up in the highlands.

We saw villages of the local Orang Asli or the Indigenous people, and we stopped by one of them.

Why you might ask did we stopped here and not at Ringlet? It was the petai, I tell you. My wife saw the petai and she told me to stop.

And as I came to learn, petai sourced from the jungle is far better than the petai you source from the fringes of the jungle. And more difficult to come across.

And so we stopped, bought some petai and engaged in a little conversation with the local folks. The wealth of information these people have makes for an interesting conversation. Bidding adieu, we continued on and it was not long before we came across Lata Iskandar.

Lata Iskandar - a pitstop not to be missed. The natural beauty of Lata Iskandar with the sounds of water rushing downhill in the background, amidst the cool air of Lata Iskandar is a sight to take in and enjoyed. (@ all rights reserved)
Lata Iskandar – a pit stop not to be missed. The natural beauty of Lata Iskandar with the sounds of water rushing downhill in the background, amidst the cool air of Lata Iskandar is a sight to take in and enjoyed. (@ all rights reserved)

Lata Iskandar was a sight to behold.  In the cool air of the highlands was this ‘waterfall’, the sight of water rushing down the slopes utterly mesmerizing and just simply puts you totally at ease.

Parking is a problem here though. If you wrongly park your car, you will be blocking traffic and from what we witnessed, it could get very embarrassing should your car be the cause of all that honking.

So far Lata Iskandar has not lost that charm of a small settlement nestled up in the cool air of the highlands yet.

Make a pitstop and stretch those legs in the cool air of Lata Iskandar. (@ all rights reserved)
Make a pit stop and stretch those legs in the cool air of Lata Iskandar. (@ all rights reserved)

Because, mind you, tourism does have its drawbacks eg cleanliness being compromised, traffic and sound pollution, carbon emissions etc etc. But so far, touch wood, commercialism has not caught on yet in this part of the woods.

With Lata Iskandar, it meant that we were near to the Tapah gate on the North South Expressway (NSE). And true enough, we joined the NSE soon enough and it was not long after that we arrived in Aloq Staq, a good few hours ahead of time had we gone with the traditional route.

The COLD waters of Lata Iskandar. A dip of your feet will release all that weariness, once you can feel your legs again. (@ all rights reserved)
The COLD waters of Lata Iskandar. (@ all rights reserved)

To go off the beaten track and traverse the Titiwangsa Range, sight the vegetable and flower farms of the Bertam Valley, witness the hustle and bustle of that small town of Ringlet, enjoy the mesmerizing sight that is Lata Iskandar, all that made up for a very memorable drive off the beaten track. Makes me wonder though, when is the next one? As is, when is?

By the way, the petai WAS as good as they say it would be !!!!!

 

Date : 16 December 2016

Royal Pekan

I was in Pekan the other weekend with my wife and two of our boys. For the uninformed, the town of Pekan is the royal town of the State of Pahang Darul Makmur (loosely translated as Pahang, the State of Prosperity).

(source: travelmalaysiaguide.com)

Located where the River Pekan, a tributary of the larger Pahang River, meets the latter, it is about 50km (or circa 15 mins or so, depending on how you drive) from the state capital of Kuantan AND approximately a 4-hour drive from Johor Bahru (JB to you and me) via the coastal route of Kota Tinggi, Jemaluang, Mersing, Endau and Rompin (this depends very much on how you drive, of course and how many stopovers you make along the way).

(source : endemicguides.com)

The royal town of Pekan is said to have existed since the 17th century and is said to have been mentioned in the writings of several Arab and Chinese writers. However, no exact date as to its founding has been mentioned.

As for the name Pekan itself, it depends on which source is referred to. Some of the old folks say Pekan got its name from the Pekan flower, found in abundance growing wild by the banks of the Pahang River.

Another say it owes its name to the Pekan River whilst another say Pekan derives its name from the Sunday market ‘Pekan Sehari’ (loosely translated as Town for A Day), which I am told, still exists to this day.

The royal town of Pekan has a population of 120,000, as per 2006 census, and is residence of the royal family of the Malaysian state of Pahang Darul Makmur.

The reigning sovereign is HRH Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah ibni Almarhum Sultan Sir Abu Bakar Ri’ayatuddin Al-‘Muadzam Shah, who ascended the throne in 1974.

Pekan is also home to two Prime Ministers of Malaysia, the first being the 2nd Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak bin Dato’ Hussein with the second being the 6th and serving Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Seri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak (who also happen to be the eldest son of Tun Abdul Razak, and no, the position of Prime Minister of Malaysia is not hereditary).

It must be said that for most visitors to Pekan, Kuantan is the choice destination to put up for the night as Kuantan do not only offer more options in terms of suitable accommodation but also in terms of other recreational attractions eg shopping malls, the beach at Teluk Cempedak, fine dining etc etc etc.

The Inderapura Lake Resort, Pekan
@all rights reserved

But since we were going to be in Pekan strictly for family reasons, it was decided that we’d look for suitable accommodations in Pekan, if possible. Admittedly, it proved to be tough going as not many options were readily available but we finally decided to go with the Inderapura Lake Resort.

The Inderapura Lake Resort, Pekan
@all rights reserved

The Inderapura Lake Resort takes its name from that of old Pahang ie Inderapura.

From a simplistic point of view, the Inderapura Lake Resort is not what you would expect of a resort. It is not housed within a gated compound (as most resorts are), and it shares a connecting road with a go-cart circuit.

We were informed that the resort had just been taken over by another company, and hence, in all probability, changes will take place in the very near and foreseeable future.

The resort itself is well laid out with several buildings lining the lake and hence its description as a lake resort. Perhaps the resort is more apt to be termed as a lake-front resort instead of a lake resort.

A new spanking 5-star hotel is in the process of being built in Pekan. Facing the Pahang river, it is still work-in-progress but once work has finished, it is expected to do brisk business, I am told.

Industrial-wise, Royal Pekan is home to the manufacturing and assembly activities of the DRB-Hicom Group, a conglomerate listed on the Bursa Malaysia stock exchange. Even that internationally recognized marque, Mercedes Benz, get assembled here in Pekan. There is also a college for would-be automotive engineering personnel here in Pekan, complete with its own hostel, several stories high. In the foreseeable future, it would not be surprising to witness the defence equipment as well as the aeronautical industries actively setting up shop here.

Main Entrance to Istana Abu Bakar
@ all rights reserved

Pekan, as a royal town, has its fair share of touristic sites. To name but a few, there is the Istana Abu Bakar (the Abu Bakar Palace), the Royal Pahang Polo Club and its playing grounds, the Abu Bakar Museum, the Sultan Ahmad Shah AlHaj Mosque, the Royal Mausoleum, Galeri Pengangkutan Air (the Water Craft Gallery) and not forgetting, the Kampung Budaya Pulau Keladi (the Pulau Keladi Cultural Village).

Welcome to Pulau Keladi Cultural Village
@ all rights reserved

The Pulau Keladi Cultural Village offers a look at the house where the 2nd Prime Minister of Malaysia grew up in.

The house itself is simple in design and very functional, so much so that you cannot but be impressed with the simple surroundings that Tun Abdul Razak, a leader who is still highly regarded and respected til today, was raised in.

Inside Tun Razak’s Family Home
Pulau Keladi Cultural Village
@all rights reserved

Next to it is a replica of a traditional Rumah Pahang (loosely translated as Pahang House).

Typical of Malay houses of old, they were built high above ground and were also simple in design. Another housed exhibits depicting the life and times of Tun Abdul Razak, a history lesson by itself.

The Pulau Keladi Cultural Village also housed the Pahang Silk Weaving Center but unfortunately, the center was closed when we were there visiting.

Exhibits on Show at Tun Razak’s Family Home
Pulau Keladi Cultural Village
@ all rights reserved

Personally, I have heard of Kain Songket Pahang prior to this, and the center not only produces the famous Kain Songket Pahang but also has demonstrations on how to weave one.

With the center being closed this time round, another visit to the Pulau Keladi Cultural Village is in the cards.

The Sultan Ahmad Shah Mosque
Pekan, Pahang
@ all rights reserved

Not far from the Pulau Keladi Cultural Village is the Sultan Ahmad Shah Mosque.

The mosque itself was officially opened on October 22, 1976 by the reigning sovereign, HRH The Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah ibni Almarhum Sultan Sir Abu Bakar Ri’ayatuddin Al-‘Muadzam Shah.

Influenced by Moghul architecture and strategically located, it is a landmark not easily missed in Pekan.

Central to Royal Pekan are the palace grounds. The royal palace, Istana Abu Bakar and its grounds looked impressive from the outside, and adjacent to it lies the playing grounds of the Royal Pahang Polo Club.

The Royal Pahang Polo Club
@ all rights reserved

The Royal Pahang Polo Club was established in 1926 and from what I have heard and read about the game in Malaysia, the Royal Pahang Polo Club, besides that of the Royal Johor Polo Club, has quite an established name in the polo playing world.

I have never ever witnessed a game of polo before. From what little I have seen of it from tv and in Pretty Woman, its like playing hockey on horses. Hey, but then again, what do I know about polo.

The Sultan Abu Bakar Museum
Pekan, Pahang
(@all rights reserved)

The Muzium Sultan Abu Bakar (or The Sultan Abu Bakar Museum), is located near the banks of the River Pekan and was closed when we were in Pekan that weekend.

Apparently, the Muzium had been undergoing improvement works and was due to be re-opened during the forthcoming 82nd birthday celebrations of HRH The Sultan of Pahang.

The museum used to be the official residence of the British Resident, and was built in 1929. In 1948, the then Sultan of Pahang, HRH AlMarhum Sultan Sir Abu Bakar acquired it and renamed the residence, Istana Kota Beram (Kota Beram Palace). It was only in 1965 when HRH The Sultan of Pahang moved his official residence to a new palace, the present Istana Abu Bakar.

The Wooden Horses of The Sultan Abu Bakar Museum
@ all rights reserved

It would be interesting to go through the exhibits once the museum is re-opened to the public.

But for now, we had to make do with the exhibits readily on show on the grounds of the museum especially the exhibits of horses and cranes strategically placed on the museum’s grounds. Assembled from discarded pieces of wood, the artist showed ingenuity and creativity creating the models.

The Wooden Cranes of The Sultan Abu Bakar Museum
@ all rights reserved

Royal Pekan may not be able to offer what the state capital, Kuantan, can offer the out-of-town visitor, but what Royal Pekan can offer is an insight and glimpses into the history of the state of Pahang Darul Makmur.

If you are a history buff like myself, then a visit to Royal Pekan would prove fruitful and educational and dare I say it, fun as well.

 

Date : 27 October 2012