Category Archives: Personal

Pasar Seni Kuala Lumpur

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The Pasar Seni Station. Get off at this station to go to Pasar Seni. (@ all rights reserved)

Should one wants to go to Pasar Seni but is shy to ask for directions, just have a look at the Prasarana public transportation network for the Klang Valley, and you will find a station called Pasar Seni.

Not to complicate things, it is the next station after main station of KL Sentral.

And when you disembarked at the Pasar Seni station, located less than hundred (100) metres away is Pasar Seni itself, the tourist attraction that lends its name to the station.

The main entrance of the Pasar Seni or as it was known back then, Central Market. (@ all rights reserved)

Pasar Seni is loosely translated as (The) Cultural Market and first came into being as Central Market, back in 1888.

It houses outlets offering the best of local batik (printed and hand drawn), songket, local themed souvenirs, trinkets, and even jewellery and pearls.

But do not be surprised that Pasar Seni also houses second-hand book stores, traditional medicine outlets, mini galleries, as well as the usual complement of eateries.

The plaque tells the story. (@ all rights reserved)

But before Pasar Seni became Pasar Seni the Cultural Market, Pasar Seni was known as Central Market, the Wet Market.

An interesting and unique story in itself, one that the younger generation may have read about but did not have the opportunity to experience.

Central Market, as Pasar Seni was known then, was a wet market located in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

Inside Pasar Seni (@ all rights reserved)

Housewives and restaurant owners would often head there very early in the morning, in order to get or place orders for their daily or weekly supply of vegetables, fish, fresh meat and poultry, from the many and different stalls available at the Central Market.

Surprising? I mean, who would have thought that that would be the case, considering the volume of traffic in the areas surrounding today.

Browsing for favourite titles at the second-hand book store. (@ all rights reserved)

It is a fact that Kuala Lumpur has always been busy. It has never been known to sleep, even back then. But it was not as busy as it is today.

Back then people would still be able to take the bus and get off at the Old Klang Bus Terminal nearby before making their way to the Central Market for their daily shopping.

The saying that the early bird catches the best worm really applies as the early morning shoppers would get the best of whats on offer.

Merchandise for sale. (@ all rights reserved)

Business would start very early in the morning, so early that even the sun has yet to make its appearance on the horizon.

Suppliers and transporters from far and wide would park their lorries by the side of the Central Market to drop off their shipment of vegetables, fish, poultry, all fresh as they can be, whilst the stall owners make preparations for the start of the day’s business.

Potholes would litter the roads around the Central Market, despite it being filled as fast the then municipal council could possibly manage.

For convenience sake. (@ all rights reserved)

These shallow potholes would normally be filled with water most of the time, from the many shipments of fish and vegetables to the Central Market.

The Central Market’s place in the cultural and economic scene of Kuala Lumpur was so established that when it was announced that Central Market would be closed for refurbishment and later, to be reopened as Pasar Seni, with all economic activities to be relocated elsewhere, there was strong opposition to the proposed plan, so much so that even politicians entered the fray.

Painters in a row. (@ all rights reserved)

Today, what was known as Central Market has been fully transformed into Pasar Seni.

Economic activities still take place within the walls of Pasar Seni, but instead of fish, poultry and vegetables being the main items, the focus is now on the arts and culture.

A different type of business activity altogether compared to the days of the old Central Market.

Pasar Seni itself has been refurbished several times and is today known as one of the centres of tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur, so much so, on any given day, you will find tourists and locals hanging out in or around Pasar Seni.

The image looks familiar? (@ all rights reserved)

One of the key attractions of Pasar Seni is what I personally call the Painters’ Row.

It houses many a talented painter artist as well as a ‘mini studio’ cum gallery.

Painters’ Row is also where you can get a portrait of yourself done, be it from a chosen photograph or on the spot sketch.

It sometimes amazes me to see the results of these sketches, for they are very, very good indeed. Good enough, in fact, to have adorn some of the corporate board rooms and art galleries around Kuala Lumpur.

Outside the Pasar Seni. (@ all rights reserved)

A visit to Pasar Seni would not be complete, for me at least, if I did not sit myself at one of those eateries and help myself to a serving of local cakes and food.

It may not be as good as your mother’s or your wife’s cooking, but it is still good enough especially if it still has a semblance of the original taste and appearance.

A good and fitting way to end your visit to Pasar Seni, I would say.

 

Date : 25 July 2017

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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

A Labour of Love, Kellie’s Castle

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Kellie’s Castle. Also known as Kellie’s Folly. A labour of labour of one William Kellie Smith. (@ all rights reserved)

Kellie’s Castle, which is sometimes known as Kellie’s Folly, is located in Batu Gajah, Perak.

Easily visible from the main road, it is essentially a mansion and was, more likely than not, a labour of love of one William Kellie Smith (1870-1926), a Scot by descent and a planter by occupation.

The mansion was never finished, owing more, it is said, to the sudden death of William Kellie Smith, in 1926, of pneumonia when on a business trip to Portugal.

William Kellie Smith (1870-1926) @ all rights reserved

And upon his death, his wife, who was then in Malaya, decided to pack up and return to Britain with both their son and daughter, never to return.

The man whose name it is given to the castle, William Kellie Smith, was born in Kellas, Moray Firth, Scotland.

At a young age of 20, he made his way to the then colonial Malaya in 1890, to work as a civil engineer.

He, however, made his money from a business venture with another Briton, clearing about 9000 hectares of forest in Batu Gajah.

Kellie’s Castle, as seen from across the stream separating it from the main road. (@ all rights reserved)

With his share of the profits, he bought for himself 1000 acres of jungle, cleared it and started planting rubber trees.

In addition, his business venture also included tin mining, from which he then went on to own the Kinta Kellas Tin Dredging Company.

With his fortune made, he returned to Scotland and married his sweetheart, Agnes. After their marriage, he then brought his young bride, Agnes, with him to Malaya in 1903, and in the following year, their daughter, Helen, was born.

The corridors of the unfinished Kellie’s Castle. Sighting of the ole’man himself have been reported, pacing the corridors of his beloved castle. (@ all rights reserved)

By all accounts, he was a successful businessman. In 1915, a further addition to his family, his son, Anthony, was born.

It was then that he decided to embark on building Kellie’s Castle.

It was a grandiose plan, Kellie’s Castle. The design had Scottish, Moorish and Tamilvanan Indian influences and for the purpose of building his castle, he brought in 70 craftsmen as well as building materials from India.

So grand was the design that it included what would have been the first elevator in the then Malaya, a watch tower, indoor tennis court as well as a rooftop courtyard for entertaining guests.

The stairways of the castle. Sightings too have been reported. (@ all rights reserved)

Apparently, it seemed that construction of the castle was not smooth sailing.

It was reported to be disrupted several times, with issues with finance and also when a virulent strain of Spanish flu struck his workmen.

The latter was so disruptive that when his Indian craftsmen approached him to have a temple built as a means to seek the good graces and intervention of the gods to help ward off the disease, he readily agreed and funded the construction of the temple himself.

The rooftop courtyard, included in the design, to entertain guests. (@ all rights reserved)

In recognition of his deed, his workmen included his statue amongst the pantheon of deities placed on the wall of the temple, of which the statue can be seen still, to this day.

With the passing of William Kellie Smith in 1926 and the return of his wife, Agnes, with their daughter Helen and son Anthony to Scotland, work on the castle came to a halt.

A pity really, cos looking at what’s left of Kellie’s Castle today, it would have been a grand sight should it have been completed. Really a pity.

The designated living room. (@ all rights reserved)

When touring the ruins of Kellie’s Castle and reading the informative plaques placed strategically amongst the ruins that is Kellie’s Castle, one cannot shake off the spooky and uneasy feeling of being watched even in the heat of day.

And no wonder. Over the years, Kellie’s Castle has gained a reputation of being haunted with sightings of the man himself been reported, walking the corridors of the castle as well as at strategic locations of the ruins.

The alcove at the designated prayer room. (@ all rights reserved)

The grounds of the castle itself is quite expansive and complements the castle.

And as earlier mentioned, had the construction of the castle be completed, it would have made for a grand sight.

A really grand sight. But as fate would have it, it was not meant to be.

The Tower of Kellie’s Castle (@ all rights reserved)

Today, Kellie’s Castle is maintained as a tourist attraction, primarily for what it could have been ie a fine stately home, built sometime in the colonial era.

Not only is it maintained as a tourist attraction, it has also been used as a setting for movies like Anna & The King (1999) and Skyline Cruisers (2000).

But it also has an added attraction and it is one that not many people will talk about BUT privately acknowledge. It has been claimed, as earlier mentioned, that the castle is haunted, with the man himself seen to be walking down the corridors of the castle.

Informative plaques placed strategically around the castle. (@ all rights reserved)

It may be true and it may not be true, but if you can feel the hairs down your spine standing up, even in broad daylight, then there may be some truth in it.

But as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Visit Kellie’s Castle yourself, tour the ruins and walk down the corridors of the castle and you decide.

As for us, it will probably be quite a while before we made another visit to Kellie’s Castle. If ever.

 

Date : 6 July 2017

Discovering Cameron Highlands : Ye Olde Smokehouse

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 : Lata Iskandar Revisited

The cascading waterfalls of Lata Iskandar. (@ all rights reserved)

Lata Iskandar is not really a town. To describe it as such would not do justice to the word.

A settlement perhaps? Maybe, if you could call a few shops selling drinks, snacks and souvenirs either side of the narrow road that.

The cool waters of Lata Iskandar. A dip of the toe into the cold rushing water will definitely jolt you back to life. (@ all rights reserved)

But nevertheless, whatever you may call it, from the moment I first laid my eyes on the cascading waterfalls of Lata Iskandar, I was captivated.

Something about the image in front of my eyes, the sight of water cascading down a face of solid rock, tug at the heartstrings, making you slowly melt, just like the cascading waters slowly smoothening the rough edges of the rocks.

The X factor, some might say.

Lata Iskandar – cool and serene. (@ all rights reserved)

The feel of cold water stinging the tip of your toes when you dip your feet in the pool brings you back to reality fast, but not so much as a splash or splashes of cold mountain water to your face. To say its ice-cold would not be far off. Bbbrrrrrrrrr!!!

After a few splashes, you feel the pores of your face closing up and your skin tightens up with the crevices on your face all but disappear, making you feel young and new again.

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

The air is fresh and crisp especially when you get closer and closer to the cascading waters of Lata Iskandar. A lungful of clean and fresh air feels odd at first, so long having had not-so-clean air in them lungs.

But after a few deep breaths, it feels good. Really good.

It’s not so often that you come across images that captivates and triggers your imagination, so much so that you just have to reach for either your camera or your mobile phone and snap away.

Shop selling trinkets, souvenirs and products of the forest. (@ all rights reserved)

In the process, you pretend that you are one of them world-famous photographers, in a quest to capture that one moment frozen in time when all that’s in play just happen to be at the right place at the right time. Magic that!

And when faced with that one moment, frozen in time and all laid in front of you, just for you to snap away, you do feel as if you are as good as them professional photographers.

Forest products on sale. These products are normally used for medicinal purposes. (@ all rights reserved)

It warms your heart to see the results of your efforts and though you know deep in your heart that you can never compete with them pros, the images that you captured are good enough. For the moment, that is.

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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)

After all, every picture tells its own story, and YOUR picture tells the world YOUR story.

I do not know when I will pass this way again. Maybe never.

But for one thing for sure, the memories of Lata Iskandar and its cascading waterfalls will always be there.

And fond memories they will be.

 

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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