2017 : The Trip That Was

 

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Ye Olde Smokehouse (nachmeinemeinung @ all rights reserved)

 

My wife and I travelled a fair bit in 2017, on business and for leisure.

Melaka, Cameron Highlands, Kuantan, Pekan and a host more. All domestic, none overseas. Sad to say and much to our regret.

Of all the trips that we made, the one that takes the cake has to be our trip to Cameron Highlands. Why, some of you might ask. No surprise there, the rest of you may say.

Without doubt, Cameron Highlands was very eventful. Not only was it a trip that both my wife and I had really looked forward to, but it was also a real getaway for us, for it has been quite a while since we had a decent break.

 

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ye Olde Smokehouse – Dining Area (nachmeinemeinung @ all rights reserved)

 

Starting off early, we manage to reach our destination in good time, despite the leisurely drive.

We checked into our hotel (the booking made several months earlier despite our trepidation about making travelling plans too far ahead in advance), proceeded to our room and found it to be more than adequately spacious.

The pillows and the mattress were very comfortable, making a good night’s sleep in a ‘foreign bed’ something to look forward to.

The bed was adequately large, large enough to make falling off the bed not feasible nor possible.

 

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The Barracks (nachmeinemeinung @ all rights reserved)

 

The bathroom may not be as ‘modern’ as some of the hotels we have stayed in during our travels but it was OK.

Hot water was available but no air-con. But then again, you do not need air-con up in the highlands. Or do you?

Beverages were on the standby, with mugs, an electric kettle and sachets of instant coffee, tea bags and sugar, brown and white, available should we need a hot drink in the comfort of our room.

No doubt, to be topped up in the morning when Housekeeping comes a calling.

A mini fridge was also available, which is essentially an invitation to stock up and stock up we did. After all, we are still young enough to remember and enjoy the joys of carbonated drinks as well as canned energy boosters.

 

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The Barracks – Inside Dining Area (nachmeinemeinung @ all rights reserved)

 

Having checked the room and the hotel out and finding it to our satisfaction, the next agenda was to set our plans into action.

The plan was simple : to dine in the colonial ambience that is Ye Olde Smokehouse, having hot tea and scones at The Bharat’s Cameron Valley (which we had ticked off the list on our way in to Tanah Rata), witness how tea was made at BOH’s Sg Palas tea plantation, have tea amongst the flora at The Barracks, and take a stroll amongst the flora at MARDI’s research station.

All that and to enjoy the cool fresh air. Nothing too taxing and nothing too tiring. Just the way I would like it, much to my wife’s chagrin. She leads a very energetic life, she does.

 

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Tea at The Barracks (nachmeinemeinung @ all rights reserved)

 

In all honesty, we would have loved to have include a round of golf at the local golf course, which apparently was just nearby to where we were staying, but then again, as we had left the clubs at home, we agreed to put it down for the next time we are in town. Huh!

Furthermore, to buy a new set just for a round of golf would not make sense, never mind wasteful. Ah well, you can’t have it all now, can you?

Day became night and night later turned to day. The plans we had carefully laid down was, one by one, ticked off our itinerary.

 

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

 

Ye Olde Smokehouse was delightful. The food was, as expected, superb, the ambience authentic, and the garden well maintained.

So was The Barracks. It is really a relaxing experience, dining amidst the colourful flora, and in cool weather, to boot.

I guess the experiences themselves made up for anything lacking in the fare served. I mean, here we are, dining at the very places that so many before us had highly recommended.

The realisation and the experience itself made us so grateful for the bounty that came our way, almost spiritual you might say.

The tea plantations at Sg Palas and Cameron Valley were not only delightful and a joy to behold. Seeing carpets of tea shrubs covering every hilltop as far as the eye can see, can do that to you.

It was also educational, watching how they actually process tea leaves into the tea that we drink. Even at this age, I might add.

 

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The Bharat’s Cameron Valley (nachmeinemeinung @ all rights reserved)

 

Going up to the BOH Sg Palas tea plantation was also an experience, though it may not be the best of experience to most people. Me included.

I mean, Malaysians are used to driving along narrow roads, giving way when its best to give way and vice versa.

But the narrow roads to Sg Palas do really test your driving skills, your patience and at some places, your heart.

Maybe, they should limit the types of vehicles going up Sg Palas’ way. It’s either sedans or bikes but maybe not pick-up trucks, and MPVs. But definitely not buses. I mean, like seriously!?

 

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

 

And yes, it was good. It was restful. Overall, a very good and much needed break. Even the weather, it being up in the highlands, helped. Cool refreshing air. Slight drizzles, nothing much.

It reminds me of King’s Lynn and of Cardiff, both in the United Kingdom, as autumn was about to give way to winter when, as both being near the sea, rain rather than snow was the order of the day.

And to make it even better, the town of Tanah Rata where we stayed was within a few minutes walking distance, should we ever needed something from the stores or to grab a bite at the local food stalls or even, God forbid, a late-night Roti Canai or Mee Goreng, washed down with good ole Teh Tarik at the local Mamak 24-hour eatery.

 

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

 

There was even a designer coffee shop available in town, and maybe, just maybe, the only one anywhere near where we were staying, should we ever get tired of all that tea.

After all, it is THE Cameron Highlands.

In short, everything was perfect. Or so we thought. Come to think of it, maybe it was TOO perfect.

And as they say, they keep the best til the last. Or rather the last two nights that we were there. With the benefit of hindsight, we should have known better, it being TOO perfect and all.

It all began on the second-to-last night, when we were awoken from our deep slumber by a telephone call. A call that came through the house phone by the bedside. On my wife’s side, that is.

 

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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 call sounded urgent and me being me, kanchong and all, I got up and sleep walked over to my wife’s side to answer the phone. When picked up, not only was there no one on the other end but the connection sounded akin to a vacuum.

Thinking the obvious ie the connection may have been really bad, I put the phone back in its place and the both of us went back to sleep. It was not long before the house phone rang again. And again, no one on the other end. Not even heavy breathing.

Not thinking too much about it, we went back to sleep and that was it. No more calls through the house phone.

Come morning, we thought nothing of the late-night phone calls and proceeded with our planned itinerary. Since it was going to be our last day in Tanah Rata, we had planned to enjoy ourselves before making our way back to the grind of everyday life, the next day.

 

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

 

That night, by the time we got back to the hotel, we were already dead tired and despite it all, manage to do a bit of packing, with the exception of the toiletries and the clothes that we had planned to wear the next day. It was not long after that we fell asleep. Soundly, I might add.

We were rudely awakened by the insistent banging on the door and the constant ringing of the door-bell. Jumping out of bed, I was fast approaching the door when my wife pleaded with me not to open the door.

The panic that was in my wife’s request made me stopped. It was ok with me, cos as far as I was concerned, I had only planned to take a peep through the peephole.

But she did not know that.

As I did not see anything, we waited for a few more minutes before trying to go back to sleep and that was when it started again. The banging was loud and insistent, almost violent, and the persistent ringing of the door-bell, in the dead of the night, only made it worse.

In the dead of the night, both the banging on the door together with the ringing of the door-bell created a very unsettling feeling deep in the gut of our combined stomachs. So unsettling that we place a call to the front office to lodge a complaint, to which the personnel-in-charge replied that they would send security to check.

Needless to say, we barely got any sleep that night even though there were no more banging of the door nor ringing of the door-bell. However, we both agreed that the both of us fell asleep through sheer exhaustion and when morning came, we had somehow arrived at an unspoken agreement to check out soonest possible. But not before making a beeline for the front desk.

And that we did, to which we got, what we sensed, an evasive answer. Leaving it at that, we went for our breakfast (part of the package it is).

 

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

 

Needless to say, breakfast was a blur for the both of us. After several cups of caffeine, we proceeded to ‘interrogate’ the front desk and this time, we got a more revealing answer.

And the answer to our questions was ‘yes’, we were not the only ones to have been ‘disturbed’ in the dead of night in that wing of the hotel, but what was more revealing was that, it was not our room that was supposed to be ‘occupied’ but rather five rooms down the corridor.

As to why we got ‘disturbed’ the last two nights despite our room not being ‘the hot room’, no one at the front desk could give us a convincing answer.

Not wanting to wait any further, I proceeded to get our belongings from the room, escorted of course by the concierge, whilst my wife stayed behind at the front desk.

Checking out, I tried my best to be cheerful throughout the whole checking-out process, cracking jokes about a new form of tourism, ‘Ghoul Tourism’, to add to ‘Gastro Tourism’, ‘Medico Tourism’, etc etc.

Nervous and feeble jokes, mind you but still jokes. Cos after all, the sun is already up, and its bright and sunny out there in the courtyard, and we will soon be on our way out of Tanah Rata.

 

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Streets of Tanah Rata (nachmeinemeinung @ all rights reserved)

 

However, all cheer left us when my wife revealed that, when I was upstairs collecting our belongings, the front desk personnel confirmed that there was no recording of any persons passing by the corridor leading to and from our room, several hours either side of the ‘disturbance’.

That revelation was enough to make the hairs on my arm and the back of my neck stand. Just as it is now, when I am writing this piece.

So HANDS DOWN, the most memorable trip that both my wife and I ever had thus far, never mind 2017, for both the right and the wrong reasons, has to be our getaway trip to Tanah Rata in Cameron Highlands.

Seriously, HANDS DOWN. No contest.

 

Date : 30 December 2017

 

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