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Cameron Highlands Malaysia - Strawberry Farms, Tea Plantations and Touring Tanah Rata
Cameron Highlands is one of the most picturesque places to visit in Malaysia. It has an unusual climate compared to the rest of Malaysia, with lower temperatures, cooler air and more rainfall. This makes it an ideal location for Malaysian agriculture as well as being a naturally beautiful tourist drawcard.
Attractions in the Cameron Highlands include visits to hydroponic strawberry farms, tea plantations, flower gardens and nurseries, honey bee farms and local markets selling local produce on the side of the road.
Upon my arrival in Tanah Rata (the main town of the Cameron Highlands) I found a multitude of tours available and decided to take the most comprehensive one which included everything (about 8 attractions) for the amazingly low price of AU$15. Well, the “Cameron Highlands Countryside Leisure Tour” by Cameron Secrets turned out to be my favourite tour package in Malaysia – definitely great value for money, with brief, interesting commentary and amazing scenery.
Map of the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
“Rose Centre” Rose Garden
Be prepared to get out the camera for the landscaped gardens of the Rose Centre! Set into the side of a hill in terraced levels, the Rose Centre has literally thousands of species of roses and cacti growing in gardens and a wholesale plant nursery. The good news is that while you can buy the plants, it is not a commercially advertised nursery which means you can enjoy the scenery without any interruption whatsoever.
Climb up many terrace steps to the top and you are faced with a plateau with more steps. Finally, puffing and panting (and with a few rests upon the way) you reach a cute shoe house set up for the kids, which looks like something out of a fairytale.
Sweat your way up yet even more steps to the summit, where you will find a viewing platform with panoramic views of the nearby mountains and tea plantations.
The Rose Centre offers great photo opportunities as well as lots of exercise. Climb up literally hundreds of steps in landscaped gardens and you will be well rewarded with breathtaking views, beautiful flowers and a nursery that you wish they’d copy back home.
The Secrets Package Tour includes a visit to a hydroponic strawberry farm, where strawberries are grown off the ground to prevent the need for pesticides and weeding. Our guide was full of information on hydroponic growing and how-to methods (and he made it sound really easy, using basic materials to hand) making me feel like going home and having a go in my backyard. It fascinating to hear about the methods used.
After the tour, you are invited to taste test the strawberries in a café at the base of the farm. Strawberry milkshakes, strawberry yogurt, strawberry icecream and strawberry jam are all on offer at reasonable prices. I sampled a strawberry milkshake and found it to be much sweeter in taste than the strawberry milkshakes I am used too. I wasn't sure if extra sugar was the answer or not, so, after sampling local strawberries from the market later on, I was able to confirm my thoughts that the strawberries grown in Cameron Highlands are definitely sweeter and taste better.
Strawberry farms employ lots of local people and are huge in size and production capacity, as strawberries are marketed to tourists as one of the main attractions in the Cameron Highlands.
You can find lots of shops selling strawberry souvenirs around Tanah Rata and other towns in the area. For some reason, these shops are heavily stocked with umbrellas. I found the locals around Tanah Rata to be very adamant about carrying umbrellas around in case of rain and many people voiced concern when I let a few raindrops fall on my head - not sure why?
There are lots of butterfly gardens all around Malaysia, showing off native Malaysia wildlife and landscaped gardens. The Butterfly Garden on the Secrets tour had a mini insect and reptile zoo attached, but in contrast to many of these types of zoos, the animals looked well cared for in small environments simulated to be as natural as possible.
Included in the tour of the Butterfly Garden is a short commentary on the insects and reptiles and a chance for tourists to hold and touch some of the unusual creatures. Australians who are not scared of handling giant dung beetles, lizards and scorpions will garner admiring gasps from the crowd.
The Butterfly Garden will set you back about AU$4 for entry but the reptile and insect commentary is lots of fun and seeing the large sized insects close up is great.
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Explore The Cameron Highlands...
Boh – Sungei Palas Tea Plantation
The Boh tea plantation is the country’s largest producer of premium black teas and the countryside tour package offered a comprehensive tour of the plantations, the factory and a café/shop.
It was fascinating to hear about the impact of modern methods and equipment for tea harvesting and also to learn about the traditional tea harvesting methods (which sound like they’d amount to a very tough day job indeed). Originally the tea was planted, maintained and harvested by hand – no mean feat when you consider the hundreds of acres of tea in the Boh plantation. Our guide also offered some interesting information on the owner of plantation, which I shall not divulge here.
I saw the worker’s village at the back of the main complex and learnt about the processing stages of the black tea in the factory. Afterwards, I enjoyed a nice Devonshire tea of scones with local strawberry jam and black tea in the Boh café.
Honey Bee Farm
Next on our journey was a visit to the Honey Bee Farm, which supports a cottage industry in honey throughout the Cameron Highlands. Set on a large property with lots of landscaped gardens and hundreds of beehives, the apiary is lovely to visit and the honey tastes pretty good too.
The gardens supply a large assortment of flowers for the bees to gather nectar from, hence the lush surroundings are not only for the tourists! A short commentary on honey extraction using traditional methods from the beehive boxes was helpful.
It’s not every day that I visit an apiary and I particularly liked this Honey Bee Farm as it tried to do everything – produce local honey, attract tourists with the gardens, preserve traditional methods of beekeeping and cater for children with cute bee statues. I thought the locals were quite innovative with it and that it would be a useful attraction for the Highlands in years to come. Entry is free.
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Local Produce: Roadside Vegetables
As we travelled around in our tour van, our guide answered questions about local vegetable production and we stopped for a quick visit to a roadside market selling local produce. While it’s pretty easy to find fruits and vegetables around Tanah Rata, the place where we stopped on the tour supported more needy locals whose stalls were a distance away from the nearest town. I bought some (more) strawberries and chatted to stall owners about the vegetables they were selling and how you cook them. They were very helpful with instructions and the produce was very cheap.
Sam Poh Buddhist Temple
A short but interesting addition to the Countryside tour was a visit to the Sam Poh Buddhist temple. After entering the massive gates, we admired the golden lion statues and took our shoes off to enter.
Inside the temple were ornate golden Buddha statues with alters containing fruit and flower offerings. It was certainly a peaceful place with incense in the air and a quiet chiming in the background. Upon entering the last room of the temple, you can see hundreds of handpainted tiles of Buddha decorating the walls. The artists who painted them would have taken years to complete them as the detailing of the work was amazingly intricate and well done.
While considered a small temple, the Sam Poh Buddhist Temple was worth a look and with free entry (but with the option to give a donation) I felt it was a pleasant and quiet temple to visit, free from crowds of tourists.
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Map of Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Thanks For Reading!
I hope you enjoyed my blog about the Countryside tour around Cameron Highlands and I look forward to reading your comments!
Note: The entry fees to the Butterfly Garden and the Rose Centre are not included in the tour and need to be paid separately (upon entrance). However, these are good value entry prices at around AU$2 – AU$5 and shouldn’t cause concern for tourists.
All photos contained herein are copyright © 2010 Suzanne Day.
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© 2010 Suzanne Day