Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Malaysia is like two countries in one, cleaved in half by the South China Sea. While peninsula flaunts bustling cities, colonial architecture, misty tea plantations and chill-out islands, Malaysian Borneo hosts wild jungles of orangutans, granite peaks and remote tribes, along with some pretty spectacular diving. Throughout these two regions is an impressive variety of microcosms ranging from the space-age high-rises of Kuala Lumpur to the traditional longhouse villages of Sarawak.

 

If there was one thing that unites all its pockets of ethnicities, religions and landscapes, it’s food. Between the Chinese-Malay ‘Nonya’ fare, Indian curries, Chinese buffets, Malay food stalls and Dayak specialties, with some impressive Western-style food thrown in for good measure, travellers will never go hungry here.

From your first lungful of fragrant highland air, sweat and stress evaporate. In Malaysia’s largest hill-station area, the breeze is freshened by eucalyptus, fuzzy tea plantations roll into the distance, and strawberry farms snooze under huge awnings.

From north to south, the Cameron Highlands roughly encompass Tringkap, Brinchang, Tanah Rata, Ringlet and their surrounds. Though technically in the state of Pahang, they are accessed from Perak. Named after explorer Sir William Cameron, who mapped the area in 1885, the highlands were developed during the British colonial period. Gardens, bungalows and even a golf course sprang up during the 1930s, making the Cameron Highlands a refuge for heat-addled Brits to mop their brows.

But the highlands’ combination of genteel tea culture, hiking trails and mild temperatures remains irresistible. With eco-conscious trekking, unexplored forests and some interesting temples, there is serenity to be found amid the touristic hubbub.