Travel Journal

Cameron Highlands and Gua Musang

(Thursday 28 May 2009) by Dopps Family
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands and Gua Musang - Malaysia (May 27-28th)
Yesterday was a beautiful day, pleasant temperature and sunny. However, the owner said that by 2 or 3pm it would rain (hard to believe) so we decided to hire a taxi and go explore the large BOH tea plantation (for mom and dad) and the butterfly farm (for Cianna and Anisa). Before the large hotels and tourism the major employment in Cameron Highlands was on the tea plantations and the vegetable farms. Although still the major industry here, it’s no longer the occupation of choice. Similar to the Mexican farm laborers in America, mostly Indonesians and other lower-income immigrants now work the farms for only 25-30 ringgit per day (or about $8-9 dollars). In the past the workers would pick tea leaves by hand to ensure only the most tender leaves were plucked. Now they use hand shears and gas powered hedgers to shave of the tops of the tea plants and then sort out the culls, twigs and other unwanted stuff. Although it lowers the quality they make up for it in quantity and significantly fewer hired workers. Since the workers are also paid by the kilo they pick it doesn’t pay to pick by hand anymore. After some tea and cake and a photo session in the overhanging lookout about the terraced tea hills, we visited a local butterfly farm where the girls had tons of fun. Back in town we visited the local park so the girls could play and practice their swinging – Cianna loves to swing now that she’s learned how to do it by herself and Anisa has also figured it out as well. Due to the rain the day before the park was still a bit muddy and when Anisa ran to the swings she ended up stepping through the mud. Camped out on the grass was a group of students (about 20) who got a real laugh out of watching her and Cianna and starting taking pictures (we lost count how many pictures have been taken of our kids). After awhile they started blowing bubbles (the students, not our kids) towards the girls as they were swinging – which Anisa and Cianna enjoyed, maybe as much as the Malay students. Around 3pm the raindrops started so we left the park and two of the students gave Cianna and Anisa their bubble blowing bottles as gifts which they really, really were excited to have (and still are). The rest of the afternoon it dumped rain (just as the hotel owner predicted).
With only 2 more nights left in Malaysia before we fly to Bali (on Saturday, May 30th) we needed to arrange our transportation back to Singapore. Carola had read about the “jungle train”, which is another leg of the KTM railroad that runs through central Malaysia and the jungles there. However, there were no seats available from Gua Musang to Singapore on the direct train but we figured out we could take 3rd, or economy class, from Gua Musang to Gemas and a connecting train from Gemas to Singapore in 1st class. So we hired a taxi today, Thursday, for 160 ringgit to drive us from Tanah Rata to Gua Musang – a 2 hour drive down the mountains and on a new highway through the jungle. Since the train leaves at 9am we decided it was best to drive to Musang today and spend 1 night so we could catch the train. Gua Musang is a small town, smallest yet we’ve been to, and there isn’t much offered in the way of accommodations (nothing mentioned in the Lonely Planet either). We ended up staying at the Evergreen Hotel, a couple blocks from the train station and paid for 2 rooms at 40 ringgit per room. This is the second place we ended up using our sleep sacks and the sleeping bags for the girls and probably the dingiest place we’ve stayed at during our vacation (although the Royal Belfast Hotel in South Africa is a close second). We walked the main streets scoping out a good place to eat dinner and for once the KFC (yes there is a KFC here) seemed like the safest bet to me. I would hate for the last night in Malaysia to be the one that makes me pay for it dearly on the dumper, but to stay truly authentic we avoided KFC and ate at one of the local hawkers across from our “hotel”. We’ll see what tomorrow brings us.

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