Saturday, April 30, 2005


Hello from the Cameron Highlands. No, I am not back in Scotland as the name might suggest, but in central Malaysia. The region is between 1000m and 2000m and so has a continually moderate climate all year round. This was noticed by the British who decided the place was perfect for growing tea and so set up many tea plantations in the area. They also brought in a large number of Tamils to work on the plantations, the effects of which can still be seen today in the region where about half the population is of south Indian descent. As well as the tea plantations (they also grow some very European plants here that one really wouldn't expect in this part of the world, such as water cress, cabbage and even strawberries) the Highlands are also home to some wonderfully lush upland forests. All these factors make the Cameron Highlands a very popular destination for Malaysians to get away from the oppressive heat of the coasts, and also for foreigners who appreciate the ideal hiking conditions.

So I have been spending the past two days traipsing around the hills and forests (sometimes getting slightly lost in the process) surrounding the little resort town of Tanah Rata with a genial German named Andreas. I have also discovered that distances can be deceptive when trekking. On one hike to the top of a nearby mountain a sign informing me that there were less than 3km left to go elicited the mental note: "great, not more than 90 minutes to go". Two and a half hours of clambering over fallen trees; scrambling up sheer slopes with the aid of tree roots; and negotiating boggy swamps and we still weren't there. Still, the hiking has been immensely enjoyable as the moss-covered forests have a very primordial look to them (it's what I imagine Fangorn forest should look like). Plus the tea plantations that cover the steep hillsides are incredibly beautiful, the short, green bushes snaking along the contours of the slopes (hopefully Andreas will send me some pictures so that I can show you).

Well that's me pretty much done with peninsular Malaysia, which, truth be told, has been more interesting than I had thought, seeing as I have spent close to 4 weeks here already. But now it is onwards and upwards to Thailand.

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