During colonization, in true British fashion a hill town was constructed to offer respite from the otherwise oppressive heat of the rest of Malaysia. After Singapore and KL such an escape became extremely enticing. And so, we left the smog of the city behind and set out in search of more natural settings and a cooler climate.
Alex and I have had our fair share of difficult travel experiences over the years. Danny, who has just joined us would quickly be inaugurated into the budget traveling in Asia circle. Our bus, which in appearance was superior to many in other countries in SEA gave no indication to the fact that the engine was likely older than we were. We thought it strange on the freeway that we were being passed by other busses, and cars, and the occasional big rig. Counting mile markers it was evident we were topped out at 50km/hr when the speed limit was more than double that. It was clear, this would not be the four hours we had hopped for. Once on the upward winding road to Tanah Rata, where we would be staying, the bus slowed to a painfully slow, lumbering pace. It would take five minutes to go two kilometers. A bike could have passed us. It was painful in part because we didn’t have food, thinking it was a short ride. But also because it seemed the bus ought to be capable of going much, much faster. We had chosen a bus based on a recommended company, but accidentally chose the departure where they used this dilapidated bus instead of the normal, functional ones. Towards the end the sky opened up, fittingly, and poured constantly for nearly an hour, slowing our already glacial pace.
We did make it though, and despite it being several hours later than anticipated we were greeted with the cool, crisp, higher altitude air we had been promised. In fact, we were a bit cold. Since it was nearing dinner time we were directed by our guesthouse to try the Ramadan stalls near the bus station. During Ramadan these stalls pop up before sundown enabling people to purchase food to take home to break the fast, non Muslims are more than welcome as well. Even better, it’s a great opportunity to sample local cuisine not often seen outside the home. The three of us sampled as much as we could, everything being delicious. We then took a short evening hike through the surrounding forest, the novelty of not sweating whilst in motion was endlessly exciting.
On our full day we took a taxi out of Tanah Rata towards the tea plantations. The area reminded us distinctly of Laos, with rolling hills, cliffs jutting out of the ground, and endless green. Though unlike Laos the deep green of the highlands was ubiquitous, the greenery rarely deviated from this one shade. The plantations themselves are stunning. The low lying bushes extending up hills and through valleys towards the distance had a particularly thalmic appearance. We meandered around the plantation and factory. We finished the outing sipping tea overlooking the vast plantations.
Our afternoon involved another hike around the farm and into the thickly forested interior. It was relieving to be back in nature after spending the last week in the thick of big cities. It was a perfect diversion on our way to Penang.