A few years ago I visited the Cameron Highlands, a hill resort from Malaysia’s (or Malaya as it was then) colonial era. I spent a little longer there than I’d originally planned – but then a dislocated knee doesn’t exactly help with mobility. However, I remembered the deliciously cool climate and English charm and decided to visit again.
The flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur was delayed; isn’t that always the way with Air Asia? And the plane landed in the middle of a tropical storm at KL’s LCCT. (I believe that stands for “Low Convenience and Comfort Terminal” – though others maintain it’s “Low Cost Carrier Terminal.) There was the dash through the pouring rain to a corrugated-iron covered walkway which led (eventually) to a large tin shed which passed as Immigration. The queue there was one of the worst I’ve ever encountered (possibly only surpassed by JFK on a bad day). Almost an hour later I made it to the head of the queue, on to collect my baggage – which still hadn’t been unloaded.
The trip into the city centre wasn’t much better: the bus broke down. Being the good citizen that I am I joined the chain that unloaded the bags from the broken bus. That mean that when the replacement bus arrived I was at the back of the queue and didn’t get on it. Another long wait until a second replacement bus eventually arrived.
I had arranged to meet a good friend of mine, D., for dinner, but was now running seriously late. A few text messages later, D. offered to pick me up from the bus station and drive me to my hotel. I gratefully accepted. I’d been travelling for almost 12 hours and was decidedly hot and sticky (and not a little malodorous). After check-in and a quick shower I was ready to head out for dinner – Indonesian food. We had fried chicken, crispy fried dried eel, a green leaf in a green curry sauce, beef rendang and – a first for me – a beef tendon curry. The tendon was meltingly soft. To be honest, I thought it was hunks of beef fat.
The next day was devoted to shopping until I met up with D. again in the evening. He showed me around one of KL’s most popular stores: Ikea. It wasn’t that different from such establishments in the UK – vast and packed. Then we went for dinner at a Nonya restaurant – that’s the cuisine of the Chinese immigrants to Malaysia and blends Chinese techniques with local herbs and spices. The food is spicy, aromatic and somewhat herbal with a pleasant balance of sweet and sour. It was, needless to say, delicious.
The following morning I boarded a bus to the Cameron Highlands. It was filthy and clapped out, barely capable of climbing the steep, twisting ascent to the Highlands. However, that simply made for more time to take in the view. The greenery changes from the vast palm oil plantations of the lowland as one climbs. Deciduous trees take their place, and wild banana palms and, eventually, tree ferns.
The bus arrived at Tanah Rata (the main town of the Cameron Highlands) in the midst of another tropical storm. Fortunately there was a local bus waiting to depart which stopped outside my hotel. So, finally I’d arrived back in the Cameron Highlands.