Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia- Of Strawberries, Tea Plantations and Lovely Weather

This year, I decided to spend my New Year with a holiday up in lovely and chilly Cameron. The last I was there was more than 10 years ago, so I certainly was looking forward to another short escapade there. Cameron, the size of Singapore, is located in the state of Pahang, Malaysia. Known for their beautiful nature, fresh local strawberries, tea plantations, English like bungalows and awesome weather of 10-23'C, it indeed makes a favorite local holiday escape especially from the scorching and humid heat in the lowland.

It takes about 7-8 hours to drive straight from Johor Bahru to Cameron, hence we decided to do a short two days shopping trip in KL first. From KL, we then drove about another 3 hours up to Cameron. There's a shorter way up from KL to Cameron bypassing Ipoh, but we wanted to drop by the dim sum city of Malaysia for some dim sum, thus we took the longer way up.

We arrived at Ipoh at about 9.30 am, a little late for dim sum breakfast by the Ipoh folks standard but it also meant we don't have to queue for places. There are multiple famous dim sum restaurants in Ipoh, but we picked Foh San this time round. Foh San is one of the oldest household dim sum name in Ipoh with a history of over 30 years!

A hearty dim sum breakfast for two. Yummy!
One of our personal favourite at Foh San is their springy and chewy fish balls. But unlike the normal fishballs, theirs comes with dried orange zest that gave them an extra flavor boost

After our filling breakfast, it was another 1 and the half to 2 hours drive up to Cameron from Ipoh. The road up to Cameron from Ipoh is said to be less winding and easier for drivers. We finally arrived at our hotel, the Copthorne Cameron Highlands (formerly known as Equatorial Cameron Highlands) in Brinchang around 2pm but we were only allowed check in after 3pm. 

Right after our checked in at the hotel, the first place we went to was none other than the strawberries farm. Being a pretty big fan of strawberries, I had been thinking of those juicy fruits for days even before the trip. We decided to visit the Big Red Strawberry farm as it is pretty near to our hotel and is one of the popular ones in Cameron. 
Aside from fresh strawberries, they also have a strawberry cafe that sells everything strawberries. Although not as abundant as the strawberries, there are also other fruits and vegetables such as the grapes, tomatoes and lettuces 
Strawberries at different stages of ripening
Super juicy and sweet strawberries from Big Red. 1 box like for only RM 6!
A joyful me with my yummy strawberries

They usually allow picking of strawberries as well but they told us that it wasn't the best of the strawberries season at the end of December, hence they do not allow picking as they were afraid the public does not know the right ones to pick and might not only end up with strawberries that are not as sweet but also spoil their berries. Hence, only during the peak strawberries season, picking is allow at Big Red. 
Grapes are grow there as well
Varieties of lettuces that look so fresh
Signature sign of Big Red

After spending the remaining of our afternoon at Big Red, we headed down to Brinchang town where most of the steamboat restaurants aggregate for dinner. Steamboats are definitely best eaten in those chilly weather. 
Our choice of steamboat restaurant- the Cameron Organic Produce that claim to be the first organic steamboat restaurant in Malaysia. The restaurant was also featured in Astro's "Taste With Jason" programme before. We were lucky as we were there early, hence we manage to get a good place without reservation. During dinner time, the place was so packed that many had to queue for table outside
While many steamboat restaurants these days uses the conventional electronic gas stove for their steamboat, the Cameron Organic Produce still uses the traditional charcoals. Somehow maybe because of it's rarity these days, the uses of charcoal made the stock and food tasted more fragrant
There were a lot of vegetables in our set but for once, I'm not complaining about having more vegetables than meat in my meal (hey, I'm s carnivore!). The restaurant claim that all of their vegetables are organic ones directly from their farm. Even though I'm not a fan of vegetables, I had to admit the vegetables that night were one of the freshest I had eaten. Seriously, they tasted really good and they made the stock really sweet with fresh vegetables taste if that makes sense
Happy people at the end of the meal. Awesome meal with reasonable prices. No wonder their restaurant is so famous!

Cameron Organic Produce Sdn Bhd
10, Bandar Baru Brinchang,
39100, Cameron Highlands
Tel : +605- 491 4807 (Reservations recommended)

After dinner, we decided to walk around the Brinchang night market which is nearby the restaurant. It is not a very huge night market, but there are food, fruits, flowers, plants and a variety of souvenirs for sale. 
I didn't quite realized Cameron is also known for their corns until GL told me about it. And after trying out the corns, I have to say I know why. The corns are really sweet and delicious it's best you just eat them on their own without having to add salt or butter like how most of us love our corns 
This ayam penyet stall was surrounded with a huge crowd so despite being full, we jumped onto the bandwagon and bought a stick of the chicken grill that came with rosemary sauce and a lamb grill that came with apricot jam
Strawberries souveniers anyone?

We woke up the next day ready for a day of exploration and also feeling really excited as it was New Year's eve, the last day of 2013. Our first destination of the day was the Boh Tea Plantation at Sungai Palas (the other tea plantation being the Cameron Valley tea plantation that is further away from Brinchang).
Now you know where all your Boh tea comes from. One of the largest tea plantation in Cameron
Waking up early to have breakfast with a view like this is absolutely worth it. We tried their strawberry tea, which has a sourish tinge to it and is not too bad if you are a fan of strawberry especially. Food wise, there's really nothing much to shout about as we thought the scones and chocolate cake are somewhat mediocre only. The scones was pretty hard in fact. But, the location of the cafe, perch right in the middle of the Boh tea plantation offering such a beautiful sight makes the cafe a worthwhile place to stop by for a meal or drink
Ah, such a beauty! The view from our seat at the cafe
Surrounding ourselves between the greens of the tea plantation. Certainly a very serene and quaint way to spend a morning
The cafe at Boh
We also visited the factory for free where we witnessed the making of Boh tea. Lastly, don't forget to buy back some of those fragrant Boh tea to try

As we were leaving the tea plantation, we saw this other road nearby that leads to a strawberry farm and being in Cameron Highlands, one can never visit too many strawberries farm can they? Hence, we decided to made a detour to drop by the Mountain Stawberry Farm. True to it's name, this farm is located somewhere along the mountain area and the entire road leading to this farm is not only winding and narrow, but surrounded by plenty of fog as well. It felt really adventurous just trying to reach this strawberry farm.
Such a mysterious feel. You really got to look out for the sign in the thick mist and fog, otherwise you can easily miss it
At the Mountain Strawberry farm, they allow us to hand pick our very own strawberries. Yes, Big Red doesn't allow but Mountain Strawberry does. Yay! So excited I got to hand pick my very own strawberries for the first time
My pick. Perhaps it was because it wasn't the peak strawberries season, most of the strawberries were still pretty small here but they are as sweet as you can imagine. Really lovely

So, after picking a few handful more of strawberries, we brought them in for weighing and paid accordingly (something like RM 5 per 100g but it wasn't expensive).

After the strawberries rendezvous, we headed down to Tanah Rata (about 20 minutes from Brinchang) for late lunch/ tea at the Lord's Cafe (formerly known as T cafe). We were there the night before but they were already closed by 8pm as all their food were sold out. Hence, we resolved to must visit this cafe and fortunately, they were open this time round. The cafe is very quiet and simple yet charming enough to evoke a relaxing old school basic feel. 
Time to chill and relax 
The Lord's Cafe is famous for their scones and I'll tell you why. We ordered their strawberry scone and it was superb. The scone is warm, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The smell and taste is so awesome and it comes with this amazing strawberry jam that makes them even yummier. Definitely one of the best scones up in Cameron
We were two very hungry people thus we also ordered their strawberry crepe (yea, it's Cameron. It has to be strawberry everything since they all claim to use the local freshest strawberries), chicken pie, sandwiches, Boh tea and hot chocolate to complement the meal. And I have to say, they were all really good and have a very home cook taste

Although they open from 11 am to 10 pm, do not wait till night because their food sells out that fast. It is just above Marrybrown, so it isn't that hard to find as well. 

The Lord's Cafe,
4, 1st floor Main Road,
39000 Tanah Rata
Cameron Highlands

We had a few hours to spare before it was dinner time, so we decided to go to the Cameron Lavender garden. I know, lavenders in Malaysia? Are you feeling just as excited as I did when I first heard there is real lavenders growing in Malaysia? It's true but don't expect huge fields of them like in France or you'll be very disappointed. In fact, there is just an ultra short stretch of the lavenders at the garden but better than nothing if you can't go all the way to France for the lavenders and you are still crazy about them. 

Located at Tringkap, Cameron, it is about 20-30 minutes drive from Brinchang town. There is an entrance fee of RM 5, but it's inexpensive considering aside from admiring the flowers in the garden, you can pick *strawberries and *daisies as well. 

* extra charges applies
The huge entrance you definitely can't miss
All very cutesy inside
Bright yellow flowers that cheers up the garden
Ta-da! The lavenders themselves
That was my first time seeing lavenders so I was pretty excited albeit them being grown on a very small scale (that was before I went to France and saw the whole real deal of lavenders but I save that for another post)
That's it. The entire stretch of the flowers garden 
We went upstairs and saw the daisies garden as well as strawberries farm. HT decided to be romantic and give me some daisies that I could hand picked myself (5 stalks for RM 10). I picked one from each colour and they were all so pretty

We skipped the strawberries farm as we ran out of time but we still bought like 2 boxes of strawberries home from there. Strawberries there are larger but they sells at RM 10 per box. Super juicy and sweet strawberries too.

We went back to our hotel to freshen up and prepare for New Year's eve dinner and countdown. We didn't quite know where to go but since our hotel offered New Year's eve buffet dinner, we settled for our dinner there and it was a good decision since the food was pretty good and there were aplenty of choices. 
Uh-uh, my favourite chocolate fountain is there too *grins like a kid*
What not to love about marshmallows, strawberries and chocolate balls....
The rest of our dinner that night. It was easily a very satisfying and enjoyable meal

After dinner, we moved on to their lounge where a lucky draw went on for all customers dining earlier at the restaurant. There was also a live band in between the lucky draw but unfortunately, we didn't win anything from the draw. Still, we just hung around and chit chat till midnight and suddenly, we realized there were so many people both inside and outside the lounge waiting to usher in the new year together. Right at the stroke of midnight, there were a sky of balloons falling from above and everyone felt like a happy kid for a moment.
Say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014! Happy 2014 :) The past is not to be dwell in and we live for the future, so embrace new things everyday and try to make the best out of everything

After the countdown, the crowd slowly dispersed and we too, went back to our room. We woke up fresh on New Year's day and headed to our last destination in Cameron, the Cactus Point which is just a 5 minutes drive from Copthorne.
These prickly cactus are pretty cute when they are small
From babies to giant cactus, they have it all at Cactus Point. They also have them in a variety of shapes and colors so even if you are not a fan, it is pretty interesting seeing them

We bought a few pots home for mum and they are still growing pretty well now. :) Lastly, we went to Uncle Chow Kopitiam, a well known kopitiam among locals and tourist alike for brunch. Fortunately we had a GPS because the kopitiam is a pretty hidden gem within the Royal Lily Park at Tanah Rata.
They have local, Western and even Nyonya kuih. We went for the usual local favourite for breakfast, the nasi lemak, toast with kaya and margerine and half boiled eggs for our mains. Still having space to fill in some desserts, we tried their warm brownie and nyonya kuih that is serve with home made kaya. Overall, the food was good and price reasonable. Definitely recommended especially for simple local affairs

Uncle Chow Kopitiam,
C2-G-01 Block C2
Jln Royal Lily 4/2,
Taman Royal Lily,
Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands
Opening hours : 8am- 4pm

After brunch at Uncle Chow, we started our journey back to Johor Bahru. It was some 8 hours drive but we made a pit stop at Levain in KL for early dinner before continuing our journey down south. Boasting to use stone oven to bake their breads and pastries, the place was packed to the max with people. We were fortunate we got a place shortly. 

The breads and pastries are pretty fragrant but I don't see why the madness. Instead my favourite among them all is the raspberry yogurt cake (the red round shape cake). It is surprisingly sweet with a tinge of refreshing sour and the soft texture that melts straight in ones mouth is heavenly. Their macarons were too sweet for my liking though

By the time we finally reached home, it was close to midnight. A pretty long drive but a pleasurable one indeed. Although it was a short 3 days 2 nights stay up in Cameron, we totally enjoyed the relaxing and laid back atmosphere not forgetting the chilly, breezy weather. It felt good being surrounded by abundant beautiful nature and being able to enjoy my favourite fruit fresh and juicy all the time makes me a very happy girl. This trip is certainly a good start to my New Year. And here's to a very happy 2014 to all of you as well. Have a good year ahead. :)

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