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Archive for the ‘Cameron Highlands’ Category

Yet another broken night with a couple arguing a floor below. Someone (the owner’s wife?) eventually shouted at them to be quiet. I could still hear them in the far distance though, but managed to get a little more sleep. Tim’s still struggling to get comfortable due to his bruised ribs.

Before we booked our room at the Hillview Inn we read up on reviews on TripAdvisor and several people had commented on the noisy dogs at Jurina, the hotel behind ours. As it turned out, only one of the four nights was disrupted by barking dogs, the other nights were broken due to thoughtless guests.

Shortly before 7am Tim and I crawled out of bed and gave the girls an extra 10 minutes to wake up before getting dressed and finish our packing. Just after 7.30am we carried our bags downstairs and had something to eat and drink in the garden. The temperature was lovely and I really enjoyed our stay in the Cameron Highlands. It was so nice and comfortable not to feel damp and sweaty!

Our mini van should have collected us at 8am, but when it still hadn’t arrived 10 minutes later Tim decided to walk down to their office. He returned with the message that the driver was rearranging the seats and shortly after he finally turned up.

Waiting in the garden.
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We said goodbye to the landlady and off we went… as far as the office just around the corner! What’s going on? They swapped drivers and we ended up with a really kind and quiet gentleman who was called “your driver of the day”.

We knew from our journey to Tanah Rata that the road is pretty windy but in the very slow coach we hadn’t really noticed. Now in the mini van we were going a lot faster and I was relieved that I hadn’t had a big breakfast.

When at last we reached the bottom of the windy road even our driver let out a sigh of relief. He informed that this road had only opened three years ago and that the previous road was even worse! He drove on a couple more minutes and then stopped at a restaurant so that we could have a bathroom break and he a quick breakfast.

A good 10 minutes later he returned to the van with a friend and we carried on to Lumut. We arrived shortly after 11am and he kindly stopped at the bus station so that Tim could purchase our bus tickets to Butterworth (across from Georgetown) for next Tuesday. He even recommended using Transnasional as they are very reliable and walked Tim to the ticket counter. Afterwards Tim asked if there was an ATM nearby and again it was no trouble for this kind man to drive us up to the cash machine.

Once at the jetty terminal he guided us to the ticket counter and told us which boat to get on. He also explained we should get off at the second stop and that a taxi (pink mini vans) from the terminal to our hotel should cost no more than RM10-15. All very useful and helpful information. We said goodbye, shook hands and boarded the ferry.

The ferry was absolutely packed with mainly Malaysian weekend tourists, school children and a handful of westerners. The crossing was very smooth and half an hour later we arrived at the first stop at Pulau Pangkor. We, together with a few more people, remained seated as we were told to get off at the second stop. Except a man came on board and told us there was no second stop. Oh well, better get off here then.

We walked about 50 metres and could easily spot the carpark with loads of pink mini vans. We waited our turn and were allocated a van all to ourselves. After 5 minutes the driver pulled up outside a school to pick up his young son and then carried on to Anjungan Resort.

It looked great, albeit a little smaller than I imagined from the photographs on the hotel’s website. After we booked this family room we read two recent reviews about the owner being very rude to some guests. We had none of this at all, we were greeted by a very kind young man who took our details and handed us our key, remote controls for television and air condition. When the credit card machine didn’t work, he simply asked Tim to come back later and try again.

We walked past the boat shaped swimming pool, which looked very tempting and headed up the stairs to apartment 212. The apartment has a small bathroom, double bed, small fridge and tv downstairs, and two single beds upstairs. There is also ample storage and a lovely view from our balcony of the swimming pool down below.
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We dropped our stuff off and headed out again in search of lunch. We found a nice little eating place where the girls chose toasted sandwiches (tuna and cheese), Tim had spicy Tomyam and I played it safe with fried noodles. As often here in Malaysia, the food was really tasty, although the noodles were a little spicy.

We were surrounded by clothes shops and after we had finished our lunch we had a look around for sarongs. Hannah chose a beautiful fuchsia one and when I asked for the price, the answer was RM25. Then the lady said 80. Oh, RM25.80. No, she said, 80. I thought that’s quite a lot, until I realised she meant 18! The lady then kindly showed me how to put it on. We carried on down the road where I spotted a beautiful blue and fuchsia sarong which was also RM18 (that’s about £3.50). Ellen didn’t really want a sarong, so she opted for a beautiful white(!) dress with blue flowers on – very cool and pretty.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a couple of convenience stores to buy water (we’re back in hot, sticky country now), milk and crisps. Once back we changed quickly into our swimming gear and headed straight for the pool. The water was a little warmer than we would have liked, but it also meant that it was comfortable for the girls. Hannah, using my goggles as they were bigger, swam a whole length of crawl without stopping, and Ellen just loved splashing around with Tim.

I met a lady from Exeter who was here with a friend and some family members. This group of people suggested a game of waterpolo – men vs women, and would we like to join in. Tim politely declined due to his sore ribs and he offered to look after the girls.

Another couple from the Czech republic joined in as well. We all had a fantastic time and a good laugh and it was great that we all got on so well. I even managed to score at least four goals – not that we were keeping score, it was just for fun.

After one and a half hours we all needed a rest and we returned to our rooms to have a drink and some crisps. Later the girls and I donned our latest outfits and we went in search of Daddy’s Cafe down the road.

It was such a lovely place. When we arrived the waiter led us through the open restaurant (no walls or doors, just a roof) to the back, which was actually the beach with a view of the sea and the sunset. Having supper on the beach was a first for all of us, and what better way to celebrate this than with fish and chips! We ordered three lots to share between us, and as Hannah noticed these were the first lot of chips in Malaysia that were not crinkle cut. Four empty plates meant room for dessert. The girls shared a banana split and Tim & I chose banana fritters which came with vanilla and chocolate ice cream.

The beautiful view, pleasant temperature and lovely sea breeze meant that this was one of my favourite suppers of our trip. We’ll definitely have supper there again before moving on.

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Recovery day

Yes, we took things easy after yesterday’s exertions and injuries. A nice long lie-in, breakfast downstairs and then the rest of the morning catching up with diaries and blog photos. The only times we left our hotel were to get something to eat. First, lunch at an Indian establishment at this end of town – I tried the chicken tandoori while the rest of the family had (supposedly) less spicy chicken dishes. Then our last chance for a cream tea in Malaysia (back at the T Cafe – they even do scones with strawberry inside), and we ended up back there again in the evening in order to find the girls a decent burger (they are riced out and chickened out). As we waited for our order, my eye was drawn to the headline ‘Fishmonger in coma after ramming into cow’; apparently the fishmonger ‘might remain in a vegetative state’, although the situation sounds more carnal to me…

As we walked back after tea we attempted to buy some snacks for tomorrow’s breakfast (we have an early start). Perhaps it’s because this town is so touristy (and my tourist shorts won’t have helped) but the customer service is patchy here. I asked to buy four bananas (they were sold by the kilo) and when the shopkeeper began to select the oldest, most bruised ones for me, I pointed to a nicer-looking bunch, only to be told ‘no, you can’t have those’. Needless to say, we walked away. Then when we bought four drinks cartons in another store the Indian lady at the till didn’t acknowledge me, made no eye contact and started chatting to her colleague. How disappointingly English.

After Kirsten’s longest-ever blog entry yesterday, this could be the shortest ever; there’s not a lot to report. The joys of having our laundry done and getting it back with bits of someone else’s chewing gum adhering to random spots on random garments (not nice on the inside of your boxer shorts). The girls rehearsing a show for us (based on Cinderella – please could I Google the name of her cat?) but then running out of time to perform it tonight. Ellen helping me to select photos for the blog and Hannah sketching Kirsten reading. The adults hobbling up and down the stairs – Kirsten’s feet are badly bruised and I’m still taking things gently (though my ribs are nowhere as badly bruised as the time I put my foot through the ceiling from the loft – very sitcom, I know).

They do use some wonderfully quaint English here; would you expect a trendy twentysomething man to leave a phone message including (with no trace of irony) ‘I did converse with her this morning’? Then there’s the taxi driver who replied to my observations with ‘correct, correct’.

Tomorrow we get our private and pricy minivan transfer to Lumut, and we were asked if we could leave a bit earlier, say 7.30am? We politely declined, but it sounds like they’d like the van back in time to do an afternoon tour here. So we can expect some hairy hairpin bends as the driver races against the clock to do the return trip in under six hours.

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The Americans across the corridor remained noisy until about 11.30pm last night and then went out. At last some peace and quiet, at least for a couple of hours. The dogs only barked once, with the guests being noisier than our first night here.

I got up around 7am for a shower, then packed our bags ready for our busy day.

Just before 9am we arrived at the TJ Nur counter around the corner and met yesterday’s travel companions (Dutch couple and Luka) again. They had booked the half day Rafflesia tour, whereas we opted for the full day one.

The four of us took place in the back of the 4X4 and were joined by an elderly Dutch lady (called Elsie) and two young guys from England and the USA. Our guide for the day was called Francis.

After an hour’s long and bumpy drive we arrived at our first stop in Kelantan State. This was the walk to the Rafflesia and was also the part of the tour I was most worried about. We had asked several people about the length and difficulty of the walk and each time were given a different answer. The length of the walk would vary from one hour to four hours there and back.

Some villagers met us up the road and guided us to where we could leave our vehicle. At around 10.40am we set off. Within seconds we reached quite a wide and fast flowing river which we were told to cross. Ellen got a lift on the native guide’s back whilst Hannah walked across holding Francis’ hand. We grown-ups had to fend for ourselves.
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I tried to follow in the guide’s footsteps only to find myself slipping and sliding and spinning around. I felt stuck, but somehow managed to get across several minutes later with only slightly wet shorts and a racing heartbeat. Tim had his long trousers rolled up as high as possible and managed to walk across keeping shoes and cameras dry.

Everybody was relieved to reach the other side, albeit a little shaky and wet. Several people did slip and arrived wetter than they would have liked.

We put our socks and shoes back on and started the rest of our walk in high spirits. We climbed and climbed for what seemed like ages, then reached a little plateau and then started a descent. All the time I kept thinking about the walk back as the climb and descent were pretty steep and slippery.
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After a while we reached a much narrower and shallow stream and we were made to walk up and through it. Francis suggested taking shoes and socks off again and leaving them on the side. The young Dutch couple chose to ignore this advice. I couldn’t help thinking that wet socks and shoes would be so uncomfortable to walk in. But I was so wrong!

By taking off our foot gear we found it so much harder to walk. The riverbed was full of different sized rocks and stones and after a while really started to hurt our feet. It also slowed us down considerably as we had to watch our steps carefully. But we hoped the Rafflesia would be just around the corner…

The water itself was lovely and cool, but the rocks, stones, prickly leaves and sticks made it very uncomfortable and the protruding tree roots were quite hard to climb over in places.
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Our group of two guides and eleven tourists soon split into three. Both guides were at the front with the young guys and Dutch couple. Then we followed with Elsie and befriended couple way behind us. At one point we couldn’t see the group ahead and had to call out to them to find out where they were and which way we were meant to go. Not that they answered or waited, but fortunately Hannah spotted the red T-shirt of one of the guys and we knew we were fine. A little later the same thing happened to the small group behind us. So Tim slowed down until he could see them and he shouted directions and encouragement to them.

We had been going for nearly one and a half hours by now and both girls were getting upset and tearful as their feet were aching and they got a few extra mosquito bites. This walk proved to be the hardest and most uncomfortable we have done so far on our trip. After another 10min of struggling through rocky water we finally reached the one Rafflesia we could see.

The Rafflesia is the largest and smelliest flower in the world and can have a diameter of up to 91cm. It takes between 9 and 21 months for a bud to flower, then it will only last for 5 – 7 days. Although we were standing pretty close to it, we weren’t aware of the smell, but noticed quite a few flies hovering in and around the flower.
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Some other flowers we passed…
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Before we set off on our trip, Ellen was adamant she wanted to see this big, stinky flower. Now that we had finally arrived she was too upset to have her photo taken with it. She was just so tired and desperately clinging to Tim to make him carry her. We asked her several times if she would like to be in the photo, but each time the answer was “no” and we really did not feel like making her. Tonight at bedtime she got all upset again as she didn’t have a picture of her and the flower!

Our native guide picked Ellen up and carried her all the way back to where we had left our shoes. I was extremely grateful to him. It is not like Ellen to get so clingy and tired as both she and Hannah usually enjoy exploring and walking. It simply just got too much for her… I think if we had known how hard it was going to be for them (and us) we would not have chosen this trek.

After we had put our wet socks and shoes back on we carried on through and alongside the river. We came to a slight opening and Tim walked across a horizontal tree trunk. Just as he wondered out loud whether we had come this way up, he slipped off and smacked his right side on the trunk with his ribs taking the full blow. He got up quickly and reassured everyone he was fine and the cameras were still dry. But later on admitted his ribs were sore and lifting his right arm was painful and uncomfortable.

It took us just under an hour to get back to the river. This time our native guide had cut off a few sticks for us to use as support whilst crossing the river. Ellen went across in no time on his back, then he returned and picked Hannah up as well. Although Hannah crossed the river the first time without falling over, she wasn’t so confident this time and was more than happy to be carried.

I thought I’d be clever and try to walk along the same rocks as the guide. It went fine until just over half way when somehow I lost my footing, slipped off the rock, fell over and half emerged in the water. I was soaking wet, but fortunately didn’t hurt myself and my rucksack (with passports) was still pretty dry.

It felt so good to get back to the car after three hours and Tim and I have so much admiration for both our girls. In my eyes, this was an extremely hard trek of which Ellen walked more than half of it and Hannah all of it (apart from the last river crossing) and as the American in our group told them: they were real troopers!

We survived the walk with slightly bruised ribs, extra mosquito bites and scratches – so all in all not too bad. Especially when we found out that almost every other member of our group had at least been bitten once by leeches and were bleeding. Somehow the leeches didn’t like us, or else we just outsmarted them!

Then came the disappointment when Francis announced that we all had taken too long to walk to the flower and we were desperately running out of time. Therefore we would not be able to visit the Orang Asli or “original people” village. I strongly felt that this was unfair as everybody in our group did the best they could and Francis did not really give us any choice or say in the matter.
I had been so looking forward to meeting these people, watch the blow pipes in action and batik painting and I’m convinced the girls certainly would have found this interesting. My disappointment was shared amongst the group. Those people on the half day trek were returning to Tanah Rata and us on the full day tour would carry on in search of lunch.

A good half hour later we stopped at an Indian restaurant where we settled for plain rice and chicken and some vegetables; Tim tried the recommended mutton curry. None of us were particularly hungry as we were still recovering from the trek.

The next stop was the Boh tea plantation that we visited yesterday. Instead of going on another informative tour around the factory we headed straight to the ‘cafe’teria for a slice of cake and a lemon and peach ice tea. It felt great to be able to take our wet socks and shoes off and let our feet warm up in the sun.
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Plantation worker.
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By now my clothes were pretty dry and I had started to feel warm again. We now headed to the border between Perak and Pahang state to Mt Birchang, which was 6,666ft high. This post was discovered by the British and apparently used to keep an eye on communist activity in and around the area. Since 1990 it became more of a tourist attraction. We climbed the lookout tower and were rewarded with very beautiful scenery and views.
Brinchang Panorama

Not such a beautiful view.
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We drove on a short distance and went for a stroll through the Mossy Forest. We were now at a height of 1900m and in the midst of a cloud forest. As the alternative name for the forest indicates, it is very wet and mossy, but also nice and soft to walk on. The guide explained there were four different layers to the forest floor: moss on top of compost, then tree roots and rocks at the bottom.

Whereas this morning I noticed a lack of information from our guide, now we were overloaded with facts and info. The native people used the mossy forest mainly as a medicine cabinet and Francis explained a few plants to us. When you rub the leaf of a bilberry plant you can use the liquid to rub into achy muscles. It strongly smelt of tiger balm. Anothoher plant we saw was the Singapore rhododendron; the leaf can be used to stop any bleeding from a leech bite (but you might need to hold it on the bite for at least 5 minutes). We also learnt that the root of wild ginger plant is good for treating dizziness, headaches, cold and flu symptoms. The native people would squash a leaf and put in on their eye whenever they get a headache on a very sunny day – they don’t have enough money to buy sunglasses, according to Francis.

Once in the forest itself Francis pointed out the Cobra Lily, the pitcher plant and the cinnamon plant. He pulled a piece of bark of the cinnamon plant to let us smell it – it very much reminded me of cinnamon pastries back at home.

Mossy forest.
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Cobra Lily.
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Pitcher plant.
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After our short walk we finally were ready to drive back to Tanah Rata where we reached the TJ counter at around 6.30pm. From there it was only a very short walk back to our hotel. At last we could take our wet shoes off and leave them to dry after giving them a quick clean.

Balcony flowers.
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We sat down in the small restaurant and ordered four bowls of tomato soup – it tasted absolutely delicious. We decided to skip the girls’ diaries and instead gave them some winding down time before rolling into bed at 8.30pm. It is lights out for us a couple of hours later.

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Such a peaceful spot, we thought… Until 5am when the guard dogs down below our balcony set each other off yapping at full volume; this went on intermittently for a good two hours (‘good’? who am I kidding?) and needless to say, none of us got much rest.

We didn’t resurface until nearly 8.30, and it was a great struggle to achieve any semblance of consciousness. Had we booked a morning tour, we’d have had 20 minutes to get dressed and down into town. Instead, we took our time over breakfast (toasty and yogurty things), dropped off our laundry and walked into town to find out about tours of the Cameron Highlands and buses from here to Pulau Pangkor (an island off the west coast of Malaysia – and there is a ferry involved).

We ended up booking an afternoon excursion with TJ Nur Tours, partly because I’m a fellow TJ and also because the man at the stand was friendly, helpful and didn’t try to give us the hard sell. All these tours are identical in itinerary, so it’s up to the guide to make the difference (with the group size being important, too).

At the bus station we were given the impression that there is no direct bus from Tanah Rata to Lumut, but that we could charter a minivan for RM70 per person. And indeed, this tallied with the published rates for taxi journeys as displayed on the side of a booth. Pretty expensive by local standards, but it’s either that or spend money on an additional overnight stop in Ipoh.

As we walked back along the main road, we browsed for shoes for the girls; if we do any serious walks around here they’ll need something better than flip-flops on their feet. Hannah was no problem – she now has some new trainers – but Ellen proved so fussy that she could find nothing to suit her, so she’ll have to stick with her existing slightly-too-small footwear for now.

We had a chat with a retired Lincolnshire doctor and his wife who were stopping over in Malaysia on the way back from four weeks in New Zealand. Then a quick lunch at our hostel before our 1.45pm rendez-vous at TJ’s.

We were booked on the tour with a Dutch couple and their one-year-old son, Luka. We boarded the minibus and picked up three young Chinese Malaysians who seemed to be doing the trip for a second time. When we were then asked if we could all squeeze up to accommodate a last-minute booking of three more tourists, I said I wasn’t happy with this as we had paid for seats for both of the girls, and it would be uncomfortable for us. Anyway the response was ‘Fair enough; I’ll tell them there’s no room’.

And so we began four and a half hours of exploring the main tourist destinations around Tanah Rata, and in retrospect it’s a great way of transferring money from our wallets to each of the seven attractions, the tour itself being relatively cheap.

First stop the Rose Gardens. Not where they grow flowers commercially (they would be cut before the buds open) but a shameless ‘pay yer money and smell the roses’ establishment – a curious mix of the eponymous blooms and gaudily-painted statues (one of this Snow White’s little friends was named ‘Gruupy’) to entertain the littlies. Only one especially fragrant rose, supposedly the one used to make that Bandung rose water syrup. The Jade Vine flowers were of an unusual hue, and our guide highlighted a green chinese rose which seems to have little to recommend it other than curiosity value.

Green rose.
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Go on, have a sniff…
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Jade Vine (who she?)
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Girls on a giant cockerel.
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Either you pay an entrance fee, or else they rely on you buying something while you’re there. Our second port of call was the Raaju Strawberry Farm; free entry, but how could we resist a couple of nicely-presented strawberry ice creams? The girls loved them (okay, we all did) and Ellen was ready to devour a second one right away.
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This farm uses hydroponics to feed raised beds of strawberries planted in coconut husk fibre gro-bags under polythene sheeting. No pesticides required, and height of the supporting trestles makes for easy pickings. The produce (30kg daily) supplies the local area only, with all the hotels offering strawberry jam cream teas.
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Talking of tea, we now drove on to the Boh Tea Plantation. This one covers a mere 600 acres while the main site is 3,600 acres. The leaves are harvested manually using shears (with a built-in collecting receptacle) or by a two-man motorised device like a hedge trimmer with a suction attachment feeding into a collecting sack; the usage is roughly 50-50. Workers are paid 25 cents per kilo of leaves, and since a good worker can cut 200kg per day, this earns him RM44 or just under £9 after deductions for fuel (if using the machine). The trimmer costs a hefty RM5000 (£1000) and workers have to fund this themselves – somehow.
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The tea pickers are mainly of Indian extraction and they are housed on site, with a shop, a clinic and a primary school for their children. They work a six-day week with Sunday off, and consequently the processing factory shuts down on Monday (so no tours then). Our factory guide was virtually unintelligible what with the din of the machinery and her stilted English, so we relied on the explanatory panels to understand what was going on. The freshly-picked leaves are ‘withered’ in a hot-air dryer overnight, then bashed around to release the juices, followed by oxidation (to break down the chlorophyll and release tannins) and then heating to stop the oxidation process at the right stage. They are still using the original 1929 machinery, dating from the time the factory was set up by Scotsman J A Russell (his grand-daughter is in charge today).
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After the tour we had half an hour to spare in their ‘Tea-a-teria’, and as it was tea time we had to splash out on a couple of hot beverages (wot, no coffee?) and a strawberry tart.

Next the Butterfly Gardens. Butterfly graveyard, more like, according to TripAdvisor, but our entrance tickets got us a series of close encounters with some non-lepidopteran insects and reptiles as well. They played the ‘wow! isn’t it big?’ card with giant beetles, giant millipedes, giant stick insects, and so on. I had a scorpion dumped on my hand, but Hannah (though keen) was not allowed to hold it; so it doesn’t matter if I get stung. Ellen had a flower mantis leap onto her from a leafy twig and both girls hosted a leaf mantis. Shame we couldn’t see the chameleons go pink on Hannah’s cardigan…

Leaf mantis.
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Tim with scorpion.
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Almost as an afterthought we were ushered into the butterfly enclosure; mainly populated by the Malaysian national butterfly, the Raja Brooke. Yes, there were dying and dead specimens on the ground, but that’s life; certainly still plenty on the wing. Unusually, this place wasn’t a hothouse, unlike most of the rest of Malaysia.

Raja Brooke.
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Ellen and friend.
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A brief stop at a roadside market where we haggled for half a kilo of guess-what-berries, then the Ee Feng Gu (wasn’t that Arthur Askey’s catch-phrase?) Honey Bee Farm (The Bee Song? this can’t be a coincidence…). By now shopping fatigue had begun to set in and no-one felt the need for a jar of honey, but the girls got a small lollipop to keep the finances flowing.

Market stalls.
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How exactly do you pluck a bee?
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The final call was a Chinese Buddhist temple; not as spectacularly unusual as the cave ones of Ipoh, but an opportunity for some more nice photos.

Temple ceiling.
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Wall tiles.
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We returned to TJ’s at 6.30pm and set about booking another tour for tomorrow. This one should tick another box on Ellen’s wish-list; we hope to see a smelly Rafflesia flower in bloom. This requires a 4×4 vehicle and a 30-minute walk each way, and we’ll call in on an Orangi Asli (indigenous) settlement afterwards for a blow-pipe demonstration. Then there’s waterfall swimming and visits to Gunung Brinchang (the highest peak here) and the Mossy Forest. Should be a busy day…

Tonight we dined at The Mayflower (a Chinese eatery) and stuffed ourselves with some excellent dishes, out of which the beef and green pepper was my favourite. Once again, it’s in a different league from those reheated tubs you get in England. Hope the dogs behave tonight – but the guests are a bit noisy as we approach 11pm. Not backpacking teenagers but loud American businessmen phoning around the world.

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All went smoothly with our moving-on day. Breakfast, packing, down in the lift to settle up and then get a taxi to the bus station. We had nearly an hour waiting for our coach and Kirsten bought a few snacks from one of the stalls to see us through the journey; little bags of dry cereal for the girls and a larger pack of hand-fried crisps. The latter didn’t exactly melt in the mouth and were hardly low fat, but they sufficed in lieu of lunch.

The coach turned up only a few minutes after the scheduled 11am departure time (the time-keeping is far better here than in South America) and we occupied a block of four seats right at the front – no reserved seating – which we shared with a stack of parcels destined for various recipients in the Cameron Highlands. Not a rice bus but a post bus, and a rickety old banger at that; the speedometer didn’t work and the engine barely wheezed up the twisty hill roads from Ipoh. At least we weren’t bothered by cornering G-forces; the sedate journey allowed us to sit back and enjoy the view of forested limestone hills and bare crags. (Incidentally, my teeth are suffering similar erosion after all these refreshing soft drinks we’ve been having.)

Leaving Ipoh.
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Terraced slopes (I don’t think they were used for growing anything) and concrete retaining walls perforated by dozens of drainage pipes; at one corner a man was filling water containers from the run-off. We drove through a heavy shower and began dropping off parcels (the Chinese ones economically wrapped in newspaper). Through Tring Kap and then Brinchang before we arrived in Tanah Rata – a little under three hours after our departure.

Post bus.
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We dragged our bags off and were accosted by a leaflet-waving Indian man. No, we had our accommodation sorted, thank you. Then we realised that he was representing our hotel and here to collect us… We gratefully accepted, and a couple of minutes later we were checking into the Hillview Inn, on the edge of town in a (seemingly) peaceful location.

They don’t accept payment by card here, so I coughed up for the first night in cash. We upgraded from our family room to two connecting double rooms; the extra space is worth the £8 difference. We still hadn’t had any proper lunch so we returned downstairs to have an early cream tea; scones with Chantilly cream and strawberry jam (they’re big on strawberries here in the Highlands) along with a pot of local tea. Even the girls joined in with their iced lemon teas.

Hillview Inn.
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Then an initial explore of the town. Tanah Rata is a far smaller settlement than Melaka or Ipoh and we soon got the hang of the main street, pausing for a while in the children’s playground at the far end. Plenty of places to eat, as well as quite a few food stores and reflexology parlours. You get accosted all the way along, not quite knowing if it’s your feet or your stomach they’re after. But it’s so wonderful to walk around town and not have sweat saturating your clothing within five minutes – it’s a cool 20’C in the Highlands.
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We returned to our rooms for an hour or two’s rest, and just in time, too – it began pouring only minutes after we got back. But soon the sun came through again and we popped out for supper. We ended up at The T Cafe – a spur-of-the-moment choice hidden away upstairs – and we pigged out on pasta for a change (vegetable and beef lasagna with a salad for Kirsten and me) while the girls shared fish and chips again. Four empty plates, so we followed up with apple pie and ice cream. This made up for our lunchlessness and we now hope we’ll all sleep well tonight.

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