Friday 20 January 2012

Malaysia: The Cameron Highlands

The six-and-a-half hour drive from Singapore to the Cameron Highlands was punctuated briefly by a petrol stop and a superb Chicken Rendang at one of the service stations on the E2. Although these places have small sinks for hand washing, one gentleman decided to combine two activities into one by washing his hands in the urinal as it flushed. Quite environmentally friendly when you think about it.

After three more hours, we reached Tapah and headed northeast on the twisty Route 59 that climbs to Tanah Rata. The roadside was scattered with Orang Asli (indigenous people) in wooden shacks selling wind chimes, baskets, plants, bean pods, gnarled roots and bottles of honey in various shades. A chap selling enormous durians slumped over his stall as if overcome by the aroma. Men on motorbikes swerved round children playing perilously close to the deep drainage ditches at the side of the road. Puppies snuggled down for the night under shelters.

Tanah Ratah Ye Olde Smokehouse, Cameron Highlandsis not pretty and the new mock colonial and neo Tudor apartment blocks, hotels and golf courses do nothing to add to the town's aesthetic appeal. Are there no planning regulations? We drove past tea plantations with their neatly arranged rows of bushes and brightly coloured tourist coaches before arriving at ‘Ye Olde Smokehouse’ (4°29'1.58"N, 101°22'43.42"E).

We sat in the lounge with a pot of Cameron Highlands tea studyiYe Olde Smokehouse, Cameron Highlandsng the décor that would not have looked out of place anywhere in Sussex. The smell of smoke from the fire in the bar area added to the ambiance. Our room, the ‘Warwick’ suite, included a four-poster bed, a separate sitting room with wing back chairs and a bathroom with two peYe Olde Smokehouse lounge, Cameron Highlandsdestal sinks. The negative reviews on the Internet seemed somewhat surprising. The only thing missing was a musty black Labrador.

A quick freshen up later, we sat by the log fire with a glass of Hoegaarden beer and a rather pleasant Chilean Chardonnay before dinner. The food, another source of some people’s grizzles, is not gourmet - it’s pub-style or like you gran used to make (including the splendid bread and butter pudding).

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