Highland Adventures

After saying our goodbyes to the Injays, we boarded a plane bound for Malaysia.  But, we wouldn’t be without friends for long.  We quickly met up with our hip, Austin buddies Cheng and Negina, who had been visiting Cheng’s family in Kuala Lumpur.  After a brief pitstop in KL (more on that city to come) we boarded a “VIP Express Bus” to the Cameron Highlands, a series of small towns in the central mountain region of Malaysia.


After twisting and turning and almost puking up the winding road to the highlands, we made it safe and sound to the small town of Tanah Rata, where we stayed in a nice, cozy apartment that Negina had arranged for us all.  I wish I had taken a video of the switchbacks on the way there.  They were so tight that the bus had to use both lanes of the road and honk the horn around each turn to make sure oncoming traffic knew we were coming!

The highlands are known for their cooler temperatures – a welcome relief after our time in other parts of SE Asia.  They are also known for tea production and we spent one of our days together touring a Boh tea plantation just outside of town.  It was a beautiful place!




To make the tea, they harvest only the leaves from the tops of the tea bushes.  The bushes are pruned over the years so that they have flat tops that are easier to harvest with hand held machines.  However, the bushes on the steep sides of the mountains are still all picked by hand.  They are not visible in the pictures, but we saw several workers way up on the sides of the mountains harvesting and pruning.  Hard work to be sure.


The leaves are brought into this building where they are fermented, dried, sorted and packaged.  It smelled very much like tea, and tea dust was everywhere.  There were several people whose job it was to sweep up all the tea dust so that it could be used in lower quality tea bags.  Nothing went to waste.

Back in town, we pretty much took it easy.  It was great catching up with Cheng and Negina and getting some perspective on Malaysia from them, as they’ve been to Malaysia previously.  We also got to hear about their recent adventures in Myanmar and what’s been going on in Austin since we’ve been gone.  One night we played cards ’till the wee hours of the morning, everyone patiently putting up with my whacked card playing strategies.  Just good times – and so awesome to have things feel like home here on the other side of the world.  Thanks, C&N!!!

When it was time to eat, we had tasty Indian food…  I wasn’t expecting that to be the major cuisine either, but Malaysia is very much a melting pot of Indian, Chinese and Malay people, and that’s certainly what we experienced.  I was still getting over a stomach bug at the time, so my favorite food was the butter and garlic naan, a combination I devised myself and may have convinced the restaurant to put on the menu.

After a fun couple of days with Cheng and Negina, we said our farewells and once again hopped on the bus.  Cheng and Negina headed back to KL to spend a final few days with family before heading back to the States.  We took a different bus, heading to the beach where we could relax and plan our time in countries to come – Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

But, getting to the beach turned into a bit of an adventure.  To get there, we had to catch a second bus at the main station in the town of Ipoh, which would then take us to our final destination, Lumut (from Lumut we’d take a ferry to the island of Pangkor and the beach!).  Unfortunately, we missed our stop in Ipoh.  It wasn’t explained to us very well, but the bus to Ipoh actually made two stops.  The first stop was at the main Ipoh bus station, but the bus stopped about a block away from the station itself.  So, we didn’t understand that this was where we needed to disembark.  Thinking the bus route would terminate in the main station, we continued on until the next and final stop at the local Ipoh bus station.

It was obvious that this wasn’t where we were supposed to be.

After a brief moment of panic, we were able to calm ourselves, ask around, and get ourselves pointed (literally – no English here!) in the right direction.  Turns out there was another bus company down the road a ways that drove to Lumut.  So, we got some tickets and waited for about an hour and a half for the bus.

Unlike our bus to the highlands, our bus to Lumut was not so VIP and not so Express.  But, we were on our way to the beach!

It was actually an interesting drive because this was a local bus.  It made a lot of stops along the way, picking up random people on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and then dropping them off somewhere that seemed equally obscure.  There were several cargo pickups and deliveries being made by the bus, too.  This was definitely everyday living.

Hot, tired, and a little bit dizzy from bus exhaust (I watched the driver pour about a gallon of oil into the bus’s engine before we left Ipoh!), the Lumut bus station was a welcome site!  We arrived just in time to catch the next ferry to Pulau Pangkor, and soon we had reached our final destination.

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