Located approximately 200km from Kuala Lumpur in the state of Pahang, Cameron Highlands is a leisurely 3-hour drive north along the north-south highway (PLUS). A new route from the exit at Simpang Pulai has drastically reduced travelling times compared to the more windy old road which leads up to Ringlet at the lower level of the highlands. The new road is much more efficient where it leads right to the top of Cameron Highlands in the town of Brinchang, where vast tracts of tea and vegetable plantations abound. The main road then leads downhill towards Tanah Rata (literally meaning “flat land”) where most of the commercial businesses, shops and accommodation are located.
One of the most exclusive resorts in Cameron Highlands is the Cameron Highlands Resort which was the old Merlin Hotel that was refurbished by the YTL Group of Malaysia. Rates start from about RM300 up to RM700 for a high end suite. This resort boasts a new Japanese restaurant, high tea with Cameron Highland’s own Boh tea and scones, beautiful koi ponds and commanding views over the golf course.
The attraction of Cameron Highlands to most locals is to escape the hustle and bustle of busy city life for a weekend in cooler climate where night time Celcius temperature can be in the low teens. Other activities include golfing at the main golf course in Tanah Rata, sipping the local Boh tea and scones in one of many Tudor style English settings, bush walking, bird watching and visiting the local growers’ markets, tea and vegetable plantations.
Cameron Highlands is also famous for its local strawberries and the bountiful fresh fruit is made into strawberry vinegar, jams, dried fruit and a multitude of other products.
In Malaysia’s colonial past, the English has built many quaint cottages and rest houses in the cool highlands to escape the tropical heat. Many of these homes have been preserved and some have been turned into beautiful caretaker holiday homes.
Financial institutions also invested and built their own holiday homes for their senior executives and staff and over the last 30 years, Cameron Highlands has evolved from having individual holiday homes dotted all over Tanah Rata to include much larger service apartments, condominiums and hotels.
The rest house of Bank Negara Malaysia (Central Bank of Malaysia) is located in the heart of Tanah Rata on high elevation and its sprawling rose gardens command scenic views that overlook the valley and golf course beneath. Senior bank executives, their families and friends would occupy the 7-room rest house during long weekends and vacations where in-house caretakers serve up a mix of local fare such as steamboat and Western cuisine for its occupants.
Tanah Rata is also not short of good food for holiday makers as it has a variety of restaurants serving both local and Western cuisine to cater to tourists which come from as far as the UK, Europe, North America and Australia. Foodies can be spoilt for choice from tucking into tasty local fare such as mee goreng, tandoori chicken, roti canai and chicken masala to having beef Wellington and chargrilled rib-eye steaks at Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn or the Cameron Highland Resort.
Real estate in Cameron Highlands have been appreciating gradually in recent years. New apartments which are for sale in Tanah Rata range from RM250,000 upwards although most of these new developments do not have the quality finishing of international holiday homes. Design and workmanship of newer condominiums and hotels are very average at best and may be located next to shabby old houses and farmland. Vacant land around Tanah Rata range from RM30 per square foot (1 square metre = 10.76 square feet) up to over RM100.
Tanah Rata is the location to be as most of the luxury rest houses, attractions such as bushwalks, restaurants, shops and amenities are located around the golf course. In any case, Brinchang and Ringlet is no more than a 20 minute scenic drive from Tanah Rata.
One of the leading businesses in Cameron Highlands is Boh Plantations which is the leading tea grower in the highlands. The company conducts guided tours of its tea factories and sells its products on location in Gunung Brinchang.
The proof of the quality of its vast array of teas is served up in its cafe which overlooks the beautiful and undulating tracts of tea plantations.
Caroline Russell has perpetuated the pioneering efforts of her grandfather John Archibald Russell who started planting tea when he acquired freehold plots of land in Brinchang in the early years of the British colonisation of the then Malaya.
Ms Russell is Chief Executive Officer of Boh Plantations, a Malaysian citizen and an ambassador of the charming highlands which hold fond memories in the hearts of locals and foreign visitors alike.
Malaysia is encouraging eligible foreign citizens from all over the world along with their spouses and children to reside and retire in Malaysia under the Malaysia, My Second Home Program.