One of the perks of the Malay Peninsula is it’s pretty tiny (in comparison to the rest of Asia!) and our first bus journey of 5 hours through the scenic countryside felt like about half an hour, after so many epic journeys! We wound through strawberry and tea plantations, up through the cooler air, and into the tiny town of Tanah Rata.
We found a cute hostel – Twin Pines – that had a little garden with pretty flowers growing and tree stump chairs and tables, and we settled in. The friendly hostel owner recommended the food stalls opposite as a good food offer, so we checked it out that night, and it did not disappoint! We had some delicious curry mee (noodle soup), and I discovered the wonders of Malay satay, which comes with a uniquely sweet and spicy peanut sauce, that became yet another food addiction. The food stalls opposite ours were full of friendly locals and backpackers every night, and we went to join in the fun of sitting around steaming bowls of deliciousness, working our way through the ‘must-try’ Malaysian dishes!
We relaxed into a slower pace of travel, and spent the first day shmoozing around town – sunbathing in the cute park in the beautiful sunshine, playing on the swings, balancing along pipes in the playground, eating curry buffets, and taking a look around the cute bargain shops (and resisting the urge to buy a load of cheap tat!) That evening we snuck some brandy and coke into our room (being the cheapest booze we could find!) and – although it tasted fine – didn’t really enjoy the headyness of being drunk, and vowed that we would probably abstain for the rest of Malaysia.
The next day we’d planned to trek to some nearby waterfalls, but we were rained off, and the ominous clouds encouraged us to cosy up and enjoy a ‘duvet day’ where I caught up on some blogging. We ventured out in the evening for our usual gluttony of fried bananas, hot coffee and noodles.
On our last day in town, we finally got our arses in gear and went out trekking to take in the sights in the nearby area. There are plenty of tours on offer, but being independent travel enthusiasts (and more importantly, being cheap!) we decided to don our trekking shoes and just go it alone. We walked up, out of town, past nearby town Brinchang – up a scenic curvy road surrounded by mountains, trees, and bizarre Dutch-style period properties.
Our first stop was a cutesy strawberry farm, where we picked tons of fresh juicy strawbs (at a ratio of about 2:1 for instant eating:putting in the box), and fawned over the A-frames of baby strawberries and saplings at various stages of development. There weren’t any other people in the farm (there are tons of farms to choose from, so maybe we lucked out with a less busy one!) and we were left to pick to our heart’s content… well, until our box was full. And when we went to pay, the adorable staff gave us a few scoops extra for a bargain £1 (about 750g of strawberries!) and a free strawberry smoothie to boot!
Our next stop was the Boh Tea Plantation – arguably offering the best views of the surrounding area – and on our way up to the main lookout ‘Gunung Brinchang’, we were picked up by the SWEETEST Malaysian family, on hols from Kuala Lumpur – who took us the rest of the way in their car. They were absolutely adorable, and we hung out for the next few hours – taking photos for each other, touring the tea plantation, stopping for some tea at the lookout… and they even bought us some souvenir Earl Grey with Tangerine (that we’d been eyeing up, but were too cheap to buy!)
Revived by such a lovely run-in with yet more amazing Malay people (definitely the friendliest, after Filipinos and Indonesians!) we wondered home via another crazy-bright temple, Sam Poh, where we learnt about the symbolism behind the towering gold statues of possessed-looking men that seem to feature in all Chinese Buddhist temples.
After one more sunny stop-off in the park where we stuffed ourselves silly with leftover strawberries, we had one last street food meal then the next day, we caught the bus to one of the oldest jungles in South East Asia … Teman Negara!