Malaysia destinations – Cameron Highlands

Can this be Malaysia?
Can this be Malaysia?

Cameron Highlands has quite a few things going for it to become a holiday destination in Malaysia: the cool climate, which brings about agri and eco tourism encompassing horticulture, tea plantations, strawberry farms and nature trails, and traces of the colonial past. These were reason enough for us to spend 2 nights on holiday here.Driving up from KL, we stopped for lunch at Hao Yi Lou in Tapah, conveniently located at the foothill before you start the 55km climb up. Their rendition of the Kam Heong style was among the very best I have had in Malaysia. It was dry, in a good way. More often than not, Kam Heong is done too wet. Best of all, their prices were jaw dropping low. The rather big plate of Kam Heong fried crayfish was only RM12! Definitely a good place to grab lunch before heading up Cameron Highlands.

Legendary Kam Heong Crayfiah
Legendary Kam Heong Crayfish
Clay pot bean curd. As expected.
Clay pot bean curd. As expected.
"Dong Bo" pork. Unfortunately the meat is a little dry.
“Dong Bo” pork. Unfortunately the meat is a little dry.
Surprisingly the coffee served at this Tze Char restaurant is not bad. Most likely uses some sort of fragrant essence.
Surprisingly the coffee served at this Tze Char restaurant is not bad. Most likely uses some sort of flavouring essence.

Our very first stop in Cameron Highlands was to go for afternoon tea at the Jim Thompson Tea Lounge at Cameron Highlands Resort. Yes, we had afternoon tea barely 1.5 hours after lunch, so if you’re planning to do the same, remember not to eat too much for lunch!

The cool weather certainly makes adds to the coziness at Jim Thompson Tea Lounge
The cool weather certainly adds to the coziness at Jim Thompson Tea Lounge
The set for two
The set for two. Scones are like a must when in Cameron Highlands.

Brinchang seems to be the place where Chinese restaurants in Cameron Highlands are concentrated. We shunned doing the steam boat thingy though, despite it being like a “must” when in Cameron Highlands. Our preference is to go for Tze Char dishes, which showcases specific taste/style and the skills of a chef, offering chances of being delighted, versus virtually no surprise from steamboat.

I chose Eng Tick (荣得) Seafood Restaurant, located in an obscure and dark corner right smack in the local market (pasar, operates only till late morning by the way), away from the main street where all tourists go. This is truly a hidden gem. You will absolutely not chance upon this place.

Eng Tick, no frills but clean and bright
Eng Tick, rather small interior, no frills but clean and bright
At only RM15, we couldn't resist having another go at crayfish.
At only RM15, we couldn’t resist having another go at crayfish for dinner. Very nicely battered.
Very fresh la la soup. Pity the chilly made it too spicy.
La la soup. Pity the chilly made it too spicy. Hot soup works well for the cold weather.
Fu Rong eggs
Fu Rong eggs
Salted eggs dragon's whiskers (龙须). Interesting combination.
Salted eggs dragon’s whiskers (龙须菜). Interesting and tasty combination.
Asparagus beans (芦笋豆). Never knew there was such a thing. Crunchy and sweet. The Wok Hei and gravy is simply awesome.
Asparagus beans (芦笋豆). Never knew there was such a thing. Crunchy and sweet. The Wok Hei and gravy is simply awesome.

Naturally, all the patrons were local, a good sign. Although the restaurant wasn’t full, they were kept occupied. And the dishes? They are on par with what you can expect at premium Chinese restaurants!

One of those charcoal steamboat restaurant along the main road
One of those charcoal steamboat restaurants along the main road

The next morning, we had breakfast in Tanah Rata. Unfortunately, Uncle Chow’s place which I planned to visit was closed, and I settled for Orchid Food Corner instead. Not a lot of choices in the morning, mainly Roti Canai and pre-cooked noodles and dishes.

Crispy but lacking in stickiness which I also like to have in my roti
Crispy but lacking in stickiness
Roti Bom. The dal is a little too sweet.
Roti Bom. The dal is a little too sweet.
Cold but decent
Cold but decent

If you’re in Tanah Rata, you should make a quick visit (it only takes 10 minutes) to Parit Waterfall.

The waterfall as seen from the hanging bridge
The waterfall as seen from the hanging bridge
A pleasant sight despite the miniature size of the waterfall and some litter
A pleasant sight despite the miniature size of the waterfall and some litter around the area
The hibiscus grown here are extra large in size
The hibiscus grown here are extra large in size

Although I did not have the chance to visit, i gather from photos that Mossy Forrest should rightfully claim the top spot among attractions in Cameron Highlands. I am reminded of Yakushima Island, and if you like moss, like I do, then this is definitely a must on your itinerary.

Coming in at second place, according to me, is Boh tea plantation. I visited the Sungei Palas tea plantation, and it was nothing short of awesome.

Tea shrubs covering the hills as far as the eyes can see
Tea shrubs covering the hills as far as the eyes can see. The weather plays a huge part in your ability to enjoy the sight, so pray for the rain to stay away.
Not your typical Malaysian house
Not your typical Malaysian house
The cafe perched on a hill
Cafe perched on a hill

The cafe at the tea centre serves tea (of course!), cakes and pastries. I’m not a tea person, so I couldn’t appreciate the tea so much. Moreover, they don’t use filtered water for the tea. The cheese cakes, on the other hand, were not bad. You get a huge slice for a reasonable price.

Cakes and pastries
Cakes and pastries
Tea
Tea from pure tea leaves
The view from the balcony
The view from the balcony

Kea farm is probably the other unmissable place to visit, especially for someone who does cooking. You can buy, or at least observe produce at their best. Many of the produce sold in Singapore are sourced from Cameron Highlands, and you’ll immediately notice they look a lot more fresh here. So fresh they make me salivate.

Nicely packed and sold at bundled price
Nicely packed and sold at bundled price. I’ve not seen lettuce this fresh.
Quite a large variety to choose from
Quite a large variety to choose from. There are about 30 stalls selling produce here.

My planned dinner place for the second night of my stay, based on TripAdvisor reviews, was Delicious and Happiness Kitchen. Unfortunately, it was a disaster. The food was edible, but falls way short of the standard at Eng Tick. In fact, we were so dissatisfied that we went back to Eng Tick for a second round right after the meal. This time, Eng Tick was packed with local patrons. The discerning know where to go.

Wah Tan Hor (drippy eggs Hor Fun or flat rice vermicelli). Full of Wok Hei.
Wat Tan Hor (stringy eggs Hor Fun or flat rice vermicelli). Full of Wok Hei.
Fried mushroom
Fried mushroom
Green dragon veg (青龙菜) with bean sprout
Green dragon veg (青龙菜) with bean sprouts. Tasting fresh vegetables was our main focus for dining in Cameron Highlands.

There are not many options for Chinese style breakfast in Brinchang, and they’re mostly near the market. We settled for Restoran Hui Wei (回味小食馆). It was pretty satisfying. There is another eatery called economy food stalls (经济小食档) right behind this shop, a good choice too.

Noodles with vinegar pork
Noodles with vinegar pork, with a large serving of meat
Noodles with braised pork. The pork was nicely tender.
Noodles with braised pork. The pork was nicely tender.
The economy stall
The economy food stall

My previous trips to Cameron Highlands were always done round trip through Tapah. This time, I decided to include Ipoh in my itinerary just to make things more interesting. You guessed it, Ipoh is all about food, and I wanted to try the Dim Sum in Ipoh. It takes only less than 2 hours to get to Ipoh from Cameron Highlands.

Ipoh Dim Sum is almost synonymous with Foh San, but I took up the suggestion of a blogger (I don’t remember who) to have Dim Sum at Ming Court, right across the street. This is supposedly the local’s choice.

Char Siew Pao, very fluffy
Char Siew Pao, very fluffy
Cheong Fun, soft and nice
Cheong Fun, soft and nice
The Dim Sum comes in miniature sizes, which is good in that it allows one to try more items
The Dim Sum comes in miniature sizes, which is good in that it allows one to try more items
Fried items
Fried items

The Dim Sum was pretty tasty, not so refined (in a good way – it feels authentic handmade) and quite cheap (by KL standard)! I will probably still try Foh San someday, but am happy that I went for Ming Court first.

No trip to Ipoh is complete without sipping a cup of white coffee. I also decided to make an alternative choice this time – Nam Heong instead of my usual Sin Yoon Loong. Nam Heong is the originator of the Old Town White Coffee franchise if you didn’t know, and Sin Yoon Loong is one of the oldest, if not the oldest shop selling White Coffee.

Besides the coffee, everyone comes here for the egg tart
Besides the coffee, everyone comes here for the egg tart
The coffee looks so pretty, full of froth and looks like it is going to overflow. And surprise! It tastes just like Old Town coffee!
The presentation is so pretty, full of froth and looking as if it is going to overflow. And surprise, it tastes just like the 3-in-1 Old Town coffee! Slightly sour.
The toasted bread was spectacular. Very evenly toasted through, and sides trimmed.
The kaya and butter toast was spectacular. Very evenly toasted through, and sides trimmed.
I couldn't resist. Gai See (shredded chicken) Hor Fun. The soup is savoury and the dash of chilli oil not only perks up the taste but also makes it look pretty. This dish really isn't done as well outside of Ipoh.
Already very full but i couldn’t resist the Gai See (shredded chicken) Hor Fun. The soup is savoury and the dash of chilli oil not only perks up the taste but also makes it look so pretty. This dish really isn’t done as well outside of Ipoh.

I grabbed a packet of white coffee powder and two from Sin Yoon Loong before leaving. This will be enough supply for 2 months of white kopi.

The white coffee powder sold by Nam Heong is non-branded on the front, but behind, it is stated to be produced by Gongga Food, which is actually the manufacturer behind Old Town White Coffee.
Sin Yoon Loong still uses their vintage design. The white coffee powder sold by Nam Heong is non-branded on the front, but behind, it is stated to be produced by Gongga Food, which is actually the manufacturer behind Old Town White Coffee.
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