CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Beyond the Colonial Retreat

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Inland to highlands we climb, with lush dense forest slopes to one side and misty views over valleys of wild green to the other… only to be greeted by a dominating abundance of plastic sheets and industrial machinery. It seems this stunning landscape and it’s once untouched natural beauty has been over-run by illegal farming. Many of which are producing strawberries… yes, in Malaysia. This place once known as ‘little England’ has now turned into a free-for-all land grabbing territory. And, as we later find out from our Naturalist Guide ‘Madi’, it seems the majority of Malaysians don’t care about the sate of their land, and certainly don’t show signs to fight for its preservation. He says educating the youth is the key, and i tend to agree.

Fortunately for us, our destination was further on from these unsightly production sites. An exquisitely maintained colonial resort, spacious, full of character and forever show-casing its sentimental past. However lovely it seemed at first, the whole ‘perfection’ and formality of the place began to irritate. What was worse was the ‘fine-dining’ experience a guest received when the surrounding area offered up no alternative. A looming white jacket hovering over his or her shoulder, half a dozen waiters waring down the sides of your water glass and cheesy Flute interpretations of worn out love songs repeating over-head…

So… the mission was, to enjoy the delights and then escape to whatever was left of the highlands.

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A local Tea-Plantation

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In search of even higher ground… we take a wrong turn.

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Back on the intended track…

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Spotted some tea-pickers at work, so i ask if i could take photos…

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On our way back we parked by a hill and climbed the water-duct hoping for a grander view… but the sun decided to hide.

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And also failed focusing a timed shot…

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The next day thought we’d give the hotel’s recommended trek a go. The trail, named after ‘Jim Thompson’ an apparent famous silk-trader who mysteriously when missing when out for a stroll back in the 60’s, turned out to be far more interesting than anticipated.

Flowers very smiler to those you’d find in Jamaica!

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After establishing that our Guide wasn’t the least bit interested in this Jim Thompson fellow, and neither were we, he started to thrive, proving his worth as an expert of the highland jungle. Taking us up into the thick vegetation, along a path he’d previously cut, he gave us an informal, interactive tour of the area and it’s wildlife. Showing an obvious passion for nature and it’s preservation, he didn’t hold back in sharing his feelings on the destruction going on. Stressing the negative impact of neglect and ignorance that not only affects the beautiful views, but also damages the whole eco-system.

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Inside a vacant bird’s nest… a large spider waits for it’s return. Or so Madi insists.

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The weird and the… wonderful?

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It was certainly a mixed bag of experiences, collected all within 2 days. Though I believe we did managed to find parts of the real highlands and an unparalleled passion for it. It’s a dying place, worthy of international attention. But for now, you can choose, like me, to remember if fondly, over-looking the illegal farming and having ventured beyond the colonial retreat…

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