|From Penang we drove about 5 hours to reach the Cameron Highlands, which are an amazing group of villages in the mountains of Malaysia. The last hour of the drive was quite curvey, but so beautiful. The weather is much cooler at this altitude--still quite humid--but the break from the heat was nice. As we got off the bus we were all surprised to see the lovely chalet-style hotels...it almost felt like we were back in Europe! We got really lucky because our hotel was full, so they moved us across the way to some timeshares which were fabulous. The actual village was small with Chinese and Indian restaurants and a few shops.
For our full day in the Cameron Highlands, we took a took a tour to truly experience all that we could. We were picked up in a Land Rover and began our journey through the windy roads. We reached our first stop, which was the highest point in the Cameron Highlands, but the weather wasn't great, so the views were pretty much of mist...so we moved on and drove to a little spot where we trekked into the hills for about 20 minutes. The terrain is basically like a rainforest, so the ground was completely saturated--like a sponge. Everything was muddy, but the moss and insects living in that area were definitely worth seeing!
Our next stop was at the Boh Tea Plantation. It was incredible! Neither of us have ever seen tea fields before--they look like huge sections of bright green carpet. We took tons of pictures--it was just too beautiful to pass up! We watched the locals picking the tea leaves, and then the processing that takes place in the factory. And of course we then had the chance to have a nice cup of tea on the terrace which overlooks the fields. It was similar to the wine tastings we did in Italy and Greece.
Next we visited the Butterfly Garden...while we thought it would be cool, we weren't too excited about this stop, but it was part of the tour so we didn't have much of a choice. But to our surprise, it turned out to be awesome! There were massive butterflies, as well as a wide variety of insects to look at and even hold. Everything from huge beetles to leaf insects, stick insects, tarantulas, scorpions, leap frogs, chameleons, and more. We spent a good amount of time just staring in awe at some of these creatures...has anyone ever seen a leaf insect before?!! AMAZING.
After lunch we headed out about 40 minutes to an aboriginal village to spend some time with the locals as well as do more jungle trekking. The terrain was again quite muddy, and our guide was probably the fastest walker ever! We slipped and slided around (of course Sondra fell) for a little over and hour until we finally reached our destination--the Rafflesia flower. This is the largest blooming flower in the world, and it just happened to be in bloom when we were there. The other special thing about this flower is that it actually smells like rotting flesh (this is to attract flies), although it didn't smell while we were there (we were quite lucky with this flower). It was really amazing. I'm not sure that the pictures will accurately depict it, but this thing was massive...it looks a bit rubbery--some of us thought it was a tube from the river! The hour through the muddy jungle was definitely worth it!
We hiked back down to the village (no, Sondra didn't fall again) to enjoy some more time with the locals. Their houses were up on stilts with bamboo floors and thatched roofs. There were tons of kids running around and one main man who brought out a container of poisonous darts that he shoots out of a blow gun to hunt. The darts are color coded to tell how poisonous they are and therefore which animal they will kill. He taught us how to blow through this gun to shoot these arrows...the pictures probably show better than I can describe. It was suprisingly easy...just a little puff and the dart was shot across the room. And they actually still use these to hunt monkeys, wild boars and other animals.
The kids were watching us the entire time, and mimicking everything we said. They were very cute and so excited to see their pictures on the digital cameras. As we got in our Land Rover to leave, they were actually hanging on to the fenders of the truck, riding down the dirt path! It was like we had little animals on our car and we couldn't get them off! Our driver stopped once to tell them to get off, but they just jumped back on again! They were very cute, and smart enough to jump off before we hit the main highway.
The Cameron Highlands were beautiful and a wonderful part of Malaysia!