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Malaysia and Cambodia


This is about my upcoming trip to Malaysia and Cambodia. The first part is pre-trip - information about flights, itineraries, accommodation and all the things that you need to do to plan an overseas holiday. This is my first trip to Asia and I hope it may help others. Comments are very welcome and anyone who has travelled to Malaysia and/or Cambodia, please feel free to comment and offer any advice or tips that you think would be helpful. As of today ( 28th February) , in exactly 11 days (minus 30 minutes) I will be in Kuala Lumpur.

I had the most amazing time and hope you enjoy reading about my trip. Each post is numbered and I'm doing them in order from start to finish - a little like a diary.



102. Sungei Palas Tea Plantation

Above: Billy Goat

We passed a few goats on the way to our next stop. This fellow was munching away on the grass on a hill.

Above: Three Billy Goats Gruff

A little further on were these kids. The same family perhaps?

Above: Information

At an altitude of 1500 metres above sea-level and covering around 235 hectares, the Sungei Palas tea factory is one of the most popular attractions with tourists and visitors. The air is clean and fresh and the grounds extensive.

Did you know?

Tea used to be plucked by hand as the workers move laboriously through the long rows of low tea bushes.

Today, the most common plucking method used is the two-man hand-held machine which is assisted by winches. These machines can harvest up to 300 kgs of green leaf per man per day, 10 times more than traditional hand plucking.

On the steepest slopes where access is limited, shears are used and can bring in about 120kgs per man per day.

After the harvest day is over, the leaf is first checked for quality, packed into sacks and weighed before being transported to the factory for processing.

The Manufacturing Process of Tea

We were taken on a tour of the factory and our guide explained the fascinating details of tea - from plant to packed in boxes for sale.


Tea bushes are harvested approximately every three weeks. The leaves are picked in the morning and immediately transported to the factory. Tea leaves are plucked only after two years from planting. Once the plant is mature, tea is plucked approximately every three weeks. The plucked leaves are checked for quality and are then transferred to the factory where they go through five main processing stages. Each stage brings out the distinctive fragrance and aroma from the tea leaves.


During this first step, the green leaf is withered to reduce moisture and allow natural chemical reactions to take place by putting them in troughs or bins with warm dry air running through them for about 12 to 20 hours. This is usually done overnight.


The withered leaves are rolled to crush the leaf cells and process them into smaller particles. It also exposes the cells to oxygen. The rollers used at the factory date back to 1935.


Also known as oxidation, fermentation is the natural chemical process in which enzymes in the leaf are exposed to oxygen. This is the stage that determines the flavour, aroma and colour of the tea. The leaves are spread onto trays and the humidity, temperature and timing are carefully controlled. After fermentation, the tea leaves change from green to copper. This process takes from two to three hours.

Above: Drying the leaves


Drying stops the fermentation process and reduces the moisture in the leaf to 3%. The fermented leaf is fed into machines through which blasts of hot air heated to almost 120º Celsius is passed through the leaves.

The tea leaf then emerges into the familiar crisp black curled form we see and is known as "made tea." The process is completed in around 10 - 20 minutes. The furnace uses wood from the rubber trees to produce the hot air.


After drying, the "made tea" is graded according to size. This is done by passing the leaves through several sieves known as vibroscreens. The fibres, stalks and off-grades are removed during this stage and each grade of tea has its own flavour, characteristics and density.

Tea Tasting

Tea tasting is a vital and essential part of the tea making process and is very specialised and requires years of training - like a wine taster. The taster examines each sample of dry tea leaves for texture, colour, amount of twist and evenness of grade. The infused leaves are then examined for colour, brightness and uniformity. Next, he or she tastes the tea for taste, flavour and aroma.

Above: A nice hot cup of tea


The tea is then stored in dry conditions to mature and mellow further before packing. It is important that to ensure there is no moisture as this would ruin the tea.


The tea leaves are packaged into boxes and other containers and are now ready for the market.

Above: The five stages

The factory produces 600,000 kg of tea a year and has a variety of different brews - Pekoe, Cheeding, Palas Supreme, Cinnamon-flavoured. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9.00am to 4.30pm. Admission to the factory is free and tours are conducted every 30 minutes.

Above: Welcome sign

Above: Sungei Palas Tea Centre

The Sungei Palas Tea Centre is an airy and spacious complex housing a visitor gallery, tea shop, a cafe and museum.



During the British colonial ear in Malays, a Mr. J. Russel, a British businessman, started the BOH Plantations in 1929. Due to huge demands for tea coupled with the climate of the Cameron Highlands, he saw the potential and economic value and was granted a concession of land for his first tea garden in Habu.

Today, BOH Plantations has three tea gardens - Habu, (the first one), Fairlie and Sungei Palas Tea Garden. A packaging factory was set up neat the main garden - this ensured the freshness of their products. BOH tea products are distributed not only to the domestic market but also internationally.

Scenic Tea Gardens

Below are some shots I took of the beautiful gardens with their manicured rows

Above: BOH Tea

Above: Sungei Palas Gardens

Above: BOH Tea Plantation

Above: Tea plantation with coffee trees

Above: Sungei Palas Tea Plantation

Above: Restaurant exterior

Above: Friends

Sitting in the cafe drinking tea, the young man and his family were sitting next to me. We got to chatting - he taught me a few Malay phrases, and I told him a few Aussie slang words. His little sister was (I think) about eight or nine.

It was a lovely day and visiting the tea plantation was a real eye-opener - whoever would have thought there would be that much intensity involved in producing tea?


101. Mossy Forest

Above: Ginger plant
After seeing Mt. Brinchang, we walked a short way down the hill and entered the mossy forest on the left which is approx. 2,000 metres above sea level. This little ginger plant

Above: Nick, our guide
Nick was very good at showing us leaves and plants and explaining what their use was. Alas, I misremember the name of many, including this one, other than it is some sort of palm.

Above: Pitcher plant (Nepenthes alba)
One of the many pitcher plants. These plants live off insects in the forest attracting them in with a sweet nectar.

Above: Pitcher plant (Tolong Jangan Sentuh)
Once the insect is trapped then it's Kbang! - the lid (trap) closes shut and its prey is caught. More information about these plants can be found here.

Above: Fatimah's plant - (Labisia Pumila)
In Malaysia, Labisia pumila is popularly known locally as Selusuh Fatimah

Labisia pumila (Myrsinaceae), popularly known as "Kacip Fatimah", has been used by many generation of the Malay women to induce and facilitate childbirth as well as a post-partum medicine

Kacip Fatimah has been traditionally used by the Malay women for many generations in childbirth in inducing and eases delivery, as a post partum medication to help contract the birth channel, to regain body strength, regulate menstrual cycle and avoid painful or difficult menstration, and to alleviate menopausal symptoms. The plant is traditionally boiled and the water extraction is taken as a drink. Other traditional uses include treating dysentery, rheumatism, and gennoehoea. It is also used as antiflatulence by helping to drive away and prevent the formation of gas. The plant will also help to firm and tone the abdominal muscles. Scientific studies have established that the medicinal properties and biological activities of Kacip Fatimah are due to the presence of phyto-estrogen (plant estrogen) that is naturally found in the plant.

Above: Boundary marker Pahang/Perak
It was fun to stand here with a foot on both sides of the border.

Above: Gazebo?
This charming little gazebo was down the hill a bit after we exited the forest.


100. Mt. Brinchang

I had booked a tour the night before and had wanted to do a full day tour which incorporated a tea plantation, Mt. Brinchang, forest walk and an Orang Asli village. Cameronian Inn book tours so I spoke with Ganesh (the owner) saying I'd like to book the full day tour with Cameron Secrets. He informed me that the full day tours weren't running because it was school holidays and said to book a half day tour instead, so I did, making it clear which tour company I wanted.

A tour by any other name?
Anyway, the next morning, waiting outside for the CS van, another van pulled up, the driver went inside and came out with a couple of peoiple. I was surprised to see he was still looking for someone. He spoke with me and I told him I was waiting for the Cameron Secrets people. Time marched on and it turned out that Ganesh had booked me with this tour company. I was not best pleased and was rather annoyed - turned out they were kind of friends. And I found out later that the full day tour going to the Orang Asli Village was running because I met some people who were doing that. I still enjoyed the tour anyway but the point was it wasn't the one I had asked for. My advice - if booking a tour through your accommodation, make sure it is the one you want.

Below is a map showing the places we went to.

Above: Map of where we went
We started out, picked up a few more people and from memory there was around 10 or 12 of us all told. Nick, our tour guide said we would be going to Mt. Brinchang but as we drove along, he said we'd go to the insect farm first instead of last as the day was a little cloudy still and you get a much better view from the summit when it's sunny.

Above: Brinchang Nursery
The entry fee for the insect farm was not included and I had no intention of paying to see a bunch of bugs and insects. Yewk! Definitely not my scene - animals and birds alright but creepy crawlies - no. So I took myself off for a look around. There weren't really that many shops but I espied a nursery across the road with some lovely plants and flowers.
They also had a strawberry farm attached - pick your own. This was happiness indeed. I just love fresh strawberries and spent a very pleasant time pottering around. Came out with strawberries and three small packets of lollies to give to the kiddies back home.

I tried to buy a cup of coffee from the place next to the insect farm and after over-coming the language barrier we did alright. Coffee wasn't bad either.☺

Above: Tea plantations
The others came back and we piled into the van once more and were off. As we climbed higher round and round a very winding road, the rolling hills were covered with tea plants - it seemed everywhere you looked were tea plantations.

Mt. Brinchang
Mt. Brinchang (Gunung Brinchang in Malay), 2032 metres above sea level, is the highest mountain in the Cameron Highlands and is on the Perak-Pahang border. The road leading to the summit of this mountain is also the highest road in Peninsular Malaysia.

Above: Lookout Tower Mt. Brinchang
The lookout tower which is 15 metres high, offers breathtaking views of the Titiwangsa Ranges from the summit. We all took turns climbing up the steps (carefully) to the top and our hair blew in all directions - it was very windy and a bit cool. Climbing up them there steps - they're quite steep, so watch your knees! - there wasn't room for everyone at the same time, and those standing at the top were buffeted by the wind. Great views though.

Above: From the Lookout Tower
A panoramic view of the peak of Mt. Brinchang. It's said that on a clear day you can actually see the town of Ipoh from the top of the lookout tower. Although we had some blue skies there were a number of clouds so it wasn't all that clear in all directions.

Above: Telecommunication Towers
The communication towers stationed on top of the mountain are actually visible from quite a long way off and can be seen from some of the hotels in Brinchang.

Views from Mt. Brinchang lookout tower
Since my trip, I've since learnt the best time to take photos here is either early in the morning to catch the sunrise or late afternoon when the mist starts clearing for that brilliant shot. If the day is clear, best time to go is in the early afternoon when there's the right amount of sunlight and very little mist. You do get long-distance views of the Titiwangsa Mountains whatever time you come up here.

Titiwangsa Mountains
The Titiwangsa Mountains ( Banjaran Titiwangsa in Malay) is the mountain range that forms the backbone of the Malay Peninsula and starts in the north as a continuation of the Phuket mountain range in Southern Thailand. Running approx. southeast and ending in the south near Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia, the highest elevation is the 2,183 metres at Gunung Korbu. Called "Banjaran Titiwangsa" or "Banjaran Besar" (Main Range) by the locals, the ranges divide Peninsular Malaysia into East and West Coast regions and is about 480 km from north to south. There are a number of popular tourist destinations located on the range - Cameron Highlands, Fraser's Hill and Genting Highlands.

Below are some of the shots of the ranges that I took from the lookout tower.

Above: Landscape at Titiwangsa Mountain Range

Above: Titiwangsa Mountains

Above: Titiwangsa Mountain Range

Above: Titiwangsa Mountains - Misty view from the Lookout tower

Above: View from lookout tower

Above: Atop Mt. Brinchang

Above: Police
This pretty little blue and white building is especially equipped with an air conditional unit and also doubles as a police station.


99. Hiking Chart

There are a number of walks and hikes to do around Tanah Rata. Below is a map showing the different trails.

Above: Walks & Hikes Map


98. Tanah Rata Walk

About Tanah Rata
Tanah Rata is the major town in the Cameron Highlands, with Brinchang to the north and Ringlet to the south. It is a lovely town for strolling around down the main street with quaint shops on either side and lots of lively action filled with tourists and locals alike. The best thing about this place is the cool mountain air - I felt just like I was back in Melbourne! The air is fresh and clear and there's no humidity like the rest of Malaysia. There are still old buildings around which haven't yet been torn down by the Malaysian government in the name of progress.

Out and about
As the bus arrived around noon and given the kerfuffle of before (see #96 Kang Traveller's Lodge - Warning) it was well past my lunch time and with rumbling tummy I set off to investigate the town and find somewhere to eat.

Above: Butterfly
Spotted this poor butterfly on the ground. As you can see, its right wing is damaged and it was having difficulty flying so I gently picked it up and palced it on the grass.

Above: The Dreaded Durian
Ah here at last were the durians I had heard so much about. And no, I wasn't game to try one.

Above: Street Cafes
Walking further down the street, this is the high side btw - the steps are raised and as I walked along it was up, walk, down, walk, up, walk etc. The whole side is raised it really was quite pretty. The other side of the street is the "low" side.

Above: The "low" side of the street
For some reason I didn't find this side as interesting as the high side. Perhaps it had something to do with light and dark - the high side was light filled.

I had lunch (not in the main street) at a place called Nonga Fern, or it could be Nonga Ferm (can't read my own writing), the meal was so-so, coffee awful and the cup very dirty with a big chip. This is from my notes of that day. I ate ouside the cafe/restaurant at their tables and chairs and spent a very pleasant half hour or so writing in my travel diary.

Above: Food stalls
Going back up the way I had come there are many food and market type stalls here. I also noticed quite a number of white plastic tables and chairs and a lot of people were eating - there were several families gathered around and plenty of cooking going on too.

Above: S K Convent Primary School
This beautiful old building was built in the 1930's and is sited on a hillside overlooking the township of Tanah Rata. The Convent Primary School, (or Sekolah Kebangsaan Convent (SK Convent) is one of the oldest buildings in Tanah Rata and has lovely elegant lines. It was once used as a British hospital (as were a number of the old buildings here) as this was where people came to escape the heat and for those who were recovering from malaria. It became a fully-fledged Roman Catholic school in 1971.

Above: Funky fone
I thought the public telephones here were cute - much nicer than ours back home.

Above: Town Clock
Further down (think it was south but can't be sure as one's sense of direction gets a little hay wire) is the town clock which is situated in the Botanic Gardens which are on the right hand side of the main street. I've not been able to find any information about the clock so don't know when it was built. The time on the clock is wrong btw.

Above: Botanic Gardens, Tanah Rata
The gardens were were a lovely surprise and the flowers! Beautiful, bold, bright colours and the layout was well thought out. I spotted several seats where you could sit in the shade and the paths were clean and well kept.

Above: Bridge
This adorable little bridge is down the side from the side street. It had a look of a Dutch feel to it, although why that should be I don't know. It was sort of olde worldly.

Above: Botanic Gardens
This metal arch is in keeping with the rest of the design - again that olde worlde look.

Above: Cameron Highlands
Walking back along the main road, this very large structure stands out from across the street - this is on the "low" side. 

Above: Marrybrown
Back on the high side again, is Marrybrown's - Malaysia's answer to McDonalds. By this time it was late in the day, the weather had turned quite cool and it had started to rain a little so I stopped here and had tea - chicken and rice from memory. The food was delicious. I should add that I don't patronise McDondal's, Hungry Jack's or KFC. But I did eat at this "junk food" place.

Above: Coloured Tree
I really love this tree and wondered how there could possibly such a tree in existence with the different colours. Closer inspection showed me that it was not actually a (living) tree at all - hence the different colours. If you enlarge the picture, you can see the Botanic Gardens in the backdrop on the left side. Further to the right, the number "one" sports part of the Malaysian flag,
This was back towards the "low" side of the main road near the bus/taxi terminal - a cream brick place. The public loos were closed. Building was going on and hadn't been completed when I was here. As you can see from this photo, it is raining and fairly consistent too. I had left my brolly in my suitcase, wasn't wearing long sleeves so caught a taxi back. Didn't take long going by car.

I had a lovely walk around the town and thouroughly enjoyed the day. Back at the Cameronian Inn it was cups of hot tea sitting around the tables at the front entrance with Ganesh and three or four of the other guests. We just sat and talked and a good time was had by all.

So ended the first day in the Cameron Highlands.
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