Organizing a trip to the Highlands has a bit of the feel of dealing with the Mafia. And it’s probably true, I’m dealing with the tourist mafia, most likely. Louis, who works at the front desk of my hostel in Kuala Lumpur, has a friend called “Moon” (seriously?), who works in the Highlands. So Louis calls to arrange a pickup for me the next day as well as accomodation, but cannot reach him, leaves a message on the voice mail. Later that day, I meet Louis’s Dad who used to own the No. 8 Guest House, but sold it to a Pakistani investor with a Japanese passport who used to resell Japanese used cars. The PJ-dude and now owner of No.8 tells me the place used to have trouble in the dorms because people brought in drugs, So he rebuilt and turned the dorms into double rooms.
Next to Louis’s Dad sits a guy with long hair called “Moon”. Oh, I’ve heard that name before today. When he realizes who I am, he tells me a van is going to pick me up in front of the hostel the next day at 10, so I can party until sunrise and still get sleep. It’s all arranged. Aha. He has arranged accommodation, too, he tells me. “Does the room have a window?” I ask since I’ve just had several days of windowless existence. He gets on the phone, laughs. “Do you want to kill yourself?” he throws as a reply at me, “Yes, it has a window.” A couple of hours later he will call Louis to tell him that the van is full and I have to catch my own bus from the station at 8.15 in the morning. What? What about the big partying I had lined up? Not.
|Mapping out the next destination in the Lonely Planet|
For once I arrive at a bus station relaxed. No anxiousness about taxi drivers trying to get in the bus to be the first to offer me their unsolicited services, no “how am I going to get to my hostel?” I know not only is it off-season and touts are rare when I get off the bus, I also know that if I find the guy associated with the place I am looking for, he will bring me there. All the more am I disappointed when the place where he takes me with the van is not located on some sweet spot on a mountain or even atop of it, but in a dead end street with no view at all, just around the corner from the bus stop.
|A British explorer named Cameron mapped out the Highlands in 1885, which is why the roads are seamed with tea and strawberry plantations|
On the way here I saw the famous tea plantations and I had gotten my hopes up to chill out in this environment for the next few days. Now it appears all tea plantations are actually several kilometers away. Bummer. Oh yes, you’re right, more advance research could’ve saved me from the disappointment, but I couldn’t be bothered with more research than absolutely necessary. Not only does it run counter the idea of reIaxation, it also usually just gets your hopes up higher only to disappoint you even more. I had heard many good things about this place, though. Maybe I had asked the wrong people.
|People at the hostel have their own opinions about what's hot and what's not! That's despite good reviews from LP!|
|Join the Force: Police demonstrates its uum... skills...|
|In India I had discovered Metal (https://twitter.com/pcbritz/status/145181038946160640), in Malaysia, Classic Rock seemed to be big!|
Traveling with the pack
|A stag beetle in the butterfly park. Obviously, I didn't have a hand free to take a picture when the scorpion was on my hand ;)|
|Equipped like Indiana Jones, I follow the rest of the pack on the "trek"|
And off we are to the jungle. It’s a well trodden-path that leads us to the Giant Rafflesia, a plant, no sorry, it’s actually a fungus that looks like a flower, that grows very large here and only exists in seven places in the world. The thing has a very strong smell attracting animals for semination and in it’s last phase is called “elephant dung” for both its form and smell. Use your imagination.
|The giant rafflesia is a fungus that only exists in seven different places in the world.|
After the Rafflesia we hit a small aboriginal village – yes, hitting is indeed the right term as we spend about five minutes there, watching halfdressed women sitting in front of their houses with their undressed children – and then go to see the tea plantations. I don’t ever want to do this again. Is there a worse image or ignorance about people’s lives than this? Why not relocate them into a museum right away?
|On these steep hills, the tea of Malaysia is grown|
The plantation is actually quite fun and after a ridiculous “explanation” of the tea making process, I get some tea souvenirs and we chill out with some chai on the terrace, overlooking the plantations. I’m bummed when I don’t get seconds because they close at 4 o’ clock sharp, I’m even more bummed when we have to leave the place ten minutes earlier. I hate group travel.
|Boh Tea plantation|
|Just a minute before the hilltop became covered in clouds|
|The Cameron Highlands produce most of Malaysia's vegetables. One of the veggy farmers gave us a ride to town.|
Caro brings me down and I manage to relax. We do more planning in terms of our meeting. She will probably join me in Thailand in about two weeks. Strike! Things can go on! We also talk about what expectations we have and really, I don’t have any. It’s an experiment and we will have to see how it works. For now, we will be trying a travel together and if we get sick of it, we’ll be honest about it. That’s basically it. And it soothes me. I calm down and suddenly I know what I want to do:
I will go to Taman Negara with Susu and do an overnight jungle track, staying in a cave for a night. It’s basically the thing to do in Taman Negara, the national rainforest reserve. I don’t know if I would be doing it this way by myself, but for now I want to go to the jungle and get lost. All gone from civilization. So I hire a van with the tourist Mafia to the jungle and they provide me with flyers and cards on where to go and what to do.
|Quest fulfilled, I can go on to the next place!|