The Cameron Highlands: A Walk Through History

Travel Wire Asia

Cameron Highlands (Image credit: Hoo Leng Siong/Flickr)

The Malaysian Cameron Highlands is undoubtedly one of the world’s most scenic locations, offering some excellent hiking trails, taking visitors through history, across hills and mountains, and up and above the hectic world down below. One of the most overlooked trails is the Gunung Mentigi Trail which leads hikers past and through some of the country’s most historic monuments.

The Cameron Highlands, located approximately 150km north of Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital, is an area of spectacular natural beauty and as such is very popular with tourists and professional hikers alike. The highest point, Gunung Irau, stands at 2110 metres above sea level, and along with the height comes a moderate climate with temperatures rarely rising above 25 degrees centigrade, or getting any lower than 10 degrees centigrade. These cool temperatures can be a refreshing alternative to the steamy temperatures in the cities.

The Highlands were named after a British Government surveyor named William Cameron who was on a mission to map out Malaysia during the colonial years. Neat rows of tea bushes began to pop up shortly after the expedition mission when the true potential of the highlands were realised.

One of the most famous mysteries involving the Cameron Highlands is that of the disappearance of Jim Thompson, the founder of the Thai silk industry. He went for a walk from his bungalow in the hills in 1967 but was never seen again; nobody knows what happened to him.

For lovers of all things history, the Gunung Mentigi walk is ideal, with colonial architecture, prehistoric land formations, and tea plantations aplenty. There are no specific signposts along this hike, but if you are brave enough to find your own way around the sites then it really will be worth it, and will give you something to tell the family and friends about back home – don’t forget the camera!

Driving north from Kuala Lumpur along the main highway is the best way to begin the historic journey. The tea plantations will gradually begin to give way to tall mountains, unspoiled forests, and breathtaking waterfalls. Along the way don’t miss the Boh Tea Estate which was founded by John Archibald Russell in 1929. If you really want a “taste” of the history then the Russell family will be more than happy to take you all on a guided tour of the plantations, the tea factory, and of course there will be a chance to sample the various varieties of tea.

One of the highlights of the area around the Boh Tea Estate is a visit to the native aboriginal highland people’s village. The Orang Asli have lived in the village for thousands of years, and are self-sustained with wooden huts for houses, clothing manufactured from local plants, and food grown and bred within the village. Who knows, you may get a chance to meet the Batin (head of the village), which is a great honour!

Orang Asli Village (Image credit: cucumber!/Flickr)

If you continue walking up the hills past Orang Asli Village you will undoubtedly come across the Gunung Mentigi hill fort, which was built by the British as one of the main forts in Asia.

After the war the fort was handed to the locals when the British moved on. Abandoned British army Land Rovers, 4×4 tyre tracks, and bomb shells can still be seen scattered all around. Definitely a sight to behold!

Tea Picker (Image credit: Hoo Leng Siong/Flickr)

Former hill train stations can be found throughout the Cameron Highlands. These were built by the British to make travel easier. The major former hill train station is the Pahang station. The station used to provide a link to Pahang state, hence the name, but is no longer in use. The station features British colonial architecture and really is something to see whilst in the area.

The only way to reach the highlands now is by road. From Kuala Lumpur visitors take the North-South Expressway (NSE) towards Ipoh, from where they can reach Tapah within two hours. After the Tapah tollbooth a 60km winding road leads the way towards the legendary Highlands.

The Cameron Highlands are well worth a visit, but why should you just settle for an ordinary run of the mill hike when you can take a walk through history? Discover for yourself what the hills are hiding away.

Read more at: http://travelwireasia.com/2012/10/the-cameron-highlands-a-walk-through-history/

Find out more about the Cameron Highlands on the Tourism Malaysia website: http://www.malaysia.travel/en/es/places/states-of-malaysia/pahang/cameron-highlands

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