Exploring the Cameron Highlands and Penang
Our last week in Malaysia was spent exploring the Cameron Highlands and Penang. I enjoyed the cooler climes of the Cameron Highlands and the delightfully spicy food in Georgetown, Penang. Travelling to the Highlands was simple, we hired a taxi for the grand sum of 150 ringgit and even had a few stops along the way for photos. The trip took a leisurely couple of hours to Brinchang where we stayed a few days. We spent a wonderful day on a tour finding a Rafflesia flower in the semi jungle. We also visited one of the tea plantations to sample the produce.
We stayed in the Copthorne in Brinchang a lovely hotel. My advice would be to stay in the main building and not the apartments. One disappointment was unlike other places in Malaysia the food in Brinchang was decidedly mediocre. We did try a steamboat restaurant but it was all a bit bland and unappealing. I think we really needed someone to help us with our selection and that actually knew what they were doing!
Day tour of the Highlands
Our day tour of the Highlands with Eco Cameron Highlands Tours started at 9am and finished around 6pm. You definitely get value for money. The jeep was comfortable and the guide Navin was very informative if a little fast when walking through the jungle. After two hours through a lot of sweat and the heat of the hottest part of the day we saw the magnificent rafflesia flower. It only blooms a few days and dies so it was nice to see one in its natural habitat. If your inspired to see this flower then make sure you wear a hat, have good footwear and bring water. At the end of the trek we were given a demonstration of how to use a blow dart pipe which was fun and which we could also try. After lunch we visited the Boh Tea Plantation, one of only two plantations that produce tea in the Highlands. The road to it is not far from Brinchang where we were staying and is a narrow, albeit sealed road. At the end of the road is a tea factory, exhibition and a great cafe with views to die for from there verandah.
The last part of our full day tour was to drive to the highest point in the Cameroon Highlands where from a viewing tower we could see our hotel and a lot of clouds. Afterwards we walked in the Mossy forest which is a bit like being on the movie set of the Lord of the Rings. We had a great full day listening to Navin’s explanation of the forest and the tea plants. I would recommend anyone visiting the Highlands to do this trip.
The Highlands is a bit of a contradiction with a lot of ugly parts, miles and miles of plastic covered greenhouses and the tea plantations are tucked away behind hills. The road through the towns of the Highlands is a narrow one and on either side their appears to be a competition on who can build the ugliest building. In saying that once you get off the trodden path and venture a bit further afield there are some real areas of beauty and of course great tea.
We took the bus to Penang, we had to change once as the bus had problems but it only took around 3 hours to get their from Brinchang. The bus ticket was a very reasonable 35 ringgit each and the seats were comfortable. During our five days in Penang we visited temples and clan houses, Penang Hill, one night at a world music festival and of course lots and lots of eating. We stayed at the Sunway hotel in Georgetown which was excellent, great pool and the restaurant for breakfast was good.
What we visited
The highlight for me of our visit to Penang was Kek Lok Si temple also known as the temple of Supreme Bliss. The temple is the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia and split between different levels with the Pagoda, the hall and the large Goddess of Mercy statue overlooking Penang. We climbed to the top of the Pagoda and got some wonderful views and enjoyed the cooling breeze. Throughout the temple complex the Buddhist statues are exquisite and I can see why this is considered one of the finest temple complexes in SE Asia. On the upper level is the large Goddess of Mercy which is impressive. We also enjoyed the nearby gardens and fish pond.
There is a lot to see here. It is easy to get to from downtown Georgetown with the 204 bus which also goes on to Penang Hill. Going up Penang hill on the funicular was ok and the views although misty were nice. However, I would not rush back to do it again. The visit to Kek Lok Si is a great day out for young and old. I would go early when it’s relatively cooler. Bus ticket cost us 2 RM each to get there and another 2 RM to get back from Georgetown. It cost 2 RM for entry to the Pagoda complex and 6 RM return on the short funicular ride to the Goddess of Mercy.
The food was superb in Penang and if you want to read more about our visits to restaurants then check out my kiwiinbrighton tripadvisor page. Overall the food was excellent and the service good.
What did our week cost?
This week we travelled only a few hours on a bus from the Cameron Highlands to Penang for our last week in Malaysia.
Brinchang accommodation cost £125 or US$187 for three nights at the Copthorne Hotel
Penang hotel accommodation £239 or US$359 for five nights at the Sunway Hotel where we enjoyed the use of their pool every day after the heat of Penang.
Spending for the week for food, transport, attractions £367 or US$551 or 2000 ringgit
Total Spend for the last eight days: £731 or US$1,099 which works out at US$ 138 per day for two people. I also paid some of the hotel nights from our ringgit which is deducted from the food, transport, etc.
The last week In Malaysia was brilliant. We did a great hike in the Highlands to see the Rafflesia. Penang also was a delight with the murals in Georgetown, the world music festival we attended one night and of course the food.