Getting the bus from Penang to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands may well have been the worst journey on our trip so far. We were on an incredibly slow bus which really struggled to get up hills - not ideal for travelling up to the Highlands! When we stopped at a bus depot we thought something strange was going on when the driver shouted something in Malaysian and lots of male passengers hurriedly got off the bus. As we started packing up our stuff, the bus slowly started to move and we realised that the men were having to give it a push start! Unfortunately the one thing on the bus that did work was the air-conditioning which was freezing cold and couldn't be turned off. All the other passengers seemed to be feeling the cold too as everyone had dug out extra clothes from their luggage and some people even used their sleeping bags for warmth!
The Cameron Highalnds has quite a Scottish feel - the landscape is very green and it rains on a daily basis! One of the main tourist attractions is visiting the tea plantations that the area is famous for. We went to the BOH tea plantation which is owned by a Scottish family. We couldn't believe how much space the tea plants took up and we must say the tea was very good. We also visited a few other local sites, including Sam Poh Buddhist temple, a strawberry farm, a butterfly garden, a rose garden and a small market.
Aside from taking the aforesaid tours there's not much to do in Tanah Rata. There's meant to be good hiking opportunities in the surrounding hills but the constant rain deterred us from checking this out.
To heat ourselves up, we decided to sample the much advertised "steamboat" in a busy Chinese restaurant. You have to work for your dinner when it comes to steamboat: you are presented with a gas burner, a pot of soup and a variety of raw ingredients including chicken, beef, whole prawns, squid, jellyfish, clams, eggs, tofu and vegetables. You have to bring the soup to the boil and cook the ingredients yourself (so if it tastes bad or makes you ill it's probably your own fault!). Although we made a total mess of our table, cooking the steamboat was really quite fun and we ended up with a rather good dinner.
During our stay in Malaysia we have learned that the country has a forthcoming election. In the Highlands the posters were impossible to miss! We don't know much about Malaysian politics but if, in our ignorance, we had to choose between the 2 main parties, we think we'd feel more inclined towards the one that has a set of scales as it's party's symbol, rather than the one that has chosen a big red rocket to represent itself!