Cameron Highlands



Henri Fauconnier, a novelist who wrote the best selling book, &;The Soul of Malaya&; observed, &;In Malaya the seasons are hardly distinct. You do not die a little every year, as in Europe at the en d of Autumn. You cease to think of Date or Time.&;

The monotony of indistinct seasons took its toll on the European newcomers and their families and so they tried to put things into perspective. As a form of escape, they retreated into the cool mountain plateaus on the Titiwangsa Range to convalesce, searching for relief from all sorts of tropical maladies such as malaria and dysentery.

It was in 1885 that a government surveyor named William Cameron who stumbled upon this mossy plateau whilst surveying the mountain range. Cameron described this find as &;a fine plateau with gentle slopes, shut in by lofty mountains&;. However, he apparently mentioned little else about his discovery and it wasn&;t until the 1920&;s that the plateau was finally and officially placed on the map. Realising that Fraser&;s Hill was too cramped and unsuitable for growing produce, the government decided to channel their efforts on Cameron Highlands. Soon after the clearing of montane forests began, tea planters came and claimed lands for their plantations.Then Chinese vegetable farmers arrived and lastly shopowners moved in to supply to the small but enterprising community.

Cameron Highlands and stories to tell

This vast hill station is found perched on one corner of the Titiwangsa Range in Pahang. The Titiwangsa Range is the backbone of Peninsular Malaysia, stretching from Southern Thailand, all the way down to the valley of Negri Sembilan in the south and is considered the last remaining stretches of virgin forests found in Peninsular Malaysia.

Camerons sits on an altitude of between 4875feet(1609m) and 5850feet(1930m) and is our most extensive hillstation. It spreads across three districts namely Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang.

Temperatures can drop to about 24ÂșC at night and it is not uncommon to see log fireplaces in living rooms and even bedrooms of cottages built during the colonial days. The cool mountain air was a welcome for the European ladies who came to Malaysia with their husbands on transfers from Europe or elsewhere in Asia. These ladies were still very much accustomed to wearing as many layers of clothing as they did in their own colder temperate lands. Many had a hard time adjusting to the tropical weather and temperaments. Even as recent as 20years ago, the highlands were so foggy for most of the year, that residents used to dry their washing by lighting a coal fire under the washing line. Otherwise it could take them at least a week for the washing to dry. Most of the day, the mist would linger over the area. Travelling was made difficult with the constant mist and it was no wonder why visitors lost themselves in the highlands.

Despite the conditions of Cameron Highlands then, her charms and beauty continued to attract many. A few came, fell in love with the land and never left. They created a home and a life for themselves on the strangely alien, cool temperate lands of the tropics:

J.A &;Archie&; Russell and the Boh plantation

John Archibald &;Archie&; Russell came to Malaya at age seven in 1890 with his father when Kuala Lumpur was just beginning to take shape as the country&;s most important administrative centre. The young impressionable boy grew up in a community of expatriate tin miners and planters and settled in well. A world of opportunity was opened up to him in the early years of his career and with his business acumen, he made an amazing deal which saw him acquiring almost a third of Ipoh town.

But it wasn&;t until 1927 when he found his niche in the market, growing and selling supreme quality tea. On his visit to Cameron Highlands, he found the rolling hills, shallow valleys and high rainfall ideal for tea growing. In 1929 the first Boh plantation was established. The name &;Boh&; is derived from Bohlia - the origin of tea in the Szechuan province of ancient China.

Today, Boh plantation serves up more than 65% of the Malaysian tea market and is the biggest local tea producer with a total 8,000 acres of tea plantation in Palas, Farlie, Bukit Cheeding, Ringlet.

Boh&;s Sungai Palas tea estate is situated North of Brinchang, on a turn-off from the road to Gunung Brinchang. Most visitors end up at this tea plantation to savour tea and currypuffs at the newly completed tea house and to learn a little about tea-processing. Every fifteen minutes, a free tour takes visitors round the factory, showing the various stages from initial processing until the final stages before being shipped off to Kuala Lumpur for packing.

Some of the machinery dates back to 1935 and is still in superb working order! Some of the original tea trees are still harvested and can live for 100years or so before they are replaced.

After the tour, visitors can walk the grounds or head off to the tea shop. Boh&;s tea business is very much kept in the family and its reputation and maturity is now taking the company and its teas to far off lands.

The other plantation - Boh plantation at Ringlet is also open to public but tours are by appointment. Opening times are from 9.00am to 4.30pm. Both Sungei Palas Tea Estate and Boh plantation are closed on Mondays.

To get to Boh plantation, if coming from Ringlet town - take a right turn into a road where a large signage shows &;Welcome to Boh plantation&;. From this turn-off it is another 4km to the plantation&;s main gate.

You can hire a taxi for RM40/- and that includes a return trip: Tanah Rata - Boh plantation - Tanah Rata and a 1 hour wait for you at the plantation.

If you would like to read more about Boh, click to: http://boh.com.my.

Colonel Stanley Jack Forster and the Lakehouse

The sign read, &;No dogs, no children, no Asians&;. Colonel Stanley Jack Forster joined the British Army when he was a mere lad for a bit of adventure - going to far off lands in Asia and beyond. Unlike many of his fellowmen who left for home when their call of duty ended, the Colonel stayed on in Malaya after the war.

Indeed, he had his eccentricities. Colonel Forster was most remembered for carrying a cane or whip with which he used to chase away Asians who came within distance of his property. But of course, that didn&;t apply to his choice of bed partners! The colonel is most remembered for building the Lakehouse in Ringlet, of which he proudly carved, etched, hammered and moulded into his dream motel. His passion to build this picture-perfect motel led him to Kuala Lumpur where he salvaged roof tiles from an old derelict hospital. He even had a hand in designing and building certain woodwork items such as a few easy chairs and the chandelier in the foyer.

His eccentricity was tolerated by the locals and even by his guests - who thought it befitting of his character.. Screening of guests was based on whether he liked them or not. If he did, one could ask almost anything from him and if he didn&;t, there wouldn&;t be a room available at his motel anytime of the year even if he was paid a large sum of money! Colonel Forster passed away in 1984 and the Lakehouse has been passed under the management of the Concorde group of hotels. Much of the motel has been left as it were and hopefully will continue in the legacy of the colonel - a beautiful motel, a dreamy holiday and the comforts of a cosy cottage.

The Lakehouse is one of few remaining colonial houses that cater to the public and is a most pleasant place to stay where just stepping into the foyer can transport one to an era of scandalous pomposity, chivalry, pride, passion and honour, &;.the era of the &;Burmese Days&;. A truly, wondrous eccentric display of the British colonial masters&;. The sign read, &;No dogs, no children, no asians&;. Intolerable? Amusing.