. By this stage it was too late to change buses, but when we finally decided that the air-conditioning was definitely not working it reached the final low point. It seemed that as we headed up into the hills, the engine began to struggle even more than before, but the air-con finally packed up entirely - and even driving along with the door open didn't really do much to change the sauna like atmosphere in the coach. After 5 and a half hours (we knew 3 hours was optimistic but I think Smeagol and Gollum were disagreeing on the route) we finally arrived at our destination - and it's just like the Lake District.
Tanah Rata is the largest town in the Highlands and mainly consists of hotels and restaurants spread along a short stretch of road. It's considerably cooler up here, with the temperature between 10 and 20 C. all year round - making it perfect for growing tea and strawberries and giving a welcome respite from the heat in the rest of the country. As old colonial hill stations, entertainment here is mostly walking or visiting various plantations - tea, strawberry, honey, cactus and rose to name but a few. We haven't quite got round to the advertised tea and scones, but that may be a treat for tomorrow afternoon.
I may have blogged on the Highlands a bit early - it's now a day later and we have passed the day with an extended walk to the next village and with tea and scones at Ye Olde Smokehouse
. The Smokehouse is one of the oldest buildings here and you can see from the photos that it looks like a small piece of England has been transplanted to central Malaysia - sadly they left the chef behind. For 8 pounds we were served a pot of tea with two scones, cream and jam - and I'm no baker but I could have done a better job. 8 quid!!! For two crumbly scones with not enough butter in them and not a single raisin in site! To put that 8 pounds into perspective, our steamboat dinner last night (photos also now included in this blog) was £6, Admittedly dinner was served in a cafe by the roadside and the Smokehouse is an 80 year old mock-tudor building with a pub attached (didn't go in - not sure if they served Black Sheep or not), but still!
Anyway - rant over now and I promise I won't add anything to this section about the Cameron Highlands.
From KL we boarded a bus bound for Tanah Rata up in the Cameron Highlands in central Malaysia and settled in for a 3 hour trip up into the hills. We had opted for a standard-class coach, rather than the slightly more expensive VIP coach because the plusher bus left at 9 am and we fancied a bit of a lie in on our last morning in the city. At the bus station the thought began that maybe we should have got out of bed slightly earlier and spent the extra 2 pounds. In a bus station filled with plush buses, ours was the battered and ageing coach in the corner that I'm sure was used the last time I went on a school trip. Things went slightly downhill as we left the bus station and were stopped by the police - we have no idea what happened, but after a half hour delay and the driver signing something we were on our way to the next stage of an unforgettable journey. At first the driver just seemed to be having an animated phone conversation - presumably complaining about being pulled over we thought - until his phone rang and we realised that he was having a very animated conversation with himself - or possibly with both of himselves - at least he didn't seem to be getting angry, but it was distracting him from the tricky business of steering and keeping his hands on the wheel as he gesticulated a lot