Exploring the Cameron Highlands

Trip Start Dec 26, 2005
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26
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Trip End Jan 25, 2009


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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I got through last night ok, despite feeling the effects of altitude sickness or the stuffiness of my room. I had a diamox tablet which helped me get to sleep after 2 hours of finding it hard to find my breath. I had a few panic attacks last night including seeing what I thought to be a slug climbing up a wall in my attic. The room's spider webs and numerous ants also alarmed me to what would bring tonight! But I awoke at 7am, and wanted to sleep in (can you believe it in such squalor!) but had a tour to catch.

This morning, I would tour with Moneyen from CS Travel and Tours SDN here in Tanah Ratah. Moneyen, or 'money' as he prefers to be called was an elderly gentlement in his mid 60s who takes the money for being the most unbelievable guide I've come across. Joining me on this 5 hour tour of the Cameron Highlands were Jane and Mike from Cambridge and Isabella from Vienna. After going through the typical questions of 'how long have you been travelling for', 'where are you from', 'where are you going next' etc., we headed off.

The tour gave me an excellent overview of the Cameron Highlands. Included in the tour cost of $15 each was a visit to one of the tea plantations, a drive up to Binchang Hill (which unfortunately was covered in cloud... if not, we might have been able to see a city two hours away... Ipoh), a 2 hour trek to see a wide assortment of unique flowers and insects, a visit to a beautiful tea house overlooking the tea plantation, a visit to a tea making factory, and a visit to a snake/butterfly/insect house. Talk about unbelievable value with impeccable service.

The tea plantations are absolutely phenomenal, extending over many hills in the area. During the tour, I learnt that the tea leaf pickers earn 20 sen per kg. For 20kg, that equates to about 2 aussie dollars. But the workers attract other benefits such as free housing etc. Talking about wages, there is no minimum wage here in Malaysia. I have since learnt that some workers in KFC, for example, are earning 2RM per hour (less than 1 aussie dollar). I have also learnt that Australian teachers earn 15 times that of their Malaysian counterparts. But, as I've mentioned in other entries, the cost of living is very cheap here. Nice houses can be had for anything between $50 and $100k and beyond.

Having satisfied my interest in visiting the tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands, I am now ready to move on to Penang. I've resorted to booking my accommodation online because the popular places in Lonely Planet always seem to be booked! I plan to stay 3 nights in George Town, Penang and then on to Langkowi. I'm already running short of time... I have Thailand and Laos to see before starting my 3 week tour in Vietnam on 20 February. As I write, I have a couple of local boys watching me type... they are intrigued by my 70 word a minute typing speed:)
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