Tanah Rata, Malaysia

Photo: Arne Müseler / www.arne-mueseler.de [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Arne Müseler / http://www.arne-mueseler.de [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
You spent the morning getting a crash course on tea. You learned how tea leaves are plucked, withered, rolled, fermented, dried, and sorted. You studied grades, flavors, and characteristics of different types of teas. Now it’s finally time for a tasting. A robust black tea has been brewing in a tin teapot. Sweetened condensed milk sits off to the side. Steam is mixing with the fresh air. You raise a cup to your lips, smell the strong aroma, and take a sip. You smile and look out over the rolling green hills full of tea leaves. Welcome to the Cameron Highlands.

The Cameron Highlands, an area the size of Singapore, sit almost a mile above sea level on the Peninsular Malaysia. The area is known as “the little corner of England in Asia” due to its lush hills, cool breezes, and strong tea culture. It’s filled with tea plantations, strawberry fields, and fruit orchards. Plus jaw-dropping views.

After touring the BOH Tea Plantation, Malaysia’s largest black tea producer, continue driving up Mount Batu Brinchang. The second-highest mountain in the Cameron Highlands sits at the borders of Perak and Pahang, two western Malaysian states. Hike through a dwarf forest and dense moss. Listen to a cacophony of bird songs. Climb the watchtower for views over the jungle and the Titiwangsa Mountains that stretch into Thailand. And breathe in the clear air high above the clouds.

Photo: YTL Hotels
Photo: YTL Hotels

Then make your way down the winding hill to find your hotel, the Cameron Highlands Resort. If you didn’t already feel like you were in England, you will now. The Tudor-style resort has timber-beamed ceilings, French doors, and wooden shutters. Your comfortable room has a four-poster bed and a daybed. Join other guests in the Jim Thompson Tea Room for another cup of tea, tiny sandwiches, clotted cream, and a huge bowl of fresh strawberries. Relax at the Spa Village. Soften your skin in a yellow rose tea bath, restore your natural glow with a mint-and-thyme body scrub, and practically fall asleep during a strawberry aroma massage. After a candlelit dinner, end the evening with a glass of whiskey and a game of snooker at the Highlands Bar.

The bright sun wakes you up early the next morning. You have another full day planned. Stop for breakfast—a local noodle dish—in the dining room. The tea leaves outside are still covered with mist. Hike to the Sam Poh Buddhist Temple. When you arrive, remove your shoes and socks, pass through the bright yellow wall, and breathe in strong incense to see a large statue of Lord Buddha. Continue to Parit Falls, a small waterfall with a decorative bridge above it. Then stop at a strawberry farm to pick your own strawberries and then eat them with fresh cream.

Though tempted to return to your peaceful resort for afternoon tea, don’t go back yet. Instead, stroll through Pasar Malam, the night market that opens later in the afternoon. Browse the stalls for fried crabs, sweet potato balls, rice cakes, cauliflower, roses, cacti, and more strawberries. Plus lots of things you can’t identify. Everywhere you turn, a new smell tries to lure you in a different direction. You fill your bag with goodies and eat whatever you can’t take with you. The only thing you still need is one more cup of tea.

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