Asia 2016 Travel

ALPINE RETREAT IN CAMERON HIGHLANDS

29 August 2016

On the road again

Feeling tired from the blast of antibiotics and our recent dehydration, what we need is some cool fresh air and rest. What we need is an Alpine retreat like ladies used to take some two centuries ago. And we get just that. At least, we go to a hotel that looks remarkably like an Alpine chalet where the air is fresh if not cool. Call me a European, but 26°C will always be summer to me, not cold!

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From Georgetown we choose the more expensive taxi over a bus as it will be quicker and we won’t have to deal with other people surrounding us. It’s nearly a four hour drive to the hotel – located about half an hour outside of the main city – through lush green jungle scenery bordering the highway. About half way through our taxi driver hands us over to his cousin-brother (I’m still not sure what that is) who appears the epitome of taciturnity, but gets us through the hairpin bends up the mountains.

Arrival
When we arrive, I cannot stop giggling. I knew we were going to an “Alpine retreat”, but hadn’t expected it to be so…alpine. But it just really is. We drive up to the hotel that is build on an incline and it is the whitewashed exterior with dark wooden beams running through it, just like what you expect to see in old Austrian houses. Apparently this is called a tudor-style building, but to me, this place belongs in a pine scented forrest where the crispy blue are is nipping at your nose as you pull your scarf ever so slightly more tight. Instead, I find myself standing amidst tropical trees, feeling the warm humidity and would want to wear just about anything but a scarf. It’s a borderline schizophrenic experience.

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Walking into the reception area it gets even better. Our bags are taken and we are invited to have a drink while our room is made ready. We are seated in large puffy chairs – after visiting the old fashioned black and white tiled bathroom as are symptoms haven’t yet abaited – and offered a drink of pickled ginger and 7up that I love and Erik hates. Meanwhile, about three to four people constantly hover around us, ready to be at our beg and call should we want for anything. It makes me a little uncomfortable, but over the next 24 hours I will just have to deal with it.

We are then taken upstairs to our room, passing paintings of old fashioned white aristocracy and a reproduction of the Mona Lisa while a lizards freezes on the wall, gazing at us – and remaining exactly there throughout our stay making us question if it is alive or not. The room is spacious with a wonderful four-poster bed and adjoining bathroom with a bathtub I intend to use – but don’t. A bit of jazzy music is playing on the television that has been turned on.

I giggle at Erik as I slump down on my side of the bed. This is just a little weird. When rain starts to spatter against the window,the confusion is complete, but I already love it here. I just know we can get some rest here. Like we haven’t yet had enough of that over the last couple of days.

What are we going to do?
Which leads us to have a sort of serious conversation. We still have more than two weeks of travel ahead of us. Some of it will be easy and relaxing, but some of it will be harder. And really, how much will we be able to enjoy ourselves if we continue this way? Our symptoms are not yet getting any better and although we are now able to keep from getting dehydrated again – we REALLY don’t want to feel that EVER again – we are still low in energy, easily tired and often dealing with cramps.

I cry a bit when Erik suggests it might be better to go home if we don’t feel better soon. It’s not that I think he is wrong and ruining our holiday that we’d been looking forward to so much for so long. It’s that I fear he may be right and the adventure we’d been looking forward to so much for so long maybe cut short because of some stupid bacteria we caught while before I’d never gotten sick from any street food. We decide to put the decision off untill Singopore when we are due to fly anyway.

Lazy afternoon

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After that, we decide to go and explore our surroundings a bit. For the first time we need an umbrella as it is raining, but it cannot dampen our spirit; we are out and about again!

We walk up the mountain past a little shrine to have a better view of the hotel. Amidst the tropical green plants the building sticks out. It was build by a British ex military in the 1970’s, but it looks more like the type of building the gentry would have build in the 1870’s to recreate home whilst being stationed in the far East.

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The garden surrounding the building is well tended and on the picture-perfect lawn I can just imagine ladies in long flowy white dresses having lunches – who ever dared use a vulgar word like lunch – and teas. Although Erik and I don’t really fit the description of a gentelman and a lady – preferring the easy backpacker style that asks for a perhaps slightly crumpled T-shirt instead of a tailored jacked and a pair of jeans/short taking the place of an evening gown – we decide to lounge in the garde, having a drink, reading and writing a bit and generally just enjoying the view.

Best pasta ever
As I us the lobbies WiFi just before dinner to put up a blog post, one of the many people hovering around lights the fire place. It can hardly be for warmth as I can still walk outside in my t-shirt and sandals and be perfectly comfortable, but the crackling noises and faint smell of smoke do aid the general atmosphere. I find myself enjoying this place immensely in spite of the confusing surroundings an wish we could have had the full two nights here. But oh well, something to remember in case we ever come this way again.

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For dinner we try to keep it simple; letting our story and settle before we go back to all the wonderful street food and curries around. The good news is that we are at least hungry again and thus getting nutrients in again. And there is no bad news as we are able to order spaghetti with grilled chicken breast in balsamic vinegar. It is the best damned pasta I have ever eaten in my life. EVER. Although being famished from not being able to eat much of anything for a couple of days may have something to do with that. Anyway, it was simple perfection!

Tea plantation
We have an early night and an not so early morning, thoroughly enjoying the amazing bed. Seriously, this kind of bed I could easily imagine myself sleeping my life away in – although admittedly I can sleep just about anywhere, in anything in any position. Our story and are still not any better which sucks big time, but the breakfast provided certainly doesn’t. We eat all the toast (with either eggs or butter) we want and dutifully take the prescribed medicine.

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After breakfast we meet our taxi driver who will take us to the Boh tea plantation. We are very lucky as the taxi driver used to work on the plantation when he was young. He is able to show us around and give us an insider’s perspective. He is able to show us a path trough the plantation consisting of 90-year old plants where workers are just then cutting the tea leaves. Apparently, before machinery came, the whole plantation – spanning some 10 hectares – every six days or the leaves would grow to big. Because machines cut away more leaves, now the whole plantation is done every twenty-five days.

We stand in awe of this. Looking over the immense plantation with every conceivable colour of green visible, we are simply not able to imagine a life where going over ten hectares of land every six days is considered normal. It must be such hard work, but now the atmosphere is peaceful and quiet – as the cutting machine is stopped for a little while. We enjoy a few more moments and a little walk after which we drive the final bit to the tea factory.

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Here we learn a bit more about the tea making process. We here about the cutting and drying and selecting of the best tea and generally endure the talk tourists get at a place like this. The only thing surprising us is how fast the process is. The day after the leaves are plucked it can be drunk as tea!

Strawberry ending
Because we still have some time to kill before our bus leaves for Kuala Lumpur we decide to view one other listed sights: the strawberry farm. We love strawberries. Or, really I LOVE strawberries. I’d love to see a plantation full of them, the ripe red fruits sitting among the white flowers in an evergreen landscape.

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But, as with a lot of high strung expectations, the farm is a let down. It looks more like a place that sells plants to out in your garden then an actual farm. To be polite, we walk around a bit, but then quickly get back to the hotel for another wonderful pasta lunch. I just have to ask them to get me a plate without chillies – that they manage by rinsing the pasta with boiling hot water – as I am sure my stomach won’t thank me for those.

After lunch we decide to opt for the more expensive taxi again. It is still relatively cheap, takes an hour less and we’ll have the added benefits of being dropped in front of our hotel and having the car to ourselves. This is not the cheap-ass backpacking I had imagined us doing, but for now it is really nice. And if you are ever going to indulge in some luxuries and imagine what the 1% live like, it’s in the relatively cheap Asia, right? Well, that is my justification anyway.

And so, we set of for a bit of luxury in Kuala Lumpur!

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