One of the many roses at the Rose Valley. Pix by Laveda Charles

A first-time visitor to this popular highlands resort town, Laveda Charles is drawn to the beautiful scenery and fresh produce

IT’S my first visit to Cameron Highlands and I am excited. But my joy is tempered with questions of mode of transport. There were weeks of contemplating – bus, taxi, Uber or take a train to Ipoh and then a taxi. Thankfully, my father decides for me. He will drive me there.

We leave home at 10am for the 3 1/2-hour drive to Cameron Highlands via the North-South Expressway. We take the Simpang Pulai exit rather than the Tapah exit.

With calming music playing on our stereo, negotiating the uphill roads turns to be out to be a pleasant journey. My eyes rest on the scenic view of limestone hills and small waterfalls, dotted with little shacks by the roadside where the Orang Asli sell bottles of honey. We soon arrive our destination - Tanah Rata - where our hotel is located.



Hotel De' La Ferns during the day. Pix by Laveda Charles

FERNS ALL THE WAY

The nine-year-old Hotel De’ La Ferns is strategically located between Brinchang and Ringlet. Beautiful flowers and plants are planted all around its compound. The six-storey Tudor-styled hotel gives a warm, homely feel as soon as you enter.

I love the Olde England concept. There are sofas in the lobby and an al fresco dining area that faces the hill slopes.

Why the name De’ La Ferns? Well, you will find fern leaves on the hills around the hotel. According to its hospitable owner S. Bala Krishnen, the hotel is shaped like a fern leaf if viewed from the air.

Our twin deluxe room is simple, warm and quaint. It is fitted with dark brown cabinets, and nice little rose lamps by the side of the beds. This room comes with a balcony that overlooks Brinchang hills. It’s so serene just enjoying the view while sitting in a foldable wooden chair on the balcony. The room is not fitted with either an air-conditioner or fan as the natural air is more than enough to keep you cool.

This hotel doesn’t only has a wonderful environment but also delicious Asian and western cuisine. The Ferns Restaurant at the lobby serves an international breakfast buffet but come back during tea time for its freshly baked scones with strawberry jam, butter and whipped cream. As the temperature drops at night, the steamboat dinner warms you up.

FLEXING MUSCLES

The hotel’s location makes it convenient to get around by car. With no gym in the hotel, it encourages guests to hike and walk around the area. There are proper pathways to take a stroll.

In the evenings, we take a peaceful walk along Taman Sedia (the first Malay settlement in Cameron Highlands) where there are various homestays, houses and even a strawberry farm. As we trek further, there is a golf course open to the public. The good thing about exercising here is I don’t really get sweaty as the weather is cool.

Since evenings get a little quiet, we visit various tourist/agricultural sites in the day. We ask the hotel to arrange a half-day countryside tour by CS Travel and Tours. It costs RM26.50 for an adult excluding entrance fees to some sites.

CS Travel and Tours also arranges other packages with different pricing.


Fresh fruit at Raju's Strawberry Farm. Pix by Laveda Charles

STRAWBERRY-LICIOUS

Strawberries and Cameron Highlands are synonymous. There are many strawberry farms minutes away from the hotel, but we pick Raju’s Strawberry Farm which has the best strawberry milkshake in town.

From 0.8ha of land, customers can pick their own strawberries (which cost a little more) or buy freshly packed strawberries. Mostly all the strawberries here are hydroponically planted. There is a souvenir shop and a café that sells juices, cakes and pastries.

Obviously, we indulge in strawberry milkshakes and buy homemade strawberry jam without preservatives.



Observing workers with their machines at Bharat Tea Plantation. Pix by Laveda Charles

COOL CUPPA

There are three tea plantations in Cameron Highlands - two owned by the pioneer BOH Plantations and one by the Bharat group (Cameron Valley). The Sungai Palas Boh Tea Centre (a subsidiary of Boh Tea) is our first visit to a tea plantation.

It is a bumpy ride due to the narrow roads, but there is a stunning view of what looks like a green carpet unfurled over the hills. There is no entrance fee and we go on a short guided tour of the factory to get to know the tea-making process.

A café sells tea, cakes and pastries but we opt to sit at an al- fresco dining space.

I order a cup of BOH’s Garden Tea (Bukit Cheeding - the only handpicked tea sold in Cameron Highlands) and sip it while enjoying the fresh air and breathtaking view.

The other tea plantation by the Bharat group seems smaller but is equally beautiful. Getting here is much easier using the Tapah route. Here we buy a RM2 pass to walk through the tea plantation and take in the beautiful scenery. This is a different experience as we get a closer look at the tea leaves and watch tea pickers harvest the tea leaves with machines.

You can also pay RM10 for a buggy ride around the plantation.

BUTTERFILES IN THE GARDEN

Very close to the hotel is a butterfly garden which has a mix of butterflies, exotic insects, reptiles, mammals (in glass containers) and a garden of unique flowers. As soon as we enter, I get to admire Rajah Brooke butterflies.

There is also a variety of unique flowers like the hanging turquoise jade vine and women’s high heel flower, so named because of its shape. For an entrance fee of RM7, we enjoy a stroll through the garden. Visitors are also allowed to touch non-harmful insects.

If roses are your thing then for RM5 you can enter the Rose Valley at Tringkap. There are waterfall sound effects that come from gushing streams of water as you walk through this lovely garden without a guide.

HIGHLAND MARKETS

Kea Farm at Brinchang is perfect for purchasing a variety of fresh vegetables and souvenirs. You can get deals like seven packs of vegetables for RM10. But it’s best to make your purchases on the way home to preserve freshness.

There is also a night market on Jalan Golden Hill a few minutes’ walk from the hotel. This night market apparently sells a lot of delicious food but we don’t get the chance to check it out as it only operates on Fridays and Saturdays.

The beautiful scenery, cool weather, fresh produce and flowers in bloom make my visit to Cameron Highlands truly worth it. And I want to go back.




Rajah Brooke butterfly. Pix by Laveda Charles

FAST FACTS


HOTEL DE’ LA FERNS

ADDRESS: Batu 39, Jalan Besar, 39000 Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Pahang Darul Makmur.

TEL: 05-491 4888

FAX: 05-491 5198

EMAIL: reservation@hoteldelaferns.com.my

WEBSITE: www.hoteldelaferns.com.my

STAY

Room categories are Deluxe King/Twin, Deluxe Triple, Deluxe Quad, Junior Suite, Family Suite and Pent Suite. The room is simple, clean and classy with warm lighting and a balcony with a nice view.

EAT

Ferns Restaurant (international breakfast buffet, steamboat and Asian and western dishes)

DO

Relax and have high tea at the hotel

GO

Walk to Tanah Rata town where you will find many shops to dine in or take a short drive to the tea plantations, strawberry farms, butterfly farm etc

HIGHS

Strategic location, good service, very clean, beautiful view and ample parking.

LOWS

No gym at the hotel but you won’t need one when you have a wonderful opportunity to explore the area

RATES

Starting price in the peak season/weekend is RM403 (Deluxe King/Twin) but check online for cheaper deals on weekdays

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