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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cameron Hingland the Touch Of Colonial

Fill your senses with nostalgia as you bask in the warmth of a real burning fireplace, plantation shutters and impeccable service.TOUCH OF COLONIAL CHARM: A chilly wind, burning logs, four-poster beds, plantation shutters and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. All these add up to a nostalgic experience in the hill resort of Cameron Highlands. TOUCH OF COLONIAL CHARM: A chilly wind, burning logs, four-poster beds, plantation shutters and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. All these add up to a nostalgic experience in the hill resort of Cameron Highlands.

HOW about grilling sweet potatoes over the fire? “Can they do that?” A resort manager Ben Quah who looks rather amused at that question. “I’ve never had anyone make that request before and we wouldn’t encourage it,” he replies honestly, explaining that the sparks from the log fire may be dangerous. He agrees though, that the dancing tongues of flames in the real fireplace in such an English setting proves absolutely irresistible with promises of a different sort, especially to locals. This really sums up Cameron Highlands Resort, a 56-room award-winning boutique hotel run by YTL Hotels.

Fireplace Ritual-In keeping alive the traditions of the past era, the resort management invites the guests to light the fireplace every evening at 7pm. This is not merely symbolic as the fireplaces have real logs that burn with crackling flames. There are two such fireplaces, in the library outside The Dining Room restaurant and in the Highland Bar near the Jim Thompson Tea Room. Curl up on one of the deep hued leather chairs near the fire and one can pretend to be in faraway England. It’s a warmth that penetrates both skin and soul, especially with the chilly wind whistling through the tall pines outside the main entrance.

Colonial Setting-Use of dark wood and white gives the hotel a very old English ambience. Tall French windows, timber-ceilings and plantation manor shutters add a touch of rustic nostalgia to the rooms. In some rooms, grand four-poster beds evoke the sense of stepping into another time, another place. The resort is designed to evoke the genteel colonial lifestyle, an era that fuses English tradition with Asian hospitality. All rooms of the two-storey building face the golf course right across the road. And unless he is away. Check-in is quick and painless and though there are no lifts, you needn’t worry about having to lug your heavy luggage up the flight of stairs to the reception or to rooms on the upper floor as all is taken care of even as you sign on the dotted line. The hotel is only two storeys high.

Take A Swing - And tempting though it is to luxuriate in doing nothing in the comfortable rooms, there is a whole world of activities waiting outside. For those who enjoy swinging an iron, the golf course is conveniently across the road. The terrain of the 18-hole course is in itself a challenge as are water hazards and bunkers. Equipment is available for rent.

In The Steps Of Jim Thompson - For me though, the Jim Thompson Mystery Trail offered by the resort, beckons. The 73-year-old naturalist is a walking encyclopedia on all things wild in Cameron Highlands and he helped cut the trail when the resort first opened. Board a van to the starting point near the Lutheran Trail where the church caretaker claimed to have seen Thompson waving on the fateful Sunday that he disappeared in March 1967. Till today, the Jim Thompson disappearance remains a mystery. There are two walks organised each day for the light trail that lasts about two hours - at 10am and at 3pm. On Sundays, however, the walk starts only at 3pm. The time is to coincide with the precise hour that Thompson was said to start off on his walk. Though there are a few mildly challenging slopes, the walk covers mostly even ground and crosses a couple of small streams. All along the way, Uncle Yip stops to point out the various species of plants, flowers, fungi, insects and birds. It’s most eye-opening as the untrained would have simply strolled past these without a thought. For the more adventurous in the mood for more challenging trails, the management can help make arrangements for a wild time.

Spa Indulgence - One end of the resort is totally dedicated to the Spa Village, with treatments ranging from healing therapies based on ingredients from the surrounding jungles to time-tested recipes of the Orang Asli. The spa is open from 9am to 8pm. One can have the full treatment or opt for specific treatments and massages. The Semai is a his-&-her treatment based on the practices of the Semai Orang Asli. Then there is the Rose Garden, Cameron Mint and Chrysanthemum and Avocado Escape as well as the favourite Fresh Strawberry Escapade. After all, strawberries, so evocative of English summers, tie in very well with the whole Cameron Highlands Resort experience. After a cup of tea and changing into a sarung, the treatment begins with a strawberry tea bath. Slipping into the hot water infused with tea leaves and slices of fresh strawberries is totally blissful. A tray across the bath holds sugar crystal for scrubbing, slices of lime for softening the skin around elbows and knees, a tea and honey poultice to soothe the facial skin and a glass of honey lime juice to refresh the palate. Tea bags are offered for the eyes. The aroma of strawberries waft up from the hot water and one is tempted — almost — to pick up a slice of fruit floating in the water and munch on it. After the bath comes the strawberry body polish. Contrary to expectations, this is not a scrub. Instead, a combination of oatmeal, yoghurt and strawberry puree is slathered all over the body and you find yourself encased in an aluminium blanket with hot towels to open the pores and let the ingredients soften and refine the skin texture. And the 20 minutes pass by so fast it feels like just five. You will told to go shower and wash off the body buff. The third part of the treatment trilogy is a massage with strawberry scented oils.

Dining Delights - The boutique hotel serves meals at The Dining Room, Jim Thompson Tea Room and Gonbei Japanese restaurant but private dining is offered in the garden gazebo or out on the terrace for steamboat, nabemono or a barbecue. Drinks are available at the Highlands Bar, a really “setengah, tuan” experience complete with crackling fireplace in the evenings and a snooker table. A resident pianist tinkles the ivory keys in the evenings. The Dining Room is where guests have breakfast and dinner. Overlooking the golf course and an outdoor terrace, the specialty here is colonial cuisine like warm truffle eggs with smoked salmon, French onion soup, fish and chips, panfried seabass, beef medallions, braised lamb shank and more. At the Jim Thompson Tea Room, tiffin lunch and English afternoon tea are time-honoured traditions from the days of plantation owners. The afternoon tea offers a wide selection of teas with sandwiches, pastries and freshly-baked scones with clotted cream and home-made preserves. For a really special picnic, ask for the Tea Plantation Picnic and the hotel will arrange to have it in the middle of the Sungai Palas Tea Plantation. It’s an experience like none other.

Places of interest - Cameron Highlands is made up of three townships — Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang. The highest point of Gunung Brinchang is 2,031m (6,666ft) above sea level. One can climb up a Telekoms observation tower at the top and, on a clear day, see the rolling hills for miles around. Tea plantations, flower gardens and pick-your-own strawberry farms form the main attractions here as well as butterfly and honey bee farm. At the Sungai Palas Boh Plantation ( and the Bharat Plantation (, visitors can relax and unwind with a cup of tea while enjoying the breath-taking view of sculptured tea bushes grown on the undulating hillsides. They can also visit the tea factories and learn how tea is processed, from the picking of the tea leaves to the final product in tea bags. To visit vegetable farms, join the agro-tours and visit the various vegetable farms and end with a visit to the vegetable market. For nature lovers, there are plenty of jungle activities including jungle walks, mountain climbing, forest trails, bird-watching, 4WD adventures, camping and visits to aboriginal settlements. Several local companies there organise localised tours. Check with your hotel reception for availability. You can also participate in the Cameron Highlands Plant-A-Tree reforestation project that started in July 2007, with the aim of educating visitors on the importance of highland forests. To take part, check details at A relatively new interest is Time Tunnel, a collector’s gallery that opened in mid-2007. Visitors step into a page from the past of not only Cameron Highlands but the country in general. Here, the older generation indulges in mega-doses of nostalgia while taking delight in pointing out to the younger generations things that no longer exist today, like old cash registers, tiffin carriers, school desks, old toys and other stuff from the 50s and 60s. Call 013-524 7120 or check out On Fridays, Saturdays and school holidays, head for the night market in Brinchang opposite the police station and browse around the many stalls selling all kinds of things from fresh fruit and vegetables to clothes and local delicacies.

How To Get There - Cameron Highlands Resort is located in Tanah Rata, opposite the Golf Course. You can’t miss the imposing structure with its unmistakably English ambience. From the north, exit at the Simpang Pulai toll and follow directions to Brinchang and from there to Tanah Rata. From the south, exit at Tapah interchange and follow directions to Cameron Highlands. The resort is just a little way uphill from Tanah Rata. To contact the resort, call 06-491 1100 or logon to

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