Sunday, July 15, 2012

Item From the Past: The Cameron Highlands

A few sentences in a short essay called "Malaysia" by Paul Theroux, published in the collection Sunrise With Seamonsters (1985), first introduced me to the Cameron Highlands. "[In the Cameron Highlands], the air is as cool as an autumn day in England; below you, in Tapah and beyond, people are gasping in the heat and swatting mosquitoes, but you are thousands of feet up, in a temperate climate, where strawberries grow and beds need blankets and rooms log fires," Theroux wrote in the early '70s, early in the transition of the area from a British hill station into a modern Malaysian resort district in the central mountainous region of the Malay Peninsula.

When I first went to Malaysia in July 1992, I visited the Cameron Highlands for a few days, and liked it so much that when Yuriko and I came that way again two years later, we stayed there a few days. For all I know, the place has been overdeveloped by now, but 20 years ago it still had some cool green hill station charms.

The highlands are home to Cameronian Boh tea -- and the plantation, whose green, tea-planted hills are seen here -- was open for tours.

The local farmers are also proud of their vegetable crops, as you can see.

Theroux was right about the pleasant climate, which lent itself to long walks. We walked along some of the jungle trails, but during my first visit I found myself on a road that ran next to a golf course (behind the fence on the left).

AWAS means CAUTION in Bahasa Malaysia, but I don't think you really need any language to understand the sign.

One evening Yuriko and I went out for a walk and came upon a park-like area from which some of the evening sky was visible. I was able to pick out the Southern Cross, riding low. As we were looking up at the nighttime sky, the call to evening prayers began off in the distance.



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