Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Valley of Eternal Spring: Part 1

On Sunday from KL, the group split up with the men and Cindy going back to Singapore, while Karen and I went on to the Cameron Highlands. Since arriving in Asia, I've gone crazy about tea, and the Cameron Highlands is known for its spectacular scenes of tea plantations, English cottages and rolling green fields.

After a dirty, but bearable four-hour bus ride, we arrived at the most charming hotel called The Lakehouse, where they greeted us with spicy ginger welcome drinks. This hotel was to be our base for the next two days.

On Monday after sleeping in, Karen and I decided to walk and find breakfast along the main road. After walking for about 30 minutes along a twisty road not made for pedestrians and finding nothing, we finally decided to cross the road and turn back. Apparently, all we needed to do was be on the proper side of the road because the local bus promptly pulled over and we caught a ride into town.

Once in town, we arranged to take a countryside tour to see all the major sites, which included a Buddhist temple, flower nursery, strawberry farm, butterfly and insect garden, tea plantation, and bee farm. As you might guess, the Cameron Highlands is mainly a farm community, growing vegetables, flowers and tea for local consumption. Just check out that corn!

At the Rose Centre, our guide showed us the hideous green rose, the most ugly rose in all the world, too awful to capture on film. Then he told us to run up the seven levels of flower gardens to make it to the hilltop and catch the view before the sky dumped rain on us, which it did anyway.

The rainstorm forced Karen and me to take shelter in a shoe until the worst passed. No, really, I'm serious. The old woman and her kids were out, so it was fine.

Once at the Strawberry Farm, I learned that the organic method of growing strawberries is to grow them in pillows of coconut husks placed on stands about waist-high. So no strawberries touch the ground and nobody has to bend over to pick them! Obviously we had to have a taste, so Karen and I shared strawberries & cream and got to know Susan, a Canadian woman on our tour who was on holiday from her teaching position in Korea.

Unfortunately, because it was Monday the tea plantation that I was looking forward to was closed and not covered during the tour. Instead Karen and I had to make do with tea and scones at our hotel, which we enjoyed during a knitting session.