Here’s The Plan
23 June 2020
"What we'll do, given the lockdown has just eased and before the hordes start travelling, we'll head up to that plush hotel in the Cameron Highlands for a fancy weekend"
Brilliant idea. No one about. No tourists. No commuting COVID. First weekend of opening for the resort. Specially reduced rate. What could got wrong?
What could go wrong was that most of Malaysia had the same brilliant idea. The 300 seat Corona Express Ferry to the mainland was packed, all sat cheek by fabric covered jowl, together on manky plastic seats that haven't seen a cloth let alone a disinfectant wipe for years. Some of the travellers were much the same. That's what happens when you live on a boat.
To save seven Ringits, nearly a pound in our money, we set the sat-nav to "Avoid Tolls" and enjoyed a scenic tour through the backwaters of mainland Malaysia. Tarmac would have been nice. Sorry, that was for comedic effect and entirely unjust. The roads were fine. Twisty but fine and we had a great drive up through the jungle to the big city of Ipoh and on up into the Cameron Highlands.
There's two ways up to the Highlands. One heading north from sophisticated Kuala Lumpur and Johor and the other, going south from the more industrial Ipoh. The KL route takes one through delightful tropical jungle scenery, winding ravines and cascading waterfalls. The other route is much the same except the ravines have all been terraced and covered with "poly tunnels" in which grows, it seems, much of Malaysia's veggies and the region's specialty, strawberries. Complementing the veg industry is the tourist tat industry. Not only can you buy juicy strawberries but strawberry shaped cushions, pillows and no doubt, hats, every customer causing a five minute tailback as they reverse out into the traffic.
Finally we arrived at our chosen retreat, the five star, Cameron Highlands Resort, newly opened after months locked down and locked up. Locked to everything except the ingress of damp. Not so much an Inter-Continental Hotel but In-Continental Hotel. All the bed linen was damp giving one the awful overnight sensation there might just have been a wee accident.
In the absence of air conditioning or indeed dry linen, only body heat could dry it out. So, for us, it was home from home. Just like cruising in the lower latitudes. Or Scotland. Being 'ard and ruffty tuffty cruisers it wasn't that big a deal for us. Other guests had their bedding changed three times before bowing to the inevitable soggy sensation. And rheumatism.
Nonetheless, after three months or more on our Love Island, we though it was all very smart. Having climbed the black marble staircase to the foyer we'd bow politely to have our temperatures taken before heading up the landing to our spacious room overlooking the golf course......... and the trunk road which links Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, the trunk road passing under our window also links the vegetable farms with their markets in KL and possibly even Singapore. And it's a twenty four / seven business.
Trunk road? So called because it sounds like a herd of elephants going past the end of your bed all night. If having the perpetual feeling you might just have wet the bed didn't keep you from sound sleep, the truck noise would.
But were we downhearted? Being totally spoiled by the super attentive staff certainly helped the mood. Afternoon tea and scones goes a long way to brightening a day. That and a stunning Beef Wellington at the nearby, Smokehouse. Ye Olde Smokehouse in fact. Honestly! This hostelry, built in the 1930's was styled in the manner of an old English pub, complete with black oak beams, horse brasses, inglenooks and log fires. They lost the plot a bit on theme continuity by playing the likes of classic Scottish ballads, "Bonnie Dundee" and "Wild Mountain Thyme"..........
......Oh the summer time is coming
And the trees are sweetly blooming
Where the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the blooming heather
Would you go, lassie, go?
Yeah - Anne will go anywhere there's a cream tea on offer.
It was a fine break in a grand setting, amongst the tea plantations, rolling hills and, with the mist rolling down, a bit like home. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, around the corner from the hotel and golf course was, I guess we'd call it "lower Cameron Highlands" or if you're from Chicago, "The Projects". Weekend retreats for the masses. A bit like a 1960's French ski resort but with the chic removed.
What tourism can do to a place!
(Some more pics in gallery)