Straight after inclusive breakfast at about 9am we hit the adventure trail again.
First we visited the famous Boh Tea estates, the old and the new. Tea laden mountains are always a soothing sight for the eyes, almost like a gigantic maze hewn into the mountain slopes. And the fung shui is always good for the troubled soul.
While contemplating over an Orange Pekoe, which is much more subtle than an aromatic astringent Earl Grey, absorbed by the vista, I wondered why the owners had not value-added by upgrading the roadway up the mountain, setting up a gated top security 6 star conference centre and a secluded Zen mountain spiritual revitalisation and detoxication resort with its own helipad and its own Botanical Gardens like the one in Victoria Island in Vancouver, having tea mountain walking trails whilst retaining the existing tea operations as a backdrop. Just a retreat for ‘hippies’ who like Bill Gates are now capitalists with a hippie soul.
After that we traversed away from the tourist beaten track and entered unpublicised hidden verdant valleys with steep hillsides and its terraced market gardens and flower nurseries. There was always the same long and windy country road, with a surprise at every bend and corner, whether it be a vehicle coming from the other direction and by intuition, horning and sign language work out how one or the other was to move aside to the nearest by-way or slip, or a change in the scenery. Where the virgin forest has yet to be touched or tilled wild flowers bloom in gay abundance and sprite. I sighted the ubiquitous morning glory, canna, hibiscus, wild orchid, dahlia, tree ferns and trumpet flowers amongst flowers which names I have now forgotten.
We would travel till we reached a dead end in the bitumen and a jungle trail begins. Like an intrepid traveller we listened to the sound of the mountain streams, brooks, cascades competing with the small willy wagtails singing from bush to bush. I was surprised when I sighted some Australian gumtrees amongst the native fauna.
I think I have discovered a little secret nook that I could retire to and build a little retirement shack a short distance from the Chinese market gardeners who would supply me with vegetables for my then vegetarian diet. Annie killed that thought swiftly by declaring that it would be criminal for me to desert her when she has yet to finish university and that she would take Mum away from me so that there would be no one to look after me. I then teased her by singing what I described was Mum’s favourite song – ‘I will follow him’. She dismissed that as nonsense, as she has never known her Mum to ever sing that song. I think she was trying to say that there was no evidence to prove my assertion. So, I lost the debate as usual.
We returned to civilisation, and ended up finding a Chinese restaurant called Yee Yew in Taman Tringkap, off the main road through Tringkap. The food was very good and the customers were locals, who spoke only in Mandarin, including the lady who took our order. We spoke to her in Cantonese but she replied only in Mandarin. Some locals at the other tables conversed in Cantonese. The party at one table nearby spoke in a mixture of Hakka and Cantonese. We had deep fried tilapia Thai style and stir fried water cress and stir fried potato leaves. This was after an earlier email from Victor that we should take advantage of the fresh Cameron vegetables. You have to eat really quickly though when the food arrives. First of all you have scoop your food and rice and to eat with one hand, as you need the other hand free to shoo the pestilent ever present flies away. You also have to put the food in your mouth quick like a trapdoor. If you don’t the fly or flies would follow the food into your mouth. I wonder if flies qualify as protein of some sort. But give credit where it is due, the food was good. The hygiene? Well! I hate to think what the toilets might be like!
Tell you what! Flies are not stupid after all! They prefer the cool climate of the Cameron Highlands to the torrid heat of the Klang Valley.
There are jungle durian (as distinct from kampung durian because of the very small size) stalls and also petai stalls along the main trunk road through the major Cameron towns or villages. I did not stop to buy any or either. Imagine the hydrogen sulphide one would produce consuming both together in holiday eagerness and gluttony?
Tell you what. Rest assured that KL will not run out of vegetables. From the size and extant of the plastic greenhouses and terraced market gardens and hydroponic farms all the way across into Kelantan from Pahang, and the resilience and hardworking toughness of the Chinese market gardeners, they have given a new meaning to the term ‘assiduousness’.
I had a half an hour work out at the hotel gym ‘cycling’ while the two ladies were having afternoon ‘high tea’. Jo had to instruct her to start with the savoury and work her way to the sweet.
Later we went up the road to Brinchang to visit the Malay Puasa market stalls. At 5 pieces for 2 ringgit we bought some an assortment of lumpia, karipap, muruttu, goreng pisang, goreng kledek, pesambor, toufu bakar and kueh goreng kacang hijau.
We had dinner in the hotel in ‘The Dining Room’ where else? Annie had salad and cheese macaroni, Jo had French onion soup and seafood spaghetti and I had mushroom chowder and beef medallions. Before the meal, they brought the bread basket and also butter. It was good showing and explaining Western table etiquette to Annie. She was going to swap her bread plate with what she thought was her dinner plate. I said it was not a dinner plate but a plate that they will later place the soup bowl or whatever appetiser over. I explained that the bread knife was not meant to be used to cut the bread. It was only a butter knife. As Christians we ‘break’ bread and not cut bread before we butter it with the butter knife. In fact she dropped her butter knife in the process of using it. I told her that it was impolite to pick up any cutlery that was dropped. The waiter will always have to replace it with a new one. We eat Chinese at home and even when we eat Western at home we do not ‘dine’ as such. Simple Western dining etiquette has to be taught. Like a lady does not lay her own napkin. The waiter has to do that for her. A man however usually does it himself to show that he is manly and does not have to be spoon-fed. So this holiday has been good in showing Annie her worldly table manners.
The service was very good, it was a really fine restaurant. But somehow the Western meal did not taste very Western. The soft little tiny bread rolls were not suited to dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. What was required was a good baguette – crispy and crunchy on the outside and soft inside. I had to ask for chilli flakes for my olive dip. Then the olive oil was more like cooking olive oil. The French onion soup was a lot better than the one I had last night at the Olde Smoke House. Annie’s salad with mozzarella cheese was good saved by the fresh Cameron vegetables. Her cheese macaroni was simply bland. Italian cheese has a distinctive flavour and aroma. Hers was definitely not Italian. The tomato sauce used in Jo’s was definitely straight from a can. My beef medallion though tender unlike the ‘wild buffalo’ type of sirloin I had last night, was again raw when I had similarly ordered ‘medium to well done’, as I had done last night. Still I cannot complain. I get the converse treatment when I order Hainanese Chicken Rice in Sydney or Bak Kut Teh in HK. So, in Malaysia do not expect to get Western food the same standard as in the West.
Well, we are off to Penang tomorrow, but will be passing through Ipoh and Taiping on the way. We will stick to Malaysian hawker food from now on. We did not like the look of the Malaysian hawker food in Cameron. They did not have the KL look about it. And the people serving, cooking or selling did not have the KL demeanour about them. They all have these look like the food proprietors in Bentong or Kuala Lipis or Telok Intan about them. I tell you what. Once you are out of KL, you can forget about a good BKT or Hokkien Mee!