We realized it had been a long time since we had experienced long bus travel. In fact, the last time was the trip from San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso in Chile. Someone it was really pleasant – a comfy seat, the IPOD and nothing but the road passing you by. There really is such a difference between land and air travel – there is a richness in experience that is only evident when you see how local people travel and what is normal to them. For us it is always just little glimpses in someone else’s world.
We arrived in the highlands, the area of Malaysia that is cooler and obviously at a higher elevation. Our guesthouse was a short ride from the main street: again simple, but good enough. We got situated, and somehow realized we had passed over lunch and I was inspired to visit the old hotel on the hill for Afternoon Tea and Scones. The colonial influence of England was very evident in the many restaurants offering afternoon tea. Sadly, we were too late for lunch and afternoon tea was a sad plate of 4 mini scones and 2 cups of tea. Disappointed, we quickly walked back to town before the rain and actually found a funny little restaurant with free internet access and great food. We made ourselves comfortable for several hours. Somehow it was bed time before we knew it, and after stopping to watch a Jennifer Lopez concert on a big screen, we walked back “home”.
From tea plantations to the coast
We had seen the jungle, so we were not inspired to visit the jungle here, but we did book ourselves into a 4 hour tour of the area’s highlights. It would end just in enough time for us to catch the bus back to Kuala Lumpur and then catch our evening flight to Langawi Island.
The tour included a Chinese temple, a visit to amazing rose and botanical gardens (in which we completely lost ourselves with delight – who knew flowers and plants could be so intriguing!), strawberry plantation, butterfly and insect farm, bee gardens and the main attraction: Boh tea plantation. In fact it was the tea plantation that was the most interesting, not only from a landscape perspective, but from the social perspective. The plantation is still only by an English family, thought the Board of Directors includes local Malays. The workers are generally from Bangladesh, Burma and Indonesia, not Malaysia. What is profound is the housing and social structure that is provided for the workers: basic housing lines the road to the plantation, as do a school, a clinic and several houses of worship: a temple, a mosque and a Christian church. Wonder if farms in California offer a place of worship to their Migrant workers?
As quickly as we got the Highlands, we left, with the same route back to KL. We arrived at the Central bus station and down pouring rain kept us from exploring more of the city. We boarded the train to the airport, realized we arrived at the wrong airport, boarded another bus to the JetStar terminal (think Southwest airlines). With still time to kill, we hooked into the free wireless at the airport and waited to board the plane. You have to love Asia!