Monday, 11 August 2014

Cameron Highlands, paradise lost

Destruction, near and as far as you can see. 
If you are thinking of going to Cameron Highlands for a break, thinking of the cool weather, lush rain forests, beautiful slopes of vegetable and flower and colonial charm, forget about it. It is better to head off to other destinations which will cost you less headache, way much nicer sceneries and attractions and so much cheaper food.

I was in Cameron Highlands for the weekend with three other friends of mine with the intention to escape the heat and haze in Klang Valley. I used to go to Cameron Highlands frequently when I was a child as it is of manageable distance from Teluk Intan which can be covered in a day trip. My last overnight trip to Cameron Highlands was seven years ago and but did a few day trips up there and finally gave up when horrible traffic jam and rampant deforestation took place.
So much have been written and so much space have been allocated by The Star newspaper about the need for a good management to regain the charm of Cameron Highlands but it seems to only get from bad to worse. To start on with, only God knows when was the last time the roads in Cameron Highlands had a proper maintenance. Potholes here and there, uneven surface, made worse with jeeps and cars parking off the main road which all made driving in Cameron a hazard and that cause serious traffic jam.
As one descends from Blue Valley towards Brinchang town (assuming that you use the Simpang Pulai – Gua Musang Road), dust and terrible stench greets you as you enter Kampung Raja and you will wonder if rubbish collection system and roadside maintenance of weeds and beautification exists in Cameron Highlands. Signboards are another big problem in Cameron Highlands. It does not help that Google Maps is basically useless in Cameron Highlands because of lousy reception on your mobile phone and Google Maps itself is not updated.
We were supposed to visit a place call Mossy Forest located at Gunung Brinchang but we ended up lost in the middle of nowhere in between vegetable farms because of the lack of signboard. We ended up not at Mossy Forest but ventured off to people’s vegetable slopes instead and got a bird eye view of the destruction and poor planning of Cameron Highlands. So much for listing Mossy Forest as the top ten attractions in Cameron Highlands!
There is only one big signboard which shows Sungai Palas Boh Plantatation and Mossy Forest going the same direction but beyond that you will just have to sniff your way. Throughout my trip, I would say Sungai Palas Boh Plantation is the only attraction worth visiting and something that maintains a sense of originality in tandem with nature. There are many other farms such as lavender, rose, bees, you name it but they are so artificial that it is not worth a visit.
Taking a close inspection of tea leaves at Sungai Palas Boh Plantation.
I’d always wonder that why other countries can make it a collective effort to beautify and put all the resources into turning a place to become a reputable tourist destination but not Malaysia. It is sad that the once paradise of Cameron Highlands so well like and renowned is now in a sorry state. Besides that, what a big waste that the tourism authority is not able to capitalize on the famous Malaysian box office movie “The Journey (一路有你)” which was mostly filmed in Cameron Highlands. The location of the filming can be turned into a tourist destination such as Uncle Chuen’s house on the idyllic spot besides the vegetable terraces, the temple where the wedding reception took place and many more.
It is never too late to do something before tourists stop going to Cameron Highlands, the weather turn warmer till vegetables can’t grow, and more landslides that can potentially wiped off a village and finally made Cameron Highlands a place where it is no longer suitable for living. Each time when I think of the sorry state of Cameron Highlands, I will think of Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How societies choose to fail or survive.

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