Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Long Live the English Legacy


Somewhere in the highlands of Peninsula Malaysia sits a remarkable colonial building that, in the last few years, went through a facelift to become the most talked about resort in the area.

With a rich history behind it, the Tudor influenced Cameron Highlands Resort (CHR) stands proud in welcoming guests with a warm open fireplace - and service that is second to none.

The CHR is now a well-renowned resort that has won many awards since its opening.

Lavishly furnished with beautiful and ornate Victorian finishes, leather couches and a drawing room, the setting does not get any more ‘English’ than this…or so one would think….until some “tea and scones” are offered.

In the very first instance and without prior knowledge of the country’s history, it can be difficult to digest that half way around the world from England, the tradition of tea and scones would be served in a hotel – by an open fireplace – in the lush and tropical Malaysia.

Seems odd - extraordinary even - but this is one English tradition that is still widely practiced in Cameron Highlands and the CHR prides itself of this custom. And depending on the chef’s mood, cucumber sandwiches might even be served on the side!

Named after William Cameron, a British Surveyor who first discovered the place in 1885, Cameron Highlands was to be transformed into a famous retreat for British government officials and wealthy residents. 45 years later, another Brit, John Archibald Russell would introduce tea to the highlands, which was to become today’s famous BOH Tea Plantation.

Right up until WWII, the British would escape the often intolerable tropical and balmy climate to Cameron Highlands, where the weather remains below a cool 23 degrees Celsius. It is here that many decided to set up their second homes and businesses.

As one quickly discovers on a trip to the Highlands, the British heritage doesn’t end with the architecture and afternoon tea. The very well-known – and well preserved – Smokehouse serves up the perfect ‘Fish and Chips’. Once called Ye Olde Smokehouse Inn, this stunning Tudor Mansion opened in 1937 and served as a sanctuary for homesick British expatriates.

Today, surrounded by a lush and quintessentially English garden, the rooms are being rented out to travellers and honeymooners, while the restaurant is opened to all visitors. Food served at the Smokehouse is not only world-class and in generous proportions, it really sets the standard for true English cuisine.

While on the short escape to the cooler climate of the highlands, visitors should not miss out on the following activities:

Must see:

BOH Tea plantations
Strawberry farms
Butterfly farm

Cameron Highlands is about 300 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur and is an easy drive from the city.

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