Sunday, June 16, 2013
Cameron Highlands 11-14 June 2013
I have been wanting to take a family trip with my mum and bro. Ever since my dad passed away last year, I am more keenly aware that we should 珍惜眼前人. My mum is getting old, we should travel with her more often while she can still walk.
Cameron highlands has been a place my mum always wanted to visit. She has never been there but she loves to visit vegetable farms, fruit farms and market places where fresh veg and fruits are sold. I was wary of cranky kids throwing up in the long 10 hr coach ride especially the steep windy climb to Cameron highlands but decided to take the risk for mum's sake. I booked the night coach even though most people say night coaches are dangerous. But I felt that if the kids are asleep most of the coach ride, it will be easier for the hours to go by.
So, I booked with 5 stars and took the F&E package with Equatorial Hotel. My friend recommended Century Pines Resort because it is near to Tanah Rata town and is near to the playground. But 5 Stars doesn't have any packages with this hotel and I am too lazy to have to make my own way from bus terminus to Century Pines Resort. Equatorial hotel is located at Brinchang, near to the Cameron Highlands peak and it is popular with Singaporeans. Currently, it is going through renovation to the hotel rooms. I reviewed the hotel at Tripadvisor.
11 June 13
RL was having tiny bits of explosive diarrhea and kept soiling her panties so we had to resort to taking leftover old diapers from my mum's place. We finally reached Golden mile complex at 1015pm but were already among the last families to arrive. Reporting time was supposed to be 1030pm. Looks like we are not kiasu enough. It was a Super Deluxe double decker coach with individual tv screens. It was a steep climb to the upper deck for the kids and my mum. But luckily, they did give us the middle row seats which were the seats most accessible by the staircase. The coach bus left promptly at 1030pm once all the passengers arrived. We went via Tuas checkpoint and there were no queues at both sides' custom checkpoints at all. So glad I chose to travel on a weekday.
12 June 13
RA knocked out at 1130pm shortly after we cleared JB customs while RL KO past midnight. At 1am, we reached Yong Peng and I wolfed down yong tau foo noodles soup cos we only had half an hr there. Bad move cos by 210am, maybe I ate too fast, I had such a bad stomachache that I had to ask the coach drive to make a pit stop. Thankfully, we were near a rest station but he slowly reversed the coach to go to the rest station. After that, I ko and woke up again close to 5+am. By 6.05am, the coach was starting on the climb to Cameron highlands. The gals were still asleep then so they did not feel any of the swaying movements. By 730am, we reached Brinchang town, the gals were awake and we had a leisurely breakfast of wonton noodles at one of the coffee shops.
When we went up to the coach bus, a tour guide from Titiwangsa tour agency was recommending their day tour packages, probably affiliated to 5 stars tours. The prices for their full day tour is slightly more than Eco Cameron and Kang Tours but for the sake of the convenience, we signed up for their half day pm Agro farm tour including steamboat buffet dinner(RM65) and their half day am Nature discovery tour to tea plantation and Mossy forest (RM60) for the next day. By the time, the bus took us to Equatorial Hotel, it was 930am.
We were really lucky that we could check in right away. Maybe because we booked Deluxe rooms cos I overheard other passengers who booked superior rooms could only check in at 2pm. After settling into our newly renovated connecting rooms, we R&R and the gals enjoyed running from room to room, watching preloaded movies on Daddy's new Note8.
Went for lunch at the Coffee shop at Equatorial hotel cos we didn't know where to go yet. The main courses were RM23 onwards so not really cheap but at least their servings were big. At 245pm, the tour guide picked us up. We went to terrace vegetable farms, strawberry farms, hydroponics farm, watercress, cactus and chrysanthenum plantations. The gals took turns to ko on the the mini bus when tired. It was a pity that there were no tour guides who spoke Mandarin (mainly Indians in fact) so my mum didn't understand most of the tour. We ended up a steamboat buffet dinner at Hotel Titiwangsa. Vegetables were free flow but other ingredients were not. But it was delicious and we finished the table of food.
After that, we were sent back to the hotel but after the gals had their bubble baths, we called it a night.
13 June 13
I woke up at 7am and had the privilege of breathing in the fresh morning mountain air and see the low morning sun. But went back to bed. We were almost late for our tour so had to rush through our BF. Buffet BF was ok in variety but the gals only ate some morning cereals. Poor hubby who has been having stomach flu even b4 we left Singapore only had a small bowl of plain porridge.
The first stop of our tour was to the Boh tea plantations. We saw the tea shrubs and the guide showed us the difference between grade A, B and C tea leaves. Surprisingly, the tea shrubs there were already 84 years old. They can actually last up to 120 years cos the workers just keep pruning the shrubs and harvesting the top leaves.
After that we did the Mossy forest board walk, the hike through Mossy forest was supposed to be better in terms of the sighting of pitcher plants in the forest but considering that we had toddlers and elderly, the tour guide said the trek will be difficult cos air is thin and the ground is slippery. Still we had a close view of moss overgrowing on the branches. But RA was disappointed not to see any forest animals or snakes. :P
After a visit to Boh tea centre where we had some tea and snacks, we asked the guide to drop us at Brinchang town again so that we can have our lunch. The tze char stall at one of the coffee shops was not fantastic. Mum complained that everything was salty. Even then 4 dishes with rice costs RM96.
The bus picked us up again at 230pm and we went back to Hotel. 3 Malay teachers on the same tour as us recommended the free shuttle bus service to Tanah Rata town so we booked with the conceige counter for the 645pm bus. Hubby ko as he was weak with the constant runs. I spent the afternoon at my mum's room while the gals enjoyed themselves blowing bubbles, eating tidbits and watching movies. At 5pm, when hb woke up, my bro and I went for foot reflexology at the Fucon massage centre near the hotel. The masseurs were ok during the foot reflexology session but when it came to the 30mins massage, they were pushy and tried to get us to upgrade to a better oil (add RM10), gusha (add RM20), baguan (add RM30). They massage our back very hard repetitively on the same area until it was red and bruising then even took photos of our backs. All in all, my bro paid RM88 and I paid RM68 and that was after some arguing. Will not go back to this place again.
When we were Tanah Rata, we ended eating at Rosette Cafe cos they served both steamboat and western dishes. Great cos the adults can have chinese while I ordered sandwiches for the gals so that they can feed themselves. RL threw a really long tantrum cos she didn't want to finish her bread which had mayo but she insisted on peeling the hard boiled egg and not eating it. She really tested my bro who told us not to give in to her everytime so I made hubby carry her away after 10 mins of melt down. After she came back, I forced her finish 1 piece of bread. She literally took ant bites to show her reluctance. Note to self: save all of us the trouble, next time just order butter bread which she loves. She can lick the butter and finish it all by herself.
We reached hotel at 10pm. After their bubble bathes and milk, RL ko on my mum's bed watching Planet of the Apes. RA ko past midnight. haha.
14 June 13
We woke up at 7+am and went for early bf cos we were supposed to assemble at 930am for the 10am coach bus. But 930am came and left, by 1015am, most of the 5 stars passengers panicked. We called the 5 stars office many times but there was no answer. Finally, one of the tour guide who had a hp contact managed to contact Titiwangsa guide and was told that the bus was still at brinchang town. It was 1030am by then.
When the coach bus came at 1045am, I realised that it was not the Super deluxe coach I paid for. It had no tv, it was just super vip. Also, we had a surly indian driver who did not talk and make announcements. Even at customs, he just stops the coach and does not bother to brief the passengers on what to bring down etc.
There was a long queue of coach buses at tuas checkpoint so we had to wait for almost 1 hr. I don't understand where there are no Singaporeans only queue at Tuas checkpoint. I asked the officers but he said for Singaporeans, it is only the self automated counters. But those counters are for people who are not travelling with young kids. Shouldn't kids be given priority? At least there should be a manual counter for Singaporeans with young kids right? Instead we have to queue with the foreigners who take a longer processing time at the counters. Makes no sense at all when you are encouraging Singaporeans to have kids but you do not have kids friendly policies across the government agencies.
Anyway, we finally reached home at 1130pm.
Overall, it was a good trip. I had quite low expectations of this trip cos it was our first extended family trip for many years. But there was no puking on coach bus, no tempers flared and the gals especially RL had a good time entertaining themselves and socialising with my brother's JC classmate's son (Zander) and the 3 malay teachers. Since we survived the Cameron trip, a trip to Australia with my mum and bro is possible after all. ;)