Decamp to the Malaysian Highlands

the lakehouse

Amongst the many changes the British Empire brought to its colonies, a significant one was propagating the use of hills stations; remote getaways where expatriates and their entourage could retreat to during the stifling tropical summers of low lying cities, from Moganshan in China, to Shimla in India. The Cameron Highlands were developed as Malaysia’s very own hill station in the 1920’s, and survive to this day as a calm oasis in the jungle heart of the peninsula.

The Lakehouse, a Tudor style lodge built in the late sixties, is a small hotel elegantly perched overlooking the Sultan Abu Bakar Lake, in between the towns of Ringlet and Brinchang, which along with Tanah Rata, make up the three main settlements of The Highlands. All nineteen rooms are decorated with an eclectic mix of slightly outdated yet cozy furniture and fireplaces. The restaurant prides itself on English cuisine, however with the exception of afternoon tea, it’s more advisable to try local dishes. Malaysian food is a blend of Chinese, Indian and Indonesian; plenty of curry, various types of Nasi Goreng and oodles of Sago Gula Melaka; a traditional desert made with tapioca pearls and coconut milk.

Following the three and a half hour car ride from Kuala Lumpur, the best way around The Highlands is by locally rented bicycle or scooter – but prepare for flash downpours, which can be sudden, intense and perennial, as The Highlands seem to lack distinct seasons. Year round temperatures range from pleasant daily highs of 75 to nighttime lows of 50.

The truly unique landscape consists of lush undulating valleys, most of which are covered in tea. The BOH Tea Company, Malaysia’s largest, owns plantations on The Highlands that are open for free tours – one of which is just a stones throw from The Lakehouse. Here visitors can observe the entire tea making process, from plant plucking to leaf fermenting, before heading onto the sampling area where they can drink tea to their heart’s content – or to their bladders capacity – whichever saturates first.