I’d read of travelers spending too much time in a country and overstaying their visa, or having to make a last minute ‘border run’ to secure more time, but I never thought that I would be one of them. It always sounded so exotic…the type of stuff that ‘real’ travelers did. And then we realized that, because we had left India early, we were going to run out of time in Thailand and that we would be two of those people. We were going to have to make a run for the Malaysian border to get a Thai visa.
It turned out to be super simple to do too. There are a million and one travel agencies in Asia and they are all more than happy to help a traveler get from point A to point B, even across the borders. So, we just hooked up with one of these, got on a boat, got on a bus, got on a minibus, got on another minibus, crossed the border and SHAZAM, we’re in Malaysia.
Getting our Thai visa was even easier. We walked into yet another travel agency, they took our passports, pictures and particulars, we handed over 5 Ringetts (about $1.50 CAD…seriously!) and at 4PM that day we had our brand new shiny 60 day Thai visas in our hands.
While in Malaysia we thought we would see a little of the country. Not too much, as our goal is to head up to northern Thailand so we didn’t want to go too far south, but there were a few spots I had heard of that I thought would be worth seeing.
Georgetown was where we headed to get the visas. A recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list, it has plenty of old colonial buildings to look at but, other than that, we didn’t find it overly interesting. It could have been the heat…it was extremely hot and walking around was not comfortable at all…it could have just been that we just weren’t interested…either way it was a bit of a bore.
What really interested me were the Cameron Highlands…and they did not disappoint. A four hour, very twisty, ride from Georgetown, the Cameron Highlands offer respite from the heat of the coast and stunning views over rolling hills of tea and jungle.
The weather changes here like clockwork…morning is warm and sunny, pleasant for touring and hiking…but every afternoon the clouds roll in, the temperature drops and the rain starts. And it starts instantly…one minute we’re out on the patio reading and the next we’re running for cover as the heavens open up.
The tea plantations were what I wanted to see and they were absolutely stunning. Vibrant green, rolling hills as far as I could see. Some of the hills were so steep I wondered how the trees stayed put, never mind how the pickers possibly picked the tea on those slopes. I had expected the scent of tea to be on the breeze, but there was none, just fresh and clean air. I picked a leaf to taste it…it tasted only of bitter and I had to spit it out! I guess the tea taste comes in the processing.
A visit to the tea factory showed us the four step process in making tea from the fresh leaves…drying, rolling, oxidation and sorting…and it was here that the tea scent permeated the air. It was a great visit and we topped it off with a cup of tea in the teahouse.
Next up was a walk in the ‘mossy forest’. This, centuries old, forest is part jungle, part rain-forest and is indeed as mossy as advertized. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, picking various leaves and flowers from plants and explaining their usefulness or harmfulness and showing us where we could get drinking water and food from should we ever get lost in the jungle/forest…I’m sure that we could now last all of 5 minutes on our own in there!!
It really was fascinating though and made us wish that we had time to visit the Taman Negara region further south which offers even better jungle viewing but our quick visit to Malaysia was over so we jumped on our minibus to connect to another minibus to cross the border back into Thailand.