The Place: Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Must Do: Hiking and Tea Plantations
Must Eat Ice Cream: Mr. Aisu
If you’re traveling around the Malaysian Peninsula, the Cameron Highlands is a nice and somewhat less touristy spot between Kuala Lumpur and Penang. I spent a few days there and was very happy I did, it has some nice nature and tea plantations that was a nice break from the larger cities in Malaysia. I was also lucky enough to encounter the best ice cream I found in Malaysia, Mr. Aisu.
Cameron Highlands Attractions
The main attraction is to visit a tea plantation, which might not sound interesting but is actually beautiful. I visited the Boh Tea Plantation, one of the top reviewed ones. It was worth it simply for the several kilometer walk out there from the main road; the walk is a beautiful one with verdant green landscapes and rolling hills and mountains. At the tea plantation, you can get various teas, desserts, and snacks, which are all overpriced and not that great), but it’s still worth it to sit down and admire the views. The tea was passable, but I definitely do not recommend the cheesecakes, which were rather gelatinous and disgusting.
I should admit, my friends and I did order a “Nasi Lemak” Cheesecake, which we knew was going to be terrible. Nasi Lemak is a Malaysian rice dish cooked in coconut milk with peanuts and anchovies, which this cheesecake had on top. It obviously is there for the tourists and should not be a cheesecake flavor. However, the Strawberry Cheesecake, which we had high hopes for, was quite bad too.
The plantation offered a short free tour where you could see the various steps of the tea roasting and packaging process which was actually surprisingly interesting.
Another main attraction in the Cameron Highlands is to do some hiking! There are about ten or so open trails through the jungle connecting various areas. The hike to the top of Gunung Brinchang affords some stellar views, but any hike will give you some nice jungle scenery. This blog by Wooly Ventures contains some very good and detailed information that I used to plan my hikes. And Maps.ME is the smartphone app you’d want which has all the trails and trailhead locations marked on it.
Some other well reviewed attractions include a Lavender Farm and a Strawberry Farm. I wasn’t too keen on the strawberries because they were expensive and I always picked kilograms of them back home in the USA, but if you’ve never been to a strawberry farm it’s probably worth it to go once. The lavender farm was not something that looked interesting to me and was fairly small.
But of course, the real other main attraction in Cameron Highlands is ice cream!
Cameron Highlands Ice Cream
Mr. Aisu, a small unassuming storefront in Brinchang, has the best ice cream I had in Malaysia. They have handmade ice cream and waffles. The ice cream flavors use local ingredients when possible and are simple and uncomplicated, which allows the pure essence of the flavor to shine through. Many of the flavors were Malaysian flavors and local fruit flavors; I always appreciate when a shop incorporates the local culture into the flavors.
Some of the fruit flavors they had were “Cameron Corn”, “Cameron Strawberry”, and “Cameron Pineapple”. Local Malaysian flavors included “Teh Tarik”, a popular sweet beverage of mixed tea and milk, and “Limau Ais”, a kind of soda that is really just lime juice and sugar and ice.
They offer ice cream / waffle combos on their homemade waffles, which I found irresistible. I ended up ordering “Baked Cheesecake” and “Cameron Banana” ice cream flavors on top of the “Hainanese Waffle”, which comes with kaya (coconut jam) filling and kaya sauce on top. It was decadent. It was also the most expensive ice cream I got in Malaysia, but at around 20 ringgit (about $5 USD) for my masterpiece, it was definitely worth it.
Other Ice Cream Shops
You can find other ice cream in Cameron Highlands, and when I first arrived at the Tanah Rata bus terminal, which is the main entrance to the highlands, I got Malaysian fried ice cream. Apparently there are a few different kinds, mostly coating-dependent, but this one was wrapped in a pastry-like dough before frying. It was different from Mexican Fried Ice Cream I’ve had in the US (not sure if it’s authentic), which has a crispier, harder texture. This dough around the Malaysian Ice Cream was softer and chewier.
Sadly, I wasn’t a huge fan. Bummer. I’d recommend sticking to Mr. Aisu; you definitely won’t be disappointed with that.