Road trip to Cameron Highlands : A short driving holiday

By Clifford Chow, 04 April 2023

Road trip to Cameron Highlands : A short driving holiday

Singapore - Ah yes… drive holidays. The best way to unwind, have your own mobility, and escape from the hustle and bustle of whatever… and of-course, fellow Singaporeans!

Any holiday season is a good excuse… I mean, reason to head out for a driving holiday. If you do not have much time to spare, you can enjoy a bite-sized trip across the causeway.

Cameron Highlands is quite literally tea country, where you’d experience pleasant daytime temperatures, which seldom cross 25 degrees. In the evenings, there is that thrill of the chill, with mercury occasionally hovering around late single digits. Away from the tea plantations, there are nature trails, strawberry farms, and of-course that inescapable colonial past

From Singapore, you can expect anything from between 6.5 to 8 hours of being on the road, before hitting the highland’s foothills.

I would advise to set off early for two reasons. Firstly, if you were to arrive at the checkpoints at anything past 5am, you will end up in heavy traffic at any of the 2 checkpoints. The second reason is that you have more “runway” so you can make more rest or food stops in-between, before reaching your hotel.

My route till Tapah is a logical one of travelling via the North-South Highway. Once in Tapah, my journey takes me through Federal Route 59, which is popularly known as the Tapah-Cameron Highlands route. This colonial era road was the first one that was built, so it is narrow, boasting many tight corners, and offering little chance for overtaking. You will also have that challenge of avoiding potholes along the way up. I would suggest that less seasoned drivers approach with some caution. I must stress that you will need to be aware of your vehicle’s position within the lane, especially around narrow bends.

So why did I want this route? Well, it is really more fun!

My personal take is that driving up Cameron Highlands is still more entertaining than doing the same up Genting’s highly-manicured route.

A driving tip

If a truck in-front signals right, it means that there is a vehicle on the opposite lane approaching.

If it signals to the left, the driver is indicating that you may overtake safely. 

Tap your horn while passing to say ‘Thanks’.

But… if you feel uncomfortable with the idea of doing the “fun and narrow twisties", I would recommend another route. This one takes you further North, cutting through the Central Spine Road, followed by a left out of Jalan Gua Musang. The road here is generally smoother, with some parts having two lanes each way.

Everyone has a different reason for going to Cameron Highlands. So I have to add the disclaimer that mine is really to relax, and not to go on long hikes. 

So here are some ideas to add to your list of places to go.

Click on the blue text for reference

BOH Tea Heritage Tea Centre and Factory

Squishy-narrow road on the way in, but if you are one who prefers a less touristy and more peaceful experience, this is where you should go for a cup of tea and even some scones. The menu, by the way, is very limited here.

There is also a factory tour, if you are keen.

BOH Sungai Palas Tea Viewpoint, Brinchang

This one is more touristy, so do expect the crowd. JA.’s balcony is a lunch spot which offers a fabulous view of the plantation. If you have the energy, you could take a walk in the tea garden.

Take photos of yourselves and/or your car... And have a picnic while at it 

Or should I say, have a picnic, and take photos of your car while at it… This is possibly one of the best spots in Cameron Highlands you can drive to for a great view of its rolling hills. There are just a few lay-bys up the narrow route where you can park, so it really is the luck of the draw. This is a great place for you to set up a mini picnic, or even for great photos.

As for us, we are car peeps. So naturally we took pictures of our car.

Afternoon Tea at the Cameron Highlands Resort Jim Thompson Tea Room

The throwback of throwbacks. The Jim Thompson Tea Room is located within Cameron Highland Resort, serving traditional English teatime favourites, ranging from scones, complete with clotted cream and strawberry jam, finger sandwiches and a fine selection of teas.

Afternoon tea begins at 3pm, and costs RM75 for one, and 130RM for two.

Pasar Malam Cameron Highlands

Night Market in Brinchang serves up heaps of fried food, toys and plants. There is free roadside parking nearby, but you will need to come early. If not there is paid parking perpendicular to the makeshift market.

The Pasar Malam is open only on Friday and Saturday, from 5pm to 11pm.

Hunt for derelict Series 1 and 2 Land Rovers

The highlands have become a final resting place for many of these workhorses. You can find them stashed in corners of properties, or even along some side roads.

Buy produce

Bring along a chiller bag, so that you can snag yourself some fresh produce. You will be able to find shops even along the road hawking anything from sweet potatoes, oranges, cabbages and corn. They also sell a range of cooked snacks.

I highly recommend the steamed milk corn.

Road trips can be heaps of fun, but before I go, here is a list of the things I would advise you to bring or do before embarking.

Tyres and wheel alignment

It is a driving trip, so you will want to get your wheels “squared up” for even wear and more importantly safe handling. Also do yourself the favour of checking for tyre wear. If you do have a spare (full sized spares are still the best, even though they add to weight), go give it a good “once over”. You’d want to come back in one piece, and also have stress-free travel right?

Touch N’ Go card

You can purchase these from a few online shops, and you will need to download the Touch N’ Go app, where you will be able to load some money into your account. Keep the app in your phone, as you will also be able to pay for stuff with it, and also top your card up.

Simple food and water

Having a small stash of food helps keep hunger pangs at bay. The best things in my opinion are sweets (gummies are personal favourites) and chocolates with shell coatings so that they do not melt. 

Have at least two bottles of water at your disposal, as driving, especially during hot afternoon weather can take its toll on you.

Music playlist and good mobile roaming plan

Good tunes are a way to stave off boredom, and to keep you awake.

Drive smart, use your smarts! Do not just depend on Google Maps

There was a plan to check out the Rain Forest Inn, to see if they served lunch, since online details seem sketchy. So this led to a few wrong turns, which the map kept verifying is the correct path. So sometimes intuition really makes the difference.

So here is a backstory to that photo above.

After a few rounds of dead-ends, I pulled into a narrow concrete “road”, and decided to  make space in-case other road users would enter, and dipped the front wheels onto a dirt track (it had rained the night before). 

Only then did I realise that the front wheels had sunk into what was mud. So while trying to unstick myself with a few strips of bamboo (found from a stack nearby) under the front wheels, a villager who rode up the road and chanced upon some dumb tourist, and decided to help give the car a push.

Oh yeah.. The part I mentioned earlier on about fellow Singaporeans… sorry to break your bubble, but you will see plenty of your fellow countrymen here.

About the Volkswagen T-Cross R-Line

The Volkswagen T-Cross is a B Segment SUV, powered by their proven 1.0 turbocharged engine.

It is surprisingly spacious and versatile, and it is loaded with enough tech to rival larger luxury cars.

Check out our review by hitting this blue text.

PHOTOS Clifford Chow & AL

Related Articles