Tourism Malaysia

Live and Let Live at the East Coast Homestays

The Malaysian homestay experience may have some similarities with the bed and breakfast concept in Europe, but there the similarity ends. It’s not only a retreat for those wanting to escape the city, it’s a lesson in life about humanity, patience, and for us, Malaysians, our heritage and traditions. The East Coast of Malaysia is the epitome of the Malay culture and heritage. Homestays in the east coast will definitely give you a glimpse of that traditional world. Let’s check out some of them:

Homestay Desa Murni, Temerloh – Pahang

As the pioneer homestays, the five villages of Desa Murni in Temerloh, Pahang remain a much sought after home away from home even after more than 20 years.

At these villages, immerse yourself in your adopted family’s way of life. Many of them are rubber tapers so get the opportunity to learn how to tap a rubber tree. Mind you, it’s not as easy as it looks. Perhaps you would like to try your hands at catching the patin fish or freshwater silver catfish which this district is famous for. Then, you can learn the Pahang’s most favourite way to cook the fish – ikan patin masak lemak. The yellowish gravy and slightly watery recipe is definitely delicious but an acquired taste at the same time.

While staying at the village, let your adopted family bring you to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre in Lanchang to have a close interaction with the elephants and visit the Deerland Park nearby where you can learn and interact with deers and also other animals such as sun bears, ostriches and snakes.

If you are into eco-adventure, you can choose to go to for a hiking and climbing at the nearby Gunung Senyum and also explore the caves at the foot of the mountain.

Homestay Desa Murni
Lot 1674 Jalan Homestay
Desa Murni Sanggang,
28020 Temerloh, Pahang, Malaysia
Contact Person: Khairul Hakimin bin Sahariman (+609 284 7949 / +6019 – 2243 805)

Homestay Taman Sedia, Cameron Highlands – Pahang

What is great about this homestay is it is located on the highland, which means cool breezy weather all day long and a breath of fresh air. Taman Sedia is the first Malay settlement in Cameron Highlands and is located between the town of Tanah Rata and Brinchang.

Imagine staying at a home with a strawberry farm in the backyard, it will be a dream come true for some of us. And when there is a strawberry farm, there must be strawberry- related activities in the list of things to do at the village, right? Well, for a start, you will have the opportunity to eat strawberry fresh off the tree and then they will teach you how to make strawberry ice cream and strawberry jam.

Besides the strawberry farms, you can also visit various flowers and vegetable farms, a cactus valley, and various tea plantations that can be found all over the highland. Take a break at one of the tea plantations to sip a hot cup of tea while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the tea valley.

For the more adventurous, try hiking to one of the most popular waterfalls in Cameron Highlands, the Robinson Waterfall, or trekking all the way up to the bewitching Mossy Forest.

Homestay Taman Sedia
Kg. Taman Sedia
39000 Tanah Rata, Pahang
Contact Person: Mohd Zulkifli Daud (+6019 -578 2044)

Homestay Teluk Ketapang – Terengganu

Kampung Teluk Ketapang is a small fishing village where visitors can experience the traditional Terengganu way of life.

During your stay, you will have the opportunity to observe how local dishes are prepared and help out in the kitchen, test your skill in making keropok lekor (popular traditional Terengganu’s fish snack), witness a traditional Malay wedding and play traditional games such as congkak, a type of mancala game and the word congkak came from the old Malay word ‘congak’ which refers to the mental calculation practiced in this game.

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the mangrove swamp river where you will be greeted by various species of wild animals such as colourful birds, monitor lizards, monkeys and even otters.

You can also visit one of the riverside villages to get a closer look on the traditional lifestyle of a Terengganu village, as well as participate in cottage industry tour such as an attap leave roof weaving and coconut sugar making.

Homestay Teluk Ketapang
Balai Raya Kg Teluk Ketapang
Seberang Takir, Terengganu
Contact Person: Md. Azmi (+6013 – 923 4837)

Homestay Seterpa – Kelantan

The silent whisper of ripening paddy fields swaying gently in the wind greets visitors, as they step into Kampung Seterpa. Running barefoot, a small boy pushes his small tricycle across the beaten footpath at the edge of the paddy fields. A rooster crows loudly, breaking the deafening silence.

Located 16 kilometers from Kota Bharu in Kelantan, Kampung Seterpa is the nearest homestay village to the city centre. Kampung Seterpa, derived from the Kelantan dialect ‘serepak’ (meeting place), is a wonderful experience for those wanting a taste of traditional village life.

The villagers are warm and friendly, and immediately put you at ease with their lively chatter. Sip a coconut (or two!) to quench your thirst and take in the beautiful surroundings. Served with traditional pastries, ‘tepung pelita’ and munching on local fruit, jambu air, life here is pleasant and slow paced.

No traffic jams for miles, just the chorus of quacking ducks, chickens and buffalo. Breathe in the fresh, morning air as you watch the sun rise during your stay here. Make a date with the farmers to explore the village with its many interesting activities or even try a hand at paddy farming!

On a windy day, fly the ubiquitous and colourful wau (kite) while running across the paths to the paddy fields. Collect freshwater snails, see the mischievous monkey pick a ripe coconut or dance to the tunes of the ancient ‘dikir barat’.

You’ll definitely enjoy your stay here at Kampung Seterpa, don’t forget to share the memories!

Homestay Kg. Seterpa
Lot 112 Taman Indah, Kg. Seterpa
Jalan Penggawa Matsaat
16150, Kota Bharu, Kelantan.
Contact Person: Dr. Mohamed Saat bin Hj Ismail (09-765 7685 / 019-939 3553)

Homestay Nelayan Pantai Suri – Kelantan

Greeted by a dozen ducks, quacking a cacophonic welcome, is a pleasant surprise as one sets foot on dry land at Pantai Suri Village. Goats and sheep wander aimlessly, chewing on small shrubs. Everything seems peaceful and very laidback.

The journey to the small island of Kampung Pantai Suri is a 20 minutes boat ride. The village sits at the estuary of the Kelantan River near Tumpat, and is near the South China Sea. Get a glimpse of the life of the villagers’, most of whom are fishermen, as they go out to sea early in the morning.

There are no cars here, only motorcycles and bicycles. Most villagers prefer to walk as the homes are situated closely to one another. As you walk, feel the sand under your feet. The coconut trees’ swaying gently in the wind and everyone knows everyone in the village of 450 people.

Try your hand at making the crunchy kuih sepit (love letters), or savour the tasty and mouth-watering local delicacy, kerabu nipah (palm salad) and play congkak with locals.

Watch too, bees’ fly aimlessly, stopping from flower to flower, as ciku trees start to bear fruits. Roosters walk majestically in the village, watching the village ducks wrestling for a morsel or two.

Dried fish is laid out to dry under the hot sun, to make salted fish. Friendly cats warm up to you as you stroll by. A bicycle lies unattended besides the withered bamboo fence. Life is simple, and this is Pantai Suri at its best.

Homestay Nelayan Pantai Suri
d/a Persatuan Nelayan Kawasan Tumpat Kompleks Perikanan LKIM Geting
Pengkalan Kubor
16080 Tumpat, Kelantan
Contact Person: Ramly Ibrahim (+6014 – 847 4865)

Tourism Malaysia

Malaysia’s hill country: The Cameron Highlands

Malaysia’s hill country: The Cameron Highlands

The bus from Tapah to Tanah Rata winds slowly and steeply through jungle-clad and mist-wreathed hills. I’m on my way to Malaysia’s biggest hill station, the Cameron Highlands.

Every one hundred metres or so is a palm frond shelter, built with varying degrees of sophistication, where a man or a boy waits, hoping to sell fruit or oversized beans hung up in rows.

Small children watch the bus go past with interest, sitting outside villages made up of wood and frond-thatch or corrugated iron shacks perched up the hillside.

With a name like that you won’t be surprised to hear the British had a hand in establishing this hill retreat. British surveyor William Cameron mapped the region for the colonial government back in 1885.

Cameron highlands

As the bus gains the heights and approaches the Cameron Highlands administrative centre of Tanah Rata the vast tea plantations come into view.

Terrace upon terrace of camellia sinensis bushes undulating up the steep hillsides; squatly low-growing from the ceaseless plucking. There are also market gardens, strawberry farms, rose gardens and roadsides thick with wildflowers.

Nestled in a mountainous region at an elevation of 1,200 metres, temperatures rarely rise above 25 degrees Celsius during the day and can drop to 12 degrees at night. It is a strange and welcome change from the steaming plains below.

The fun came to a grinding halt with the Second World War and the Japanese occupation but in the post war years the Cameron Highlands began its slow transformation into the tourist retreat we know today.

The serenity of the Camerons has not been ruined by overdevelopment. Traditional village life goes on uninterrupted, with ancestor shrines and conservative Muslim and Hindu values alongside the guesthouses and restaurants.

Malaysia’s glorious multi-cultural mix is quickly apparent in Tanah Rata, with Malay, Chinese and Indian people and food everywhere. On the main road at Sri Brinchang I enjoyed (every day I was in the Camerons) the best vegetarian Thali I’ve ever had, served on large banana leaves. Then there’s the tea…

Walking up the winding road to the Boh Tea Plantation at Sg Palas, I come across a handful of workers gathering up piles of green leaves into enormous sacks.

cameron highlands

The Boh Company produces a not insignificant four million kilograms of tea every year – around 70 per cent of Malaysia’s total tea production – and Fairlie here in the Camerons is one of their prettiest plantations.

Surrounded by the green terraces, a little ‘village’ of long, blue-painted buildings house the workers, tea processing machinery, storage and of course a lovely tea house.

Leaves are plucked every three weeks in the morning; then rushed to the factory to undergo stages of withering, rolling, fermentation, drying, sorting and finally tasting.

The guides at Sg Palas proudly describe their teas as having the character of fine wines; influenced by the altitude, cool temperatures and acidic soil of the Cameron Highlands.

cameron highlands

The region has a number of popular walking trails and I set off on one from near my guesthouse on the outskirts of Tanah Rata.

There are enormous Birds Nest ferns in the trees, which are draped with epiphytes and the exotic Pitcher plant or Monkey Cup.  I can hear strange birds and monkeys screaming.

Leaping across streams with the aid of large liana vines – Tarzan style – it is a world away from the genteel tea plantations and former colonial mansions.

On my last day I took a taxi to the observation point on Mount Batu Brinchang. The views from the 2,301-metre (6,663-foot) peak are stunning.  Lushly green mountains shrouded in mist plunge into valleys where the curving lines of the tea plantations are just visible.

If you have visited the Jim Thompson house in Bangkok you will find the final act in the life story of this wealthy American silk trader here. Thompson mysteriously disappeared from his holiday bungalow in 1967.

Despite massive public and private searches, he was never found. Whether he got lost in the trackless forests, was abducted, or staged his own disappearance may never be known. I can think of many reasons to not want to leave the Camerons.

Tourism Malaysia

Malaysia: Best eats in the Cameron Highlands

Malaysia: Best eats in the Cameron Highlands

The cuisines on offer in Malaysia’s beautiful tea country, the Cameron Highlands, runs the gamut from Malay, Indian and Chinese to British-influenced high tea and an array of Western eateries. The best of the bunch inject a sense of authenticity, incorporating fresh, locally grown produce. Here are some eating options to refuel pre- or post-jungle trek, or before an exploration of the area’s many plantations and farms:

Chinese-Malay steamboat
Steamboat is a Chinese-Malay style of dining and has been adopted as a specialty of the area. At a steamboat restaurant you essentially cook your own dinner, adding everything from prawns to tofu to local vegetables into a flavoursome broth boiling away in the centre of your table. It’s lots of fun with a group, and is not only novel but a healthy eating option too.


Mayflower in Tanah Rata is a popular place to try your hand at creating your own steamboat concoction. For something a little less bustling, Glory 78 can be found on the road connecting Tanah Rata and Brinchang. Its meals are halal, and are fresh and tasty.

While some steamboat restaurants have reverted to using gas to power the individual burners, others still use the traditional charcoal method, which is said to impart better flavour into the food. Restoran Highlands in Brinchang is one place still using charcoal, or you can try and taste the difference at the excellent Cameron Organic Produce, a restaurant in Brinchang featuring organically grown produce from their farm of the same name. Seafood is on offer here, but the vegetarian soup alone is fresh, pure and makes great use of seasonal ingredients. Most steamboat places charge around RMB20 per person – about RM $20 (AU$6).

Delicious Malaysian cuisine is readily available in the Cameron Highlands, from spicy laksa to sweet kaya toast. At the Night Market (Brinchang Pasar Malam) stop and sample a fantastic array of local snacks, from fried sweet potato balls to chocolate dipped strawberries. Head to Restoran Ferm Nyonya for a beautiful meal of Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine, a traditional blend of Chinese and Malay cooking techniques and ingredients. A jack of all trades, they also feature Western dishes on the menu and offer steamboat too. The sambal beans are excellent, and their fish dishes are a specialty. Uncle Chow’s Kopitiam is another must-visit restaurant in the Cameron Highlands for a nasi lemak or curry laksa, or for one of their dessert offerings served up in a friendly, family-run old-style coffee shop.

Remnants of British cuisine remain in the area’s restaurant and cafés, with tea and scones or wintry British classics evoking nostalgia, or at least widening the area’s eating options. For some traditional British fare head to the Smoke House, a restaurant within a charming hotel of the same name. Here you can dine on dishes like beef wellington, cod and chips or chicken Maryland. You can also settle in with a drink in their bar, complete with fireplace. This is one of the many places serving traditional English style afternoon tea or ‘high tea’ in the highlands, though at the pricier end of the scale.


Other destinations for local tea and freshly made scones include The Lord’s Café (ex-T Café), where the strawberry scones are a must-try. To sample locally grown strawberries in many guises, head to the wonderful Strawberry Moment Dessert Café, which features strawberry crepes, waffles, chocolate dipped strawberries, the lusciously stacked strawberry strudel and even a chocolate ‘steamboat’ for dipping your own strawberries in, Malaysian style.

Indian eateries are prevalent in the Cameron Highlands, and many feature delicious (and very affordable) rotis in all their guises. Restoran Sri Brinchang features delicious chicken tikka, paper thin dosais with tasty accompaniments and fresh and flavoursome thali plates. Most dishes are around the RM 6.50 (AU$2) mark, offering amazing value. Restoran Kumar’s in Tanah Rata is another excellent option, with brilliant curries served on banana leaf and some of the freshest and best naan bread in the area. The tandoori chicken here is wonderful too.

banana leaf food

Be sure to sample a variety of the cuisines on offer in the Cameron Highlands – its restaurants reflect Malaysia’s multiculturalism and diversity. And look past the restaurants for street snacks, particularly at the night market, where you can experience some of the freshest and most ingenious ways of trying the flavoursome local produce.

Tourism Malaysia

Malaysia: Visiting tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands

Malaysia: Visiting tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands is to Malaysia what Darjeeling is to India, or Nuwira Eliya is to Sri Lanka – a hilly, lush, green region in the country’s interior that grows premium quality tea, with cooler weather offering welcome relief from the otherwise steamy climate.


With the towns of Tanah Rata and Brinchang at its core, the Cameron Highlands is one of Malaysia’s most fertile areas. Here, steamy tropical rainforest gives way to a temperate climate, with rolling hills and glossy green tea plantations at every turn. Tea aside, the area is dotted with butterfly gardens, waterfalls, vegetable farms and strawberry plantations, offering many places to visit and sample fresh produce. The former British hill station has a decidedly cooler climate than the rest of the country, and remains a popular holiday spot for Malaysians escaping the city, as well as visitors seeking an alternative or additional destination to Malaysia’s much-loved coastal and heritage towns.

A trip to Malaysia’s interior

After a fun-filled introduction to Malaysia via the bright lights and delicious eats of Kuala Lumpur, I was looking forward to seeing more of what the country had to offer. The beautiful turquoise beaches of Langkawi and the Perhentian Islands I was aware of, and the historic buildings and delicious cuisine in Penang was also on my radar, yet the Cameron Highlands was a part of Malaysia I previously knew little about. All was about to be revealed after an easy bus ride from the country’s capital to its agricultural heartland.

My first impressions were that it was lush, green, fertile and beautiful. I found the Cameron Highlands charming, with its occasional architectural nod to its colonial heyday adding character, and enjoyed the proliferation of places to stop, eat at and explore. As a tea lover, I was particularly enamoured with the first tea plantations I’d ever seen.

Where to go and what to expect

One of the biggest plantations is BOH Plantations, a company established in the 1920s that has several large plantations in the area. BOH Sungai Palas Tea Estate is one of the most popular and accessible to visit, located a short drive from the town of Brinchang. The stunning views of the rolling plantations alone are worth the visit, but for tea aficionados the estate offers a solid introduction to how tea is grown and processed, with an educational tour of the factory and lots of information to peruse. Afterwards you can sample some of the freshest tea on the planet in the onsite café.

boh coffee

An alternative to BOH is a plantation run by Bharat, who produce the Cameron Valley brand of tea. They have several plantations with teahouses along the main road just outside Tanah Rata that can easily be visited, though at peak times they can get crowded. The Cameron Valley tea house is perched over the vibrant green plantations, and if you’ve had your fill of plain black tea, it offers some more exciting takes on the world’s second most popular beverage. The masala chai and cardamom tea is fragrant and flavoursome, while the teas infused with fresh lemongrass or mint are highly recommended. There’s a café with lots of sweet offerings here too (think brownies, cheesecake and ice cream).

From crop to cup

A tea plantation visit offers interesting insights into the tea growing, sorting and fermenting process, though for some people, the amazing views over the plantations and the tea sampling itself end up being the highlights of their visit. Particularly if the tea is consumed in a spectacular tea house extending up and over the plantation grounds, where you can easily end up sitting for an hour or two.


By visiting some of the plantations in the highlands, I discovered a new appreciation for the hard work that goes into producing tea. Labourers picking tea leaves by hand out in the sun is something you don’t often think of while indulging in your daily caffeine boost. A trip to your tea’s source makes you realise the hard work that goes into not only growing and cultivating tea, but transforming the leaves into something palatable and ready for consumption. The plantations offer many wonderful photographic opportunities too, for a quintessential shot of the Cameron Highlands’ endless, rich green hills.

Jungle treks and food forays aside, a tea plantation visit is definitely something well worth doing in the beautiful Cameron Highlands.

Wonderful Malaysia

Gerard’s Place Cameron Highlands

Gerards Place Cameron Highlands 1

A few weeks ago we visited Cameron Highlands. We make a habit out of staying at a different place every time we visit the place, this time we decided to stay at Gerard’s Place, a cozy and affordable guesthouse just outside of Tanah Rata. We already stayed at 8Mentigi once, also owned by the same people as Gerard’s Place. The popular Fathers Guesthouse is also part of the same group of owners, though this guesthouse is currently closed for various reasons (though they are intended to open soon).

As we were familiar in Tanah Rata it didn’t take that long to find the road that leads up to the guesthouse. If you are arriving by car from the Tapah exit (when coming from KL) then you need to take a right turn just before entering Tanah Rata, one of the main villages in Cameron Highlands. When you drove over the modern highway to Cameron Highlands (exit Simpang Pulai near Ipoh); you first need to drive through Tanah Rata and just when you exit the village, take a left turn. From there on you follow the road upwards as the guesthouse is located on a hill.

The guesthouse is actually located within a residential area, part of a few blocks of houses and opposite the Heritage Hotel. The actual house numbers are: Carnation Block C 9, C 10 C 17 in Greenhill Resort. This already gives the guesthouse a pleasant feeling, you feel like you have arrived at home. The living room also gives that impression, there are a few beautiful pictures, a big screen television with cable tv, a shared fridge, a kitchen and an area with a pc that you can use to check the internet. As Cameron Highlands is a highland resort, it is usually not warmer than 24 degrees. There are no aircon’s, you have no use for them anyway. There is a small patio and a patch of green where you can site outside. At night you can actually spot fireflies right in front of the patio.

One of the great aspects of all three guesthouses, Gerard’s Place, Fathers Guesthouse and 8Mentigi, is that the same owners also operate the local tour agency Cameron Secrets. Besides the standard tours, they also offer very nice Eco-tours and adventure tours (like jungle treks and exploration tours). Standard tours typically last half a day, or a whole day and contains a visit to almost all highlights in the area. Besides tours, Cameron Secrets also offers transport to either Perhentian Island, Taman Negara (both via Gua Musang) and to Penang. If you book a tour with Cameron Secrets you will be picked up at the given time in front of the guesthouse.

Rooms are quite nice at Gerard’s Place. Some have a shared bathroom; others have a bathroom within the room. Showers worked great, though we found it a bit difficult to get out from under it, because of the cold temperatures outside. The bed slept great. Breakfast is very basic, but just enough to last you until lunch time. You can always bring you own stuff and keep it in the shared fridge or you can walk to Tanah Rata town in 5 minutes to enjoy a very nice breakfast at Rosedale Bistro.

Gerard’s Place offers free wifi. There are also quite a few nice magazines (mostly travel) for you to read. Some guests left their books behind for the next guests. From the guesthouse it is a 5 minute walk to the center of Tanah Rata. Because of the colder climate it is actually very pleasant to walk around in Cameron Highlands, a 5 minute walk in Kuala Lumpur would probably be a different experience because of the heat.

We paid between RM70 and RM100 for our rooms. During peak season and public holidays (like Chinese New Year) there is a surcharge. You can make reservations directly via their website (well, sort of as they do not have an official website yet). The best way is to call them, but you can also contact them by email.






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