During our world circumnavigation, while our catamaran Pacific Bliss was docked at Langkawi Island, we took a short flight to Penang and stayed at the Blue Mansion there. Then we fled the coast to cool off in the Cameron Highlands like the colonial Brits of yore. South of Brinchang, Malaysia near the town of Ringlet, we checked into a 25-room, Tudor-style inn called The Lakehouse. Its manicured gardens sit atop a hill overlooking rolling hills, lush woodlands and tea plantations. The lobby is filled with English antiquities that could have come straight out of a storybook! We checked in and were supplied with one old-fashioned turnkey that opened the massive door to room number 15. A wooden four-poster bed was weighed down by a thick ivory-and-white brocaded spread and surrounded with a filmy ivory mosquito net. Although the room was dark and heavy with its high beamed ceilings and period furniture, white painted walls and a pale mauve leaf-print carpet lightened the room somewhat.

After unpacking, I sighed with relief and sat opposite Gunter in a matching wingtip chair at the lone, draped window. A bouquet of fresh pink and white roses graced the table between us. This is just the escape from the boat we needed. I updated my journal while Gunter continued to read Somerset Maugham’s Up at the Villa. How appropriate!

Later we explored the gardens and then hiked toward the mountains behind the inn. It wasn’t long before we were huffing and puffing and looking forward to cocktail hour in the bar area, hoping to run into some interesting fellow travelers. That didn’t happen. We were disappointed to find the bar and restaurant largely deserted.

After dinner though, Gunter and I struck up a conversation in the lounge area with a couple sitting on a sofa near the fireplace. We plopped into another set of wing-backed chairs and ordered Tia Marias. They ordered brandy. We introduced ourselves. Edward is Swedish but left home at age eighteen to attend college in Los Angeles. His father, deceased, had been a neurosurgeon in Dubai; Edward left the U.S. to live with him there. His mother lives in Sweden. Natasha is Malaysian, a flight attendant for Emirates Air.

“It’s British organized and run,” she said.

“If it were run by the Arabs,” Edward interrupted, “it would never work.”

They both laugh. The couple lives and works in Dubai, has a summer home in Sweden, and spends holidays in Malaysia. Edward converted to the Muslim faith; he had no religion before.

“But you drink?” Gunter chided, as he ordered another brandy.

“Touché. I’m not that religious,” he answered. “Did you have sex before marriage?” he joked.

“Touché. This is not my first wife.”

One subject flowed into another, as good conversations often do. Our waitress—looking like a French maid in a starched white apron with a white hat perched on her drawn-back hair—appeared again and we ordered another round of brandies and coffees. Afterwards, we four exchanged e-mails and called it a night. We had made new friends.

IMG_0043 Lois on an overlook to the Lakehouse property.

Lois on an overlook to the Lakehouse property.

IMG_0032 The Lakehouse,Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

The Lakehouse,Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

IMG_0055 Cozy Fireplace Lounge, Colonial style.

Cozy Fireplace Lounge, Colonial style

Our room at The Lakehouse, with Gunter reflected in the mirror

Our room at The Lakehouse, with Gunter reflected in the mirror

Named in honor of William Cameron, a British surveyor who traveled the area in 1885, Cameron Highlands, at 6000 feet, is awkwardly called the “Green Bowl of the Country.” This area of rolling hills is one of the largest producers of fruits, vegetables and tea in the country. Over the next two days we toured a rose garden, a butterfly farm, a strawberry farm, and of course, numerous tea plantations.

Log Fence with multicolor flowers, Cameron Highlands

Log Fence with multicolor flowers, Cameron Highlands

The Robertson Rose Garden was our first stop. We climbed level after level of stunning roses until we came to a spectacular view at the top overlooking terraced tea plantations. We took a different path down that passed by every type of flower one can imagine: hibiscus trees of salmon, yellow and red; sunflowers standing like sentinels on a ledge overlooking the valley below; and “blue butterfly”—a variety of flower I’d never seen—hanging upside down on a vine swinging in the breeze.

Next we toured a butterfly farm with thousands of screen-caged, stick-like caterpillars and frogs that barely moved. Perhaps they were all at the end of their life cycles.

IMG_0891The Rose Centre, Cameron Highlands

The Rose Centre, Cameron Highlands

IMG_0906 Frog in Butterfly Garden

Frog in Butterfly Garden

DSCN0451 The colors of the butterflies are wonderfully vibrantt

The colors of the butterflies are wonderfully vibrant

DSCN0439 Hanging blue butterfly flowers

Hanging blue butterfly flowers

The tour guide rushed us to our appointed tea time at the Boh Tea Estate, south of Tanah Ra ta, eight kilometers off the main road. The drive into the estate was lined with tea planted in 1929. “They will last another 100 years,” our guide told us. “They harvest the new shoots every three weeks.” Indians were brought in during Colonial times to harvest the tea; now their descendants live here and the process is mechanized. Five kilograms of leaves make just one kilogram of tea. Roller machines crush and stir the leaves, then they are “withered,” a process in which fans blow across the leaves to reduce the moisture content. Leaves are then heated to boiling and rolled to release juices for fermentation. Fine leaves are separated out and longer ones are rolled again. These are used in the special varieties of “garden teas.” The next higher grade is Boh Gold, and after that, Cameron Boh tea. Tea dust is used to “pull” tea, pouring it back and forth, Malaysian- style.

Tea Plantations in Cameron Highlands

Tea Plantations in Cameron Highlands

IMG_0957 Crushing tea leaves

Tea Leaf Crushing machine

The last stop on the tour, a strawberry farm, was nothing like my grandmother’s! These strawberries are mounted on waist-high beds picked year-round. At a stand on the way out, we resisted offers of strawberry sundaes and instead, purchased a tray of delicate, crimson berries dusted with powdered sugar.

Back at the Lakehouse, we enjoyed a good-bye dinner served by an Indian waiter dressed in a white shirt and spotless black vest, trousers, and shoes. Then it was time to rejoin Pacific Bliss and our simple cruising lifestyle.

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