On the road north, Peninsular Malaysia’s mountainous, jungled backbone lies to the east. It is called the Barisan Titiwangsa or Main Range. It remains largely unsettled, apart from the Genting Highlands and the old British hill stations of Fraser’s Hill, the Cameron Highlands and Maxwell Hill, as well as some scattered Orang Asli aboriginal villages. During the Malayan Emergency in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Communist guerrillas operated from jungle camps in the mountains and later used the network of aboriginal trails to infiltrate the Peninsula from their bases in southern Thailand.
The biggest and best known of Malaysia's hill stations lies on the northwest corner of Pahang, bounded by Perak to the west, and Kelantan to the north. On the jungle-clad 1500m-high plateau the weather is reassuringly British - unpredictable, often wet and decidedly cool - but when the sun blazes out of an azure-blue sky, the Camerons are hard to beat.
Most of the tourist attractions are on and around the plateau, but there are a handful of sights on the road from Tapah. These are listed in order from the bottom of the mountain up. There are three main townships in the Highlands: Ringle, Tanah Rata (literally 'flat land') and Brinchang. The latter two are in the plateau area, either side of the golf course. There are a number of worthwhile forest walks/treks in the Camerons.
William Cameron, a government surveyor, first claimed to have stumbled across “a fine plateau, shut in by lofty mountains” while on a mapping expedition in 1885. The irony was that Cameron’s name was bestowed on a place he never set eyes on. What he probably came across was the smaller plateau area farthest from Tanah Rata, known as Blue Valley. The highland plateau itself was discovered years later by a Malay warrior named Kulop Riau, who accompanied Cameron on his mapping expeditions. Cameron’s report engendered much excitement.
In the colonial era this mountain resort was a haven for homesick overheated planters and administrators. Its temperate climate inspired an eccentric collection of them to settle and retire in their mansions where they could prune their roses, tend their strawberries, sip G&Ts on the lawn, stroll down to the golf course or nip over to Mr Foster’s Smokehouse for a Devonshire cream tea.