Ahmed only stops talking to take a breath and he seems to breathe considerably less than I thought was normal. Driving in the same erratic, I’m a cat, I’ve got nine lives style I had become accustomed to in South East Asia he drives us up winding mountain roads to the Boh Tea Plantation in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. Ahmed talks about the history of the area, the ecology of the landscape, the finer details of tea production, contemporary Malaysian politics, ancient geology, rainforest conservation and a hundred other topics I haven’t got a hope of following because I’m in the back of his 4X4 and his accent is thick and I’m distracted by the walkers we keep forcing to dive off the road and into the shrubbery.
We screech to a halt and he throws open his door slamming it into the stomach of another unfortunate walker but when he says sorry he laughs and his smile is magic and it sounds like ‘sowweeee’. I really like Ahmed.
I’d never seen a tea plantation before. Not like this. It stretches on forever, like when you rise above the clouds in an airplane and marvel at the fluffy white carpet only this carpet is green and spiky and is made of tea.
The Boh Tea Plantation is the largest in Malaysia but you’ve probably never heard of it. The tea is so good that Malaysians drink it all themselves leaving little to none to export to the rest of the world.
All of the workers picking tea at the Boh Tea Plantation are migrant workers from Pakistan and Nepal as the wages are too low for Malaysians to want to do the work themselves. Ahmed explains that most of the workers are men who have no expenses as they live on the plantation and can send their entire wage home to their families which he thinks sounds great but I think sounds horrific but I have a habit of feeling misplaced sympathy for people who really don’t want it which is probably as bad as being exploited in the first place. I really don’t know anything about it and the workers look tired and irritated so I really can’t ask them about their working conditions or economic status so I just stay quiet and do what Ahmed says which is to take photos of the view.
And what a view.
- For our four-day trip to the Cameron Highlands we stayed at T J Lodge which, for the price, was fine. We took a double room but hostel beds are availble and are only on one level which is nice. We booked our tour of the tea plantation and mossy forest through T & J and couldn’t have been happier with it.