Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fraser Hill

the start up to Fraser Hill
Feeling extremely discouraged the next morning by the weather and the issues with Colin's bike, we headed out into the gray, uncertain what our next destination would be. Our original itinerary included a stop at Gunung Stong National Park, but since it had poured overnight and still looked threatening, we forewent that option and instead, decided to ride to the little known, Bukit Fraser (Fraser Hill), which is a colonial hill station reputed to have a gorgeous road leading to the top. Beyond that general description, we had little information, including nothing on food or lodging. After a leisurely breakfast (with a second cup of tea enjoyed while waiting for the fog to lift), we loaded up and headed out. The roads were smooth, curvy, and much less populated that the previous day. To make it even better, the weather improved, with only scattered light showers to deal with. 

The house where we stayed with Philip and his family
We made it to the single-lane road that led up to Fraser Hill as the sun appeared. The road was all the rumors promised- corner after corner, rounding the mountain, climbing through the trees, and at the top was a beautiful, British colonial hill station, with buildings of gray stone and gardens galore. We pulled into the village center and stopped to look at the map of the area with the hope of finding a place to stay for the night. As we stood there, a man walked up and asked where we were from. Assuming it was an intro for yet another photo op with the crazy foreigners on motorbikes, we cautiously said we were from America. We were wrong. His name was Philip, he was a State Representative from the state of Selangor (on the west coast), and he had just arrived with his family for their holiday. 

Tree ferns
The state of Selangor maintains a bungalow on Bukit Fraser for public servants to use. Philip asked us where we were staying and immediately invited us to stay with him and his family. Not wanting to intrude in their family vacation, we considered declining, but he was so friendly and welcoming that we agreed. We followed him further up the hill to the bungalow, and what a nice place it was. The caretaker said it was originally built in 1938, and it was grand. The ceilings must have been at least 14 feet high, and the rooms were all huge. We were given our own room, where we unpacked, took a quick shower, and came out to meet the family. In addition to Philip, there was his wife, his four children, a niece, and his mother. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around looking at the beautiful gardens and hillsides and talking with Philip. Later in the evening, we hopped on the Symbas and followed the family back into town for dinner. We went to a nice Chinese place, where Philip ordered for the whole table. We had lots of yummy food and good conversation. The mist had rolled back in earnest and visibility fell to 200 feet or less. After dinner was over, Re and I went for a short ride around town before finding our way back to the bungalow in the dark and fog. We spent the rest of the evening talking with Philip about life in Malaysia. 
 
two of the many amazing moths
The next morning, Philip and his family invited us to join them for breakfast, so we enjoyed more conversation over coffee and kaya puffs (kaya is a coconut custard, the puff part is pastry. Yum is all I can say). After breakfast, as we prepared to leave and Philip's family waited for the fog to clear enough to go hiking, it started to rain. So we all hung out on the large porch and admired the hundreds of varieties of moths which had gathered overnight (since the porchlight was left on) on the columns, walls, light fixtures, and our bikes. They were amazing. Everywhere you looked, there were more, varying from the size of my pinky fingernail to the size of my palm, and colors from vivid red to green to all shades of brown. 

Once the rain tapered off to a mere spit, we geared up and thanked them all heartily before saying goodbye. Accepting an offer to stay with strangers doesn't come naturally to either of us. It felt incredibly awkward, and knowing that people have limited time and resources for holidays, we didn't want to intrude on their family vacation. But staying with Philip and his family was really an incredible experience; they were so welcoming, friendly, and as excited to talk with us as we were with them.

amazing spiderweb and wild orchids
From Fraser Hill, we rode back to the Cameron Highlands for a second attempt at hiking. The weather cleared once we got to the bottom of the hill, and the ride was beeeyootiful- more graceful curves, nice pavement, and sunshine peeking through the trees. We spent the night at the same guesthouse in Tana Ratah and enjoyed an evening stroll and dinner at a busy hawker stall. Shortly after we went to bed, we heard roaring thunderstorms, which continued through the night and left huge puddles of standing mud and water the next morning. Sooooo, no hiking. Instead, we decided to....go home to Georgetown.
 

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