A French couple meandered in the middle of the tea plantation, squeezing their way in between the shrubs that make up the hedgerows. The man stopped upon finding a good spot and the lady asked him to just stay where he was. She grabbed the camera dangling from her neck and aimed a shot at him, who flashed a sincere smile. Before she could press the button, however, the man let out a loud sneeze. In utter embarrassment, he froze and she mildly beamed. Neither said a word. The lady walked toward the man and planted a deep, wet kiss. They both laughed as they prepped up to take another photo. The day just turned brighter for the two lovers.
It was like a scene from a romantic comedy. I stood by the road, overlooking the vast hedgerows of tea shrubs, as I watched the French couple attentively. It was a sweet moment that I, without them realizing it, caught on camera. This is the sort of things that I love about traveling. I just enjoy
stalking observing other people in silence as they live their lives in a setting so beautiful, it’s like we’re in a movie and I am the storyteller.
Cameron Highlands is famous for its foothills of tea shrubs. This Malaysian region harbors three tea plantations: Sungai Palas, Fairlie, and Boh. It was the last that we oh-so-gladly set foot on. BOH Plantations Sdn Bhd is the number 1 tea grower in Malaysia and they have a number of tea gardens in Cameron Highlands. They produce over 4 million kilos of tea every year, about 70% of all tea manufactured in Malaysia. There are over a thousand different varieties of teas but to many tea lovers, there are four main types — black, green, white, and oolong. All four are made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis. BOH grows black tea, the stronger, bolder, and more oxidized type.
The BOH Tea Plantation was the first stop in the “leisure tour” that we availed of. I shared the van with a friend, a German family, an Arab couple, and the French couple I was describing earlier. We were dropped off at the side of the road that snakes across the vast fields and rolling hills of shrubs. It was like heads of giants who just went to the salon to have their hair done — green-dyed and cornrows-styled. The height of the shrubs differ throughout the fields. In some parts, the plants reach the waist, in some even lower. They actually grow into tall trees so the workers intentionally trim the branches at a certain height to make it easier for them to get the new leaves come harvest time. They have a term for it, but, once again, it slipped my ever-reliable memory. (I should start writing things down. Seriously.)
After more than 20 minutes, our tour guide signaled that it was time to hop back into the vehicle for our next stop — the Gunung Brinchang Peak. I thought I already had my last close look at the tea plant. I was wrong. A couple more stops and we found ourselves at the doorstep of the BOH Tea Center, which houses a Tea’ria (refreshment area), an exhibit hall and a factory.
The Tea Factory is my favorite. There are old but fully functional pieces of equipment that the factory continues to use up to now. Visitors are given an opportunity to witness the tea-making process from harvest to sorting to packaging. It was quite an enlightening walk along the edges of the hall.
Aside from the factory, there are exhibit halls that showcase the old equipment, boards depicting the history of the company, and a short video about the place. One corner tucks a small store where guests can purchase BOH tea products. At the other side of the hall is the Tea’Ria Refreshment Area, which serves their premium teas along with some delectable pastries. But the food is not the only thing delightful here; it has a balcony that provides a fantastic view of more tea hedgerows.
I was waiting for the rest of the group outside the Tea Center when two tourists — a European couple — approached me to ask me take a photo of them. I obliged.
“Are you from Singapore?” the woman asked.
“No, no,” I smiled. “I’m from the Philippines.”
“Oh cool,” the man said. “Kumusta ka?”
“I’m great,” I replied as I stretched out my hand to shake his.
“We met in the Philippines,” the man said, explaining how they met in Manila and were now traveling together in Malaysia. They were going to Thailand in a week’s time.
At the back of my head, I was painting a vivid picture of the fortunate events that led to each other and their adventures together. In my head I was shooting a cinematic scene with the storyline reaching the climax in between the hedges of tea in the rolling hills of Cameron Highlands. The rest of the group emerged from the center just when I was thinking of what the ending could be. I decided to think about it another time. Perhaps over a cup of tea.
How to get there: From Kuala Lumpur, take a bus to Cameron Highlands. There are many tour operators in Tana Ratah or Brinchang that arrange trips to the BOH Tea Plantation as part of a bigger half-day or full-day tour.