D's hometown is in Ipoh, Malaysia & we normally visit every year around the Chinese New Year period. Ipoh is surrounded by limestone hills, & once you've passed Kuala Lumpur along the North-South Highway, the route becomes quite scenic. D grew up accustomed to seeing hills around & it is one thing he misses here in Singapore.
Limestone hills in Ipoh. View from the teashop.
During our stay we normally spend a few days in Cameron Highlands. The weather is cooler there, & it is a very quiet & pleasant place to stay & just relax & be near to nature.
For D, the Camerons are special because his grandfather used to work there as a chef at Sri Menanti, a holiday bungalow owned by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. He and his brothers used to visit as children, & he remembers the aroma of his grandfather's cooking wafting down to them as they climbed the hill to the bungalow. During his visits there he would often lie outside on the grassy slopes & watch rainclouds sweep in to cover the town of Brinchang below.
The attraction of the Camerons for me is that it features a lot in stories told to me in my childhood - my parents went there for their honeymoon, my mother went there in her uni days for retreats, one of my relatives used to own the bus company there, & my maternal grandmother was born in Tapah, a town at the base of the mountain. At that time, Singapore and Malaysia were still one.
View from our hotel window at dawn; later the same view was obscured by rain clouds.
The first time we drove up, we could hear cicadas singing loudly - and not like the usual cicada sounds I was familiar with either, they sounded like an alien invasion. On the way up we sometimes stopped at a little stall selling tea to look at the view. There are several hotels there & we usually stayed at Strawberry Park which I liked because of its black and white architecture.
Strawberry Park; view from the hotel restaurant; morning glory; Tenmoku pottery shop
I find the small towns there - Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang - rather depressing, dry, dusty & a lot of the houses having zinc roofs. However there is a shop in Tanah Rata which I faithfully visit every time because I like the Tenmoku pottery there. I seldom see an individual piece I'd like to buy, but I can spend ages just looking around, at the colours & textures, & vessels in all shapes and sizes.
The Smoke House
There is also a large Tudor style bungalow called The Smoke House which I fell in love with when we first drove by ... too expensive for us to stay at, but nice to admire from the outside. It may not be a big deal to someone from the UK, but it's nice to find a place like this in Malaysia.