Sunday, 19 July 2020

Hiking Bukit Botak & Bukit Berdiri, Parit Sulong, Johor

Note: Visited in September 2019. Published in July 2020, courtesy of procrastination.

There are plenty of small, albeit relatively unknown hills and mountains in Johor for hiking. There is a cluster of hills with multiple peaks around the vicinity of Muar. one of them is Bukit Botak & Bukit Berdiri, which are located in Parit Sulong, a village about 20 minutes drive from Batu Pahat.
Fun fact: Bukit Botak literally translates to "Bald hill" - and there's a reason to it being called that. A quick search for "Bukit Botak" on Instagram would probably yield photos of a giant boulder that looks like the head of a bald man.

A quick google search for Bukit Botak entrance will render you a few results - there are a few entrances, all will lead you to the peak. I entered via the official entrance here.

All entrance will eventually lead you to the peak of Bukit Botak. However, the length and difficulty of the trail may vary. My friends and I tried to hike Bukit Botak sometime in May 2019, but we used a different entrance that time, and due to the lack of markings or direction, we ended up...on Bukit Payung, which is another peak within this cluster of mountains. Lol :p
If you use the same entrance as me, you'll see a few wooden kampung house scattered along the stretch of road where the official entrance is located at, with water lilies in the ditch. 
The first part of the trail is an oil palm plantation. There are orange markers sprayed over the trunks of the oil palm - follow them to prevent getting lost or going off-track. I felt as though I got consumed alive by mosquitoes on this part of the trail!
The arrows will lead you to a junction, just follow the arrow scribble on this wall..
And please adhere to the advice scribbled on the wall (Translation: Bring home whatever you brought here ; though I really disagree with vandalising the walls).
Beyond the wall was... a steep hike up, but just for a short stretch! (Probably around 200m!). This stretch is uncovered too so if you started hiking late, brace yourself to get burn under the scorching sun!
There were a lot of junctions during the first stretch - make sure you follow the orange marker, on the trees, or the trail that has ropes for support
After 10 minutes, you'll reach the (self-proclaimed) first look-out point
And you'll be entering the shaded part of the trail.
The path from here onwards leading up to the peak is much easier and not steep at all :)

Except for this part where you've got to hoist yourself up this giant boulder.
After about 30 minutes of trekking hiking, you'll reach this place which is seemingly a base camp - the terrain is flat and there are many structures to support a tent. I'm assuming that this place may be popular for overnight camps too.

Once you see this sign, Bukit Berdiri peak is located less than a minute way!
The peak of Bukit Berdiri

The peak was okay. A panoramic view of the oil palm plantation below.
Now after you reach the peak, you can turn back and descend the same way you ascended. We met a friendly Pak Cik who was a regular there and offered to show us the way to Bukit Botak peak, which he claimed was only about 20 minutes away. 
The path from Bukit Berdiri to Bukit Botak is kinda...unmarked. We couldn't have known where to go, if it weren't for the Pak Cik.

We just followed this kind Pak Cik (uncle), who kindly led the way. My apologies as I am not able to give clear directions to get to Bukit Botak peak from Bukit Berdiri.
We had to cut across some plantations again. As we were walking, a (wild) wild boar crossed out path! It was quite an interesting sight :p though we were told that wild boars may get aggressive and it was kinda dangerous - so the pak cik that was leading the way took a branch and started disturbing the bushes as we moved along the trail, just to send out a "WE'RE HERE" signal to fend off any potential wild boars.

Was quite sad to see trees being cleared off :( the pak cik suspect that these may be the work of illegal loggers :(
After what seems like forever (the hike from Bukit Berdiri to Bukit Botak wasn't 20 minutes, I swear), we finally saw some markers!
And...the signature Instagrammable boulder at the peak of Bukit Botak!
I very much prefer the peak at Bukit Botak :) You get a more panoramic view of the surroundings at Bukit Botak, whereas the view is slightly obstructed at Bukit Berdiri.
We had a picnic there, courtesy of the pak cik and his friends.

From this peak, we took about 30-45 minutes to get back to our starting point. The pak cik brought us to a mini waterfall in the oil palm plantation but again, we just followed the pak cik so I can't give any clear directions, my apologies :( The waterfall though was littered with trash though, it was quite a sad sight. The pak cik said that the waterfall used to be much cleaner, but due to the irresponsible actions of mankind, sigh. I have no words for this. We buried what we could and left. 

Shout-out to the pak cik who kindly showed us around. He had a plastic bag with him and he picked up trash along the way. This was our "yield" by the end of the hike (excluding the trash at the waterfall - there was too much trash :( ).

Let us all be responsible hikers and leave behind no trash when we hike, please! I really enjoyed this hike and the company. Though be warned that the trail from Bukit Berdiri to Bukit Botak is kinda confusing unless you can get someone who is familiar with the trails, I really wouldn't recommend doing it alone especially for first-timers!

Bukit Botak & Bukit Berdiri
Difficulty: Moderately easy
Duration of hike: 2-3 hours (for the entire loop)

Other places to visit in Johor:
1. Pulau Mawar, Mersing
2. Gunung Arong, Mersing
3. Blue Lagoon of Kangkar Pulai
4. Rainforest Treehouse, Pulai
5. Aw Pottery, Ayer Hitam
6. Island hopping @ Mersing

Monday, 6 July 2020

Casa Loma, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands

Starting this post with a typical Insta-girl shot. Let me be :p
When I posted this photo on Instagram, I received a lot of interest regarding the location of this spot. This is the balcony of our room at Casa Loma, a lovely hotel/chalet located at Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands. 

Here's a short clip depicting the scenery/atmosphere at the balcony :) Listen to the peaceful rustling sound of the leaves, accompanied by birds chirping. You can see some birdies flying around and squirriels climbing around the trees too! 

Now I (think I) know what you're thinking - a place like this must be exorbitant, no? This may be subjective, but I find the rates to be pretty reasonable for the location (Tanah Rata) and experience - we paid RM200 (including taxes) for a night stay at the King room on a regular weekend, which amounts to RM100 per pax for a night. I thought it was okay for a hotel room in Tanah Rata with this kind of view!

If you know me well, you'd know that I always opt to just stay in an affordable guest house priced RM50< per pax when I travel. There are guest house priced below RM50, but I thought I'd just treat myself for this once, and I'm really glad I did. It was a really busy weekend at Cameron Highlands during my visit and it was lovely to have somewhere to escape the traffic and immerse in tranquility :)

I booked my room through You may also book directly to them through their website. I booked through because the rates offered on were lower!
Casa Loma is located on top of a small hill at Tanah Rata, away from the busy main street, but not too far (it's about 10-15 minutes walk to the main street). From the parking lot, you'll walk on a short pavement with flowers on both sides that leads you to the reception.
The plants were well taken care of - I took a video because I figured it'd be easier to capture the beauty of that place through a video!

 View of the garden from the reception. It was a feast to my eyes, and it was quiet, peaceful and tranquil :) You could hear the bird chirping.
According to its Facebook page, there are only nine rooms on its premises.
The facade of our room - this building has four rooms - two on the ground floor and two on the first floor. We stayed at the room at the end on the ground floor.
I just realised that I did not take an overall photo of the room - but it felt as though we were in the forest, with the windows overlooking the trees outside :)
 View from the bed

Another highlight of this place - the shower which overlooks the greenery outside :p
The shower overlooks the trees outside. Some of my friends expressed concerns about peeping toms lurking around, but there's actually a curtain you can pull over to obstruct the view. Water pressure was amazing, I have to say. Strong water flow and consistent flow of hot water!
The balcony, in my opinion, is the highlight of this place. Behind the trees is actually the main road of Tanah Rata. We could hear cars whizzing past occasionally, but it was still really tranquil. 

We spent most of our time on the balcony - having tea, drinking, having dinner, and so on. There is no restaurant on the premise so we take away some food around the vicinity just so we can enjoy the balcony :) 
at night
There are a few things which I hoped could be improved though - we could hear the footsteps from the first floor, and the pillow was kinda soft. There is no refrigerator in the room too :( Wished there's one so that I could keep my drinks cold :p Parking on-premise is limited too, but you can park outside around the apartment units too!

But I'd definitely chose to stay here again when I visit Cameron Highlands in the future :) Would love to stay here for more than a night.

Some pointers:
- Try to book early - there are only nine rooms here so it might get sold out fast, especially on weekends
- Try to request for the rooms on the first floor (based on my experience hearing footsteps from the upper floor while staying on the ground floor)
- Do keep your volume down staying here :) It's a peaceful & serene place, and voices travel far from the balcony

Casa Loma
Bungalow Green Hill, 
Green Hill Resort Tanah Rata

Contact Number: +60 19-627 2199

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Sunrise Overlooking Boh Tea's Plantation @ Cameron Highlands

"Want to wake up early to catch a non-existent sunrise across the tea plantation?" I (half-jokingly) asked my travel companion, since I've read that sunrise may be hard to catch in Cameron Highlands, due to the fog and frequent rainfall obstructing the view. I've read many blogs and online forums stating the best way to catch the sunrise is by hiking to the top of Mt Brinchang, which is the highest peak around Cameron Highlands, where you'll be above the fog. Some suggested going to the tea plantation but there's a high risk of not catching any glimpse of the sunrise (due to the fog!)

We decided to try our luck anyway and drove out to Boh Tea's plantation with zero expectations and...well...I was utterly taken aback (in a good way). I guess having zero expectations elevated the wow-factor too.

So sunrise view in Cameron Highland at the tea plantation is possible. Since I didn't manage to find much info about this place, here's a rough guide/write-up I hope will be helpful for you to plan your visit :)

The lookout point where the above photo was taken is marked as "Roberston Rose Garden" on google maps - it is en route to Sungai Palas Boh Tea's Plantation. 

If you've been to Boh Tea's Plantation, you'd have known about the notoriously narrow and windy road leading into the tea plantation, and the lack of space to stop or park your car along the road leading into the tea plantation. 

We left our hotel before the crack of dawn (around 6.20am) when it was still dark out there. There are no street lamps as far as I know along the road leading into the tea plantation, and I am not confident with my driving skills navigating through the narrow road. Hence, I decided that I will not drive into the tea plantation, and parked my car right at the junction where you see the Boh Tea's signage, at the very start of Jalan Gunung Brinchang. 

There are actually proper parking spaces there. There are some newly developed shop lots that are not updated on maps yet (as of July 2020). Alternatively, you may park opposite the road, around Cameron Square. 
Anyway, it actually got pretty bright when we reached the parking lot (around 6:40am) even though it wasn't sunrise time yet (sunrise time was 7:08am on the day of visit), so the lack of street lamp...might not be too much of a concern.

From where we parked, it was a 10-minutes (950m) walk to Roberston Rose Garden. I wished I had brought along my scarf when we started the walk, as it was rather chilly. But we warmed up soon after we started walking so it's all good. We started walking around 6:40am, so that leaves us about 28 minutes before the sunrise time (7:08am). Plenty of time to spare, no?
The walk wasn't strenuous as there was no steep uphill inclination. We kept stopping along the way to admire the sky - the colour kept changing and it was just utterly beautiful, albeit being obstructed by trees/villas.
I didn't realise that we were spending so much time stopping and taking photos, and it was almost sunrise time! We were really taking our time because we were under the impression that the sunrise might not happen but judging from the skies...we deduced that we might be able to see the sunrise! 
boleh jadi iklan x?
At this point, I started running - because I didn't want to miss out on the sunrise over the tea plantation, and the changing skylight/pattern of clouds forming. I'd always thought the skies before sunrise is edition (pardon my lack of imagination in describing this) - you'd never get the same sunrise view. The skies are different every day, and I want to take in every moment of it. 

*Plays Aerosmith - I Don't Want to Miss a Thing*

So aku lari.

Anddddddd I made it.

Note: You may see the sunrise along the route but the view may be obstructed. Don't need to lari macam orang giler macam saya. I just wanted an unobstructed view and my sunrise photo over the tea plantation.
Wished I could catch a glimpse of the fluffy clouds tainted in red as shown above across the tea plantation but I was a little too late for that. But I'm still grateful to be able to catch this breath-taking view :)
"patutlah kamu lari!" (that's why you ran!)
a group of tourist commented when they saw this view :p
It started getting crowded with visitors around 7.15am armed with their cameras and phones, "oooohhh" "ahhh-ing" over the beautiful view.

Again, I felt that my photographs did no justice to the beautiful sunrise :) You really have to see it for yourself!

Word of advice:
- Come early. Perhaps at least half an hour before sunrise to get that "limited edition" view :p 
- There are some spaces for a limited number of cars to park by the roadside of Roberston Rose Garden. But it is very very limited (probably could fit up to 3~5 cars tops, and it seems like a private property so I wouldn't really recommend it. Apologies for the vague description - as it was just a patch of land at the side of the road which I can't really quantify it properly)
- I really recommend that you walk instead of drive, mainly because of the lack of parking space, and also there are some really nice views along the way which may be hard to enjoy if you're on a car :) 
- You may also join a tour organised by locals for the sunrise. I've seen shops promoting sunrise packages for RM10-30 per pax, which includes transport arrangements into the tea plantation so you don't have to worry about it! 

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