Tea & Strawberries

We drove this morning up super-narrow, windy road to the BOH Tea plantation.  BOH is the largest producer of black tea in Malaysia, and it’s clear as soon as you round the bend that they own a terrific amount of tea-growing land.

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Those are all tea plants, as far as the eye can see.  The views are spectacular:

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They’ve built an amazing cafe up on the hillside (we sat and had breakfast there — with tea, of course):

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And there are flowers all over the place:

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The plantation also has a section where you can learn about the tea-making process (the steps are picking, withering, rolling, fermenting, drying, and sorting).  For starters, here’s what a tea plant looks like (or here’s what I look like visiting a tea plant):

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And here’s a tea blossom:

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The tea is picked by guys who carry a shearing machine that cuts off just the newly-grown tips of the plants at the top of the plant (which is why the tea bushes all look so uniform). The tea leaves are then put into big white bags.

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After the tea is left out for a while to wither, it’s dumped into huge rolling machines, which are meant to simulate the hand-rolling that used to be part of this process.  You can see one of their factories at work on the plantation.  These particular rollers have been doing their job since 1935.

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We also saw them carting giant trays of tea around and putting it into the dryers.  It’s amazing to know that they’ve been doing all of this the same way for nearly 100 years.

We then went walking around the plantation, which has a little settlement at its center, complete with workers’ houses, an infirmary, a tiny store, a chapel, and a Hindu temple.

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All in all, it was a great visit — nice to be somewhere so spectacular.  And it’s so good to feel cool weather again!

This area of the world has a mixture of the grand, the nearly-falling-apart, and the bizarre.  You find empty phone booths looking cheerfully lonely here and there:

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And then there are the advertisements for the Smurf Inn Homestay (you can’t make this stuff up):

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Note the many, many greenhouse covers in the background of the picture above.  Those litter the landscape here.  After lunch at the Delicious & Happiness Kitchen (a true hole in the wall Chinese buffet), we went to visit some of the greenhouses in search of fresh strawberries.

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Strawberry farms are one of the biggest tourist draws here.  The berries are grown hydroponically, so pick-your-own takes on a very different meaning from what we’re used to back home (they even provided us with scissors).

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We’re here in the low season for berries, apparently, so our picking experience was limited.  But it was still fun, because I love picking things, and you just can’t get fresh berries in Singapore.

The most amazing part of the greenhouses wasn’t the berries, though — it was the hydroponically grown lettuces.  They’re just beautiful.

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Now we’re back at the hotel, wondering just how much longer we want to stay here.  They’re doing construction for renovations, so it’s too noisy to nap, and the wi-fi has nearly ground to a halt.  It’s raining smack in the middle of our room (it rains like crazy up in these mountains).  Add to that the sleeping conditions here — we don’t have blackout curtains, and the Muslim call to prayer sounds like it takes place right outside our window at about 5:30 in the morning — and the musty, damp feel, and the eerie emptiness, and we’re about ready to call this one in.

I’ll close with this picture that I took entirely by accident, just because it makes me happier than thinking about our hotel!

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