Westwood Highland @ Cameron Highlands

Set 20 kilometres outside of Tanah Rata in Kampung Raja, the spotlessly clean and simple rustic minimalism of Westwood Highland guesthouse is an adequate base for hiking Cameron Highland’s tougher hills, but an even better place to wind down and do nothing.

One of Cameron Highland’s best kept secrets, host and Cameron Highland’s native Troji and his family has been quietly charming visitors to his family’s small flower farm since Westwood Highland opened in January 2014.

2 years in the making, and designed to let the natural light and cool air in, his mix of hostel bunks and rooms some with attached bathroom can accommodate up to 27 people.

Having bunked there for two nights in May, I can share a few things you need to be prepared for. These things are apparent on Airbnb (which has a detailed description and comments section), but not on other booking sites. So to manage expectations, know this:

  1. Westwood Highland is a hostel. An eco-conscious, minimalist, comfortable one but your bed clothes and towels won’t be changed daily, you can’t eat in your room and you’ll have to wash up after yourself.
  2. It’s a little remote. Which is fine if driving for 20 minutes along windy roads to Tanah Rata or Brinchang doesn’t bother you. Or if you’re not driving and don’t mind hitchhiking to Cameron Highland’s attractions. Or you just want to pitch up and chill out, in which case you’re all set.
  3. “Small flower farm” is not inaccurate a description of Westwood Highland;s setting but may conjure up very different images to very different people. Westwood Highland isn’t surrounded by bucolic rolling hills and open fields of precious blooms, instead the surrounding farms are hidden under rows and rows of poly tunnels, which is not quite as romantic a vision.

Richard and I found our stay a quiet and comfortable one. Taking a 1st floor room with one single and one double bed,  ours overlooked the rows of brightly coloured gerberas through curtainless windows, and was simply furnished with basic conveniences like bedside light, clothing hooks, and a shelf. Despite the lack of air conditioning or a fan, the room temperature acceptable, but that might change depending on the time of year.

The room had no en-suite bathroom though. Toilets (3) and showers (2) were downstairs with the one farthest away being most likely to yield hot water sooner (we were told this during the quick tour of the facilities). This required messing with the faucet repeatedly.

Aside the cafe where you can help yourself to breakfast and have a latte made up for you by any one of the young travellers assigned to take care of the place in exchange for discounted lodging, there’s a small but beautifully tended al fresco area round back, an outdoor kitchen (you’re free to use the fridge, gas cooker and microwave) and what they call the “tree house”, which is a nice spot to read, play boardgames or throw a barbeque.

The closest conveniences and restaurants are in the neighbouring housing estate of Taman Desa Corina which is right behind the flower farm but tricky to access.  It is one road along from the main road  a 15 minute walk via a secret shortcut (more on that in Getting There). The alternative is to do your shopping in town and cook in. Or if even that is too much, buy a pot noodle from the cafe. You can call a taxi – it’s RM60 for a pick up into Brinchang or Tanah Rata, RM30 return, although the price is negotiable, but most guests hitch a ride from a neighbour or passing vehicle.

While some of this may sound off putting – and I admit I struggled with the roads and remoteness on the first day – but by day 2 Westwood Highland’s had begun to feel like a friendly and unassuming safe haven, and staying longer seemed the way to achieve chill.

Positives Comfortable beds, decent wifi, relaxed atmosphere.

Negatives Poorly signposted, connectivity to commercial area limited, patchy access to hot water in the showers.

Overall I’d stay here if I went hiking on this side of the Highlands again.

Will appeal to Backpackers, clean living singles with a sense of adventure and those seeking solace and simplicity.

Tip To really unwind, don’t rush there and back to the city. Stay a while.

Rates Dormitory beds start at RM60/person, singles at RM90/room and doubles at RM180/room, includes breakfast. Or book it through Airbnb.

How to get there If you’re taking a bus then make arrangements to have the Troji or his brother Tukku pick you up at the station.

If you’re driving, exit the North-South highway (E1) at Simpang Pulai (Exit 137) and take the  A181. At the junction to Route 59 take a right and after passing Kampung Raja look out a new development on the left called Desa Corina. The turning up a steep concrete road to Westwood Highland comes immediately after.

Just be sure to get there before it gets dark. The junction is not signposted and easily missed because it doesn’t really look like a road – its steep, concrete and unlit. Also maneouvering into the parking area takes special skills if your car’s a bit on the low or full side. I parked my car in Taman Desa Corina and snuck back via the shortcut. It’s not an option for young children or the elderly as it involves climbing up a wooden ladder, over a wall, across a very deep drain. And unless a proper path is cut soon even this will be short-lived alternative as it passes through the garden of a house that is soon to be completed.

Westwood Highland 4B Jalan Batu 51, Kampung Raja, Cameron Highlands, 39010, Pahang. T: +60 5 498 1611 / +60 13 523 8077 E: westwoodhighland@gmail.com F: www.facebook.com/pages/Westwood-Highland/152967308220749 W: www.westwoodhighland.com

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