The guide to café-hopping in Cameron Highlands

One thing that one can never miss while scrolling through their Instagram is a whole string of photos of food, cozy environment and beautiful cafés that people are visiting. As far as I can remember, cafes weren’t really popular, until maybe two or three years ago and has become such a huge culture here in Malaysia.

With so many cafés sprouting like mushrooms after a heavy downpour, café hopping has become a normal weekend activity that Malaysians really love. In Cameron Highlands, there are some cafés worthy to be hopped up in the mountains. Check these out:

Lord’s Café



This quaint little café located along Jalan Besar in Tanah Rata is the perfect place for your afternoon tea with the most delicious and sumptuous scones around. Fresh out of the oven, you can either pick their signature Strawberry scones or the normal, butter one. If you are a cake person, they do not disappoint in their variety of cakes, pastries and pancakes. Serving also local English and other varieties of teas, Lord’s Café is the best place for your evening siesta.

Address: No 4, 1st Floor, Jalan Besar, Tanah Rata.


The Barracks Café




Located in Tanah Rata at the edge of the town, Barracks Café is actually a real military barrack that was built during the World War II by the British. Their menu has an extensive mouthwatering dishes which includes pasta, salad, rice dishes as well as a wide selection of cakes and pastries. You can also enjoy your afternoon tea in their beautiful garden, just like how it was done years ago.

Address: No 1, Jalan Gereja, Tanah Rata.


Fruit Delights Café



If you are into fruits, then this café is dedicated specially for you. Just like what its name indicates, Fruit Delights Café offers fresh fruit juice of every kind, and varieties of teas. They have put together an impressive selection of fruit desserts like strawberry ice- cream, raspberry cheese cake, durian cake, mango milkshake, and many more. They also offer local food like pineapple rice, pineapple curry rice, steamboat and fresh fruits. This place is a total delight!

Address: 27 Jalan Besar, Tanah Rata.


Teh Tarik Place


This café is located at Cameron Square in Brinchang. They serve Malaysia’s renowned street food like Teh Tarik, crispy hand-tossed Roti Canai, Nasi Kerabu, Nasi Lemak and Mee Goreng Mamak. If you can’t live without Teh Tarik for a day, this place is a must visit.

Address: Ground Floor, Cameron Square, Brinchang.


Tea’Ria Cafe @ Boh Tea Center


A definite must on the list of cafe-hopping in Cameron Highlands is a visit to Sungei Palas Boh Tea Cafe, also known as Tea’Ria. Tea’Ria offers their own varieties of teas that exude refinement by infusing exotic spice and fruit flavours with tea’s own aroma. You can enjoy your blissful cup of tea while enjoying the fresh air overlooking the tea plantation.

Address: Sg Palas Boh Tea Center, Brinchang.

Now that I have covered some of the best place for café-hopping in Cameron Highlands, here are also some great hotels where you can unwind and relax after your blissful-strawberry filled evening.

Copthorne Cameron Highlands – Staying here, you are waking up to cool mountain air and lush greenery. A 4-star hotel, Copthorne Cameron Highlands offer a choice of 341 full-service guest rooms and apartments, all furnished with modern amenities.

Cameron Highland ResortCameron Highlands Resort is built as a long extension from an existing 1930s cottage with architecture dating from the 1070s. The thing that draws people to this hotel lies in the interiors that dates back to its grand colonial heritage with tall French doors, timber-beamed ceilings and plantation shutters.

For the best deals in town when it comes to hotels, get it straight through Traveloka.

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TERRAPURI – The Land of Palaces

Kak Em, there is one place called Terrapuri Heritage Village that you must visit because I know you like architecture,” a friend told me when we discussed about places that we had and have not been. I was quickly filled with excitement, dreaming to visit the place. One day, I was invited by Sham to join Gaya Travel team to stay at Terrapuri. I jumped at the opportunity and said yes.

My family and I travelled by car to Kampung Mangkuk, Pantai Penarik, where Terrapuri is situated. Upon reaching the place, the gate was closed. Silly me, I didn’t know that I had to pull a string to ring the bell. “Kak Em, you have to pull the string to ring the bell to call someone to open the gate,” Sham told me on the other end of the line when I called him to ask how do I enter the place. I did just that, and voila, someone opened the gate for me.

Majestic! My eyes were rolling and feasting on what I thought as a very beautiful heritage village with houses that were built more than 100 to 250 years ago. The place is set in an idyllic environment where there exists nothing between human and nature. One will certainly feel refreshed. Thoughts are sure to get uncluttered and there would definitely be an inspiration overload.


Being the brainchild of Alex Lee, Terrapuri Heritage Village is a conservation and restoration project involving classic Terengganu Malay houses. There are total of 29 antique houses that were collected by Alex for over the period of 18 years. According to Alex, the layout of the heritage village is inspired by the 17th century Terengganu Palace and its surroundings.

Terrapuri villa

The antique houses manifest creative and aesthetic skills of the Malays. They were built using chengal wood with triangular shape, steep gabled roofs and odd-number staircases. The houses were also built on stilts (8 feet high) and employed the tebuk-pasak technique at the joints. The roof was made from rhomboid-shaped Singgora roof tiles while the walls were made from timber panel walls slotted into grooved frame (what the Malay calls Dinding Janda Berhias). The upper part of the walls, windows and doors are decorated with screen with beautiful woodcarving work (Kerawang or Sobek).

Types of houses here include Rumah Kedai Buluh, Rumah Paloh, Rumah Belukar Titian, Rumah Tasek, Rumah Dusun, Rumah Binjai Rendah, Rumah Tembakang, Rumah Gelugor Raja, Rumah Seberang Takir, Rumah Jeram, Rumah Kubang Jela, Rumah Nibong, Rumah Pulau Musang, Rumah Pengkalan Kubu and Rumah Sungai Mas.

kerawang2I stayed at Rumah Nibong. Although it is old, I had the benefits of the villa’s refurbished splendour and unique traditional batik (with Nibong patterns) as décor. For a hot and humid weather, air-conditioning is heaven-sent, and each house in Terrapuri comes with its own unit. My husband said that he prefers the old kampung way instead and said that the house’s natural ventilation system adequately cools and reduces humidity. I agreed but with the temperature of more than 40°C, I doubt that cooling could take place. I switched off the air-con and opened up all windows and doors. After few minutes, my husband started to sweat. He finally gave into the idea of switching on the air-conditioning unit. He switched on the ceiling fan in addition.

Although the house itself is traditional, the interior is half traditional, half modern. So just because the house is over 100 years old doesn’t mean that every piece has to be antique. I love that Alex combines preserved history and progressive design. By progressive design, I mean rain shower, wooden bathtub, bathroom amenities (WC and what not, I can’t imagine myself doing ‘business’ in the old way), hair dryer, fridge and coffee/ tea making facility. Telecommunication medium like TV and telephone is not available in this heritage village to create a real kampung ambience.

My son and I spent some time visiting the library (Rumah Pulau Rusa) and reading room that is furnished with antique furniture, some books and magazine collection, computers with internet and a congkak set. We loved it there. We also dropped by the Serengas Shop that features a handpicked selection of finest antiques, artefacts, books and crafts from Terengganu and other parts of Malaysia.

After that we went walking along the coconut-tree laden beach, admiring the beautiful view that overlooks Pulau Perhentian, Lang Tengah, Pulau Cepu, Redang and Bidong, which are all visible during a clear day.

brasspotIn addition to just feasting our eyes on the beauty of the surrounding village, we also went for refreshing coconut drinks and fried keropok lekor at the nearby food stall. We later drove to Kuala Terengganu, which is about an hour’s drive, to have our dinner.

We really had a great time at Terrapuri and wish to come back again for a family holiday. We missed the attractions nearby, namely the Fireflies Sanctuary and Setiu Wetlands, and plan to visit them soon when we return to Terrapuri.

Although the cost of staying at Terrapuri ranges from RM400 and above per night, it is worth it as the owner had spent a lot of money and time restoring the houses to make it the most beautiful place in Terengganu (perhaps in Malaysia). The best time to stay there is when it is off-season – you might just find the peace and tranquillity that you’ve been looking for. Your heart will certainly be full of joy for having a chance to travel back through time and experience the architecture of a forgotten ancient kingdom. ~EY


Kampung – village

Rumah – house

Keropok lekor – cracker which is made primarily from a combination of dough (sago flour) and pounded fish.

tebuk-pasak – mortise and tenon


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A day trip to Royal Selangor Visitor Centre

Royal Selangor. I’ve heard the name, seen the pewter, admired the craftsmanship from glass window of its retail outlets namely in Suria KLCC and Central Market, wanted to visit the place but never made an effort to do so, until last Saturday. The main reason was because I didn’t know that I can just walk in and visit.

The visit begins when I take the escalator up to the first floor from the main lobby to reach the museum area.

Back in 1882, in a port town of Shantou, China, a young boy named Yong Koon, age 11, learned how to make pewter. Three years later, at the age of 14, he braved himself to sail to Malaya and join his brothers, who both had already established themselves as tinsmiths in a town of tin mining known as Kuala Lumpur. The Yong brothers had a shop called Ngeok Foh (Jade Peace), hand-crafted pewter objects mainly for ceremonial use.

In 1930, Yong Koon, his wife and sons moved to their own shophouse at Jalan Pudu and named the shop Malayan Pewter Works. The next decade saw how family disputes had Yong Koon’s sons shuffled allegiance and formed 3 other companies namely Tiger Pewter, Selangor Pewter and Lion Pewter. It was that Selangor Pewter that was run by Peng Kai, Yong Koon’s 3rd son that had survived to this date.

Selangor Pewter was renamed Royal Selangor in 1979 when The Sultan of Selangor conferred them the warrant as Royal Pewterer.

Yong KoonLeft: Yong Koon in front of Jade Peace situated at Cross Street (now Jalan Silang), KL. Right: Yong Koon in his old age.

Other than history, the museum features old tin currency, pewter artefacts and Yong Koon’s original pewtersmithing tools and personal effects. The museum also houses the Melon Pot, one of Yong Koon’s original pewter pieces that found its way back to the founder’s family members in an unusual way.

MelonpotThe legendary Melon Pot that bears Jade Peace touchmark. It was found by Ah Ham, a villager in Kajang during WW2. The pot made it’s way to Selangor Pewter in the 70s for polishing and it was quickly recognised as it has Jade Peace touchmark. Selangor Pewter tried to acquire the pot but Ah Ham could not depart from the pot that he thought had saved his life during the war. But years later, before he died, he sold the pot to Selangor Pewter.

mythicaldogOne of Yong Koon’s early works—a teapot that features a mythical dog that is believed to bestow good fortune and success.

touchmarksLeft: Evolution of touchmarks. Right: The legendary first touchmark.

There is also few interesting sections such as The Science of Pewter, Giant Weighing Scale, Chamber of Chimes, where I think that will attract kids. Other than that there’s Wall of Finishes (each wall displays different pewter textures and patterns), Hall of Frames (more than 200 photo frames on display) and Twin Towers Replica (constructed completely out of 7,062 tankards, standing at 9.1 meters).

SciencePewter is made of tin, antimony and copper. You and your kids can learn this and many more at the The Science of Pewter section.

framesHall of Frames!

Then I visited the factory. The factory tour shows visitors the elaborate processes of pewter-making; detailed hand-crafting that goes into each piece include casting, filing, polishing, soldering and hammering. This factory has 250 skilled craftspeople who create beautiful pewter pieces that are sold in over 20 countries. As Royal Selangor maintains its tradition of craftsmanship, every piece made is still hand finished to an astonishing degree.

employeeA skilled worker removing rough edges using steel a blade.

Here how it’s done: the first step is casting, a process where tin, antimony and copper are melted at 250 degrees Celsius to make molten pewter. Skilled artisans pour the molten pewter into moulds. After it solidifies, the mould is dismantled and the casting is removed. To remove the oxidation and rough edges, a steel blade is used to skim over a rotating piece of pewter to give the surface a satin-like finish. Designs in different shapes and sizes and with motifs are polished in a different manner. Rough edges are removed using small hacksaw blades and filing tools. Fine sandpaper is also used to remove the yellow patina. The hammering process is a traditional method of pewter decoration made by a steel hammer. A steady hand, precision and consistent strength is needed to create a neat and even line of dimpled patterns.

And the highlights of the visit are The School of Hard Knocks and The Foundry. I had fun at these two sections.

workshop My pewter dish.

At The School of Hard Knocks, I experienced the rigours of traditional pewter-crafting! I was guided through the process of creating a pewter dish using traditional tools such as the hammer, mallet and wooden mould. At the end of the session, I get to keep my bowl. In addition, I was given a certificate of completion, and that makes me a certified bowl artisan!

Details of workshop:
Cost: RM 60 per person
Time: 30 minutes
Group size: 50 (maximum), 4 (minimum)

EpendantMy E pewter pendant, made by my own hands.

At The Foundry, I get to unleash my artistic talent! I was guided through the process of casting, polishing and decorating a pewter accessory by an experienced instructor. At the end of the session, I get to take home my own pewter accessory.

Details are as follows:
Cost: RM 150 per person
Time: 60 minutes
Group size: 12 (maximum), 4 (minimum)

I had a great time at The Royal Selangor Visitor Centre and will certainly visit again with my family. I showed photos of the visit to my son and he is all envy and wants me to take him there next weekend.

If you like to experience the tour and making your own craft at The Foundry, I have a great promotion offer for you, in collaboration with Royal Selangor: you can purchase two passes at RM150 (you save RM150!).

Here how it works:

  • Purchase workshop passes at the information counter, Royal Selangor Visitor Center (Setapak branch only) or purchase via e-mail:
  • Mention the promotion code: FOUNDRY EMILA
  • Book the date slot (anytime from 18 August to 19 October 2014)

Enjoy the promotion and enjoy your visit soon!

Address: Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, 4, Jalan Usahawan 6, Setapak Jaya, 53300 Kuala Lumpur. GPS Coordinate: 3.196, 101.724 Contact: +603 4145 6122 | +603 4022 3000 |

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The Rustic Charm of Georgetown

Why on earth did you booked a train to Penang?” a friend, Doc Gelo, asked me. He was not the only one who asked. Few friends were puzzled over my choice of transportation to Penang. They told me that I could’ve cut the 6 hours journey by half if I take a bus.

My answer to them was all the same; that it had been more than 34 years since I last travelled on a train to the north side of Malaysia. I need to see the greener side and maybe use the time to plan my 2014 work schedule. I don’t really like to take a bus (the last time I took a bus to my hometown Raub, the driver drove like a maniac) and since the petrol hike took effect recently, driving was not my preference too. Well, perhaps if my husband and son could come along with me, I would’ve travelled by car. Anway, the train cost me only RM68 for a return ticket for KL-Buttwerworth. Very economical. I don’t mind all the 10 stops; it was nothing to compare to the slow train ride I took from Frankfurt to Cologne with 69 stops!

Accompanied by my so-called entourage—my niece, Wanda and her friend, Ika—we left on Ekspress Rakyat from Kuala Lumpur at 4pm. We got seats facing south while the train moved north. I enjoyed watching the landscape and enjoyed uploading photos and checking-in on random train stops along the way on my Instagram account. When the journey from one stop to another took longer time, I took out my sketchbook. I normally don’t do this because I will feel nauseous. But that didn’t happen! I discovered for the first time that I have an advantage from having a seat facing opposite direction.


We reached Butterworth at 10pm and later took the ferry to Weld Quay. My friend, Faten Rafie and her husband Azizi Hassan, fetched us at Weld Quay, George Town, Penang. We went for a late dinner at Nasi Kandar Kapitan. We wanted to go for Nasi Kandar Beratur earlier on but had to cancel because we would’ve had to literally ‘beratur’ (queue).

On the way to the hotel, Faten and Azizi took us around George Town (yes, it was almost midnight but we were up to it) to look for random welded iron caricatures by local artists as well as those street arts by Ernest Zacharevic.

It was around 1.00am when we reached the hotel. “I’ll be your tourist guide tomorrow,” Faten (Tanjong born and bred) said before disappearing into the night with her husband.

I woke up the next day feeling excited. Having a room on 15th floor means that I could look at George Town from bird’s eye view. The view of roofs and buildings along Noordin Street were beautiful. I could already imagine doing a watercolor painting of the scenery.


Noordin Street, or Lebuh Noordin, is within a city area known today as the Seven Streets Precinct and it is the only street in the precinct to be named after a Muslim, in this case Habib Marican Noordin, the Indian Muslim merchant who was one of the benefactors of the Kapitan Keling Mosque, and who built the Noordin Family Tomb. *

Faten took us to Padang Kota Lama esplanade area and we had lunch at Hameed Pata Special Mee (noodles) situated just besides Fort Cornwallis. The noodles was super delicious! Combined with coconut milkshake, it was a lunch that worth all the fat I gained.

We didn’t go inside Fort Cornwallis as I had been there on my previous visit few years back, so we went straight across the open field to reach the Town Hall and City Hall. Both buildings were built in 1880 and 1903 respectively. The white City Hall is the largest of the two, but Town Hall painted in yellow and white is arguably the most handsome one.


From Padang Kota Lama, we went to 179, Victoria Street to reccee the place where The Borders Children’s Program would be held the next day in conjunction with the George Town Literary Festival 2013. I had to see how to get there because I was one of the invited children’sbook illustrators for the event. I wouldn’t want to miss it because I could’t find my way there.

After discussing with The Borders representative, we later went to China House café to have coffee and cakes. I love the place, the interior is beautiful. There were crayons and paper table cloth and next thing we knew, Faten and I (as well as Faten’s niece, Najah Zahry who joined us later) doodled and scribbled on it.


After coffee, Faten and I went to discover the nearby area looking for more street arts, cat arts, old buildings and many more. My entourage went elsewhere with their Penang friends; the teenagers were happy to be away from two middle-aged women. Faten and I walked for hours discovering Victoria Street, Armenian Street, Acheh Street , Cannon Street and Kapitan Keling Street.


A set of windows from Syed Alatas Mansion which was built in 1860. The mansion was once known as the Penang Islamic Museum. I wanted to enter the mansion but it was closed for renovation.

It was a great walk and I mostly had a blast capturing photos of of windows (another hobby of mine when travelling). The windows were all oh so beautiful! The mossier and the older, the more beautiful.

“I surprisingly took 252 photos for two hours walk, I must be crazy!,” Faten messaged me on WhatApp chat on phone when she reached home that evening. “Haha, we are equally crazy, I took 275 photos!” I told her before saying goodnight and making appointment with her again the next day to give me moral support at Victoria Street.

My head was spinning as I thought about my presentation the next day. I am the Glossophobia type. I rather people see me draw than hearing me talk. Previously I had the fear of drawing in public but I overcame that two years back when I was given a big panel to draw at Illustrator Lane during Children’s Literature Festival 2012.

I was about to sleep when Wanda texted me “Ngah, do you want anything from Nasi Kandar Beratur?” I quickly replied, “Yes, one nasi kandar for me!”

*This is the unedited version of the article I wrote in my column Em’s Diary in Gaya Travel magazine, issue 8.6/9.1.

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