I’m in Malaysia at the moment, on the current random tour of a random country chosen minutes before I left. This one didn’t start where this post does, but that’s my prerogative. Call it bloggers licence. Get over it.
I arrived into the Cameron Highlands late at night, after escaping the intense heat of KL by train, then a long bus ride that appeared questionable whether it would reach the top of the first hill. The Cameron Highlands are a huge expanse of green hills, tea plantations and forests, which remains the coolest part of Malaysia, and visited as a popular holiday destination by locals and us foreign travellers alike.
Strawberries are also rather popular here.
A little obsessively so.
I had not really thought of Malaysia as being known for its strawberries, but around here, they seem to revel in the prospect. Cushions, t-shirts, dresses, door mats, hats (I feel terribly sorry for the poor Malaysian baby that was forced to wear one, I’m sorry – you may have been only 1yr old, but you looked ridiculous), jelly, jam, cheese cake, juice, chocolate coated, honey coated, strawberry on a stick… You name it, we got it. I’m quite certain I’ll be spotting that all out of season strawberries in the UK come right from these very hills, but until now I hadn’t given it much thought. Most Malaysians I speak to tell me, rather bitterly at times, that everything (tea, fruits, vegetables) is exported to Singapore. Maybe they sell it all on at higher prices. Why would they want that many strawberries, after all.
I escaped from all of this. Running towards the nearest jungle trail (aptly named Jungle Trail number 9) where I bumped into a couple from Haslemere, Surrey (that’s 20 minutes from home, to you and me) and promptly hijacked their guide. I’d chosen the easiest trail around anyway – large parts of it were paved, and only a small part of the trail required any significant root climbing. Far better than the trip to Turkey where the instructions “just climb that wall” were given. Though Jungle Trail does sound far more adventurous, even if it is number 9.
Anyway, moments after kidnapping their guide, Surrey Guy asked him about the strawberries. His face clouded over. “I hate strawberries” the guide muttered under his breath. Too much of a good thing, perhaps? This was before I had tried one of the must-have dishes off the menu in a nearby cafe. “Strawberries and cheese on toast”. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds, and if you think for a minute that the cheese was melted over strawberry jam (slightly better than the alternative), I have pictures to demonstrate the cheese melting strawberry goodness . I guess if all you have had is strawberries for life, you probably would go a little stir crazy. “Can you believe they’re making strawberry pillows, now!” continued the guide. Concerned as I was that he was going to start turning his pockets out and throw strawberries at the lot of us, I made my excuses and returned the guide to his rightful owners. They had paid, after all.
I’m hoping that now I’ve sampled the strawberry delights, famous in this region, I will still be able to leave. My fear is that the strawberries are the cause of the madness I see on every market stall. This whole area may be one big Hotel California, or Stepford – with one bite of a strawberry having sealed my fate to open a market stall and sell strawberry shaped cushions in the middle of nowhere for the rest of my days. Maybe I’m just being paranoid.
Or maybe the strawberries are making me paranoid.