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Kuala Lumpur, Day 11, Tuesday

Written on: Tuesday July 17th, 2007

A journal entry from: Elective

Before we left for Kuala Lumpur (KL), we had arranged to go to one of the local tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands, to observe first-hand how tea is produced. I wasn't expecting great things, but figured that I might as well go along while we were there, as I wouldn't get chance again. I was pleasantly surprised actually, and found it all quite interesting (boring person that I am!).

The plantation was owned by the BOH tea company, run by a Scottish family since 1929. BOH actually stands for 'Best Of Highlands;, which I was unaware of before this visit. The plantation was 1500m above sea level, and spanned 526 acres. The fields stretched for miles, and we got a good look at some of the tea bushes up close. The smell was strong when we got out of the van to take a closer look, but it didn't smell like tea once it is brewed. The tour guide told us that the altitude of a plantation is important, as the best tea grows at the highest altitudes, and tea from a lower level tastes bitter and is impossible to drink without sugar. The highest tea plantation in the world is in India, and produces Darjeeling tea, so if anyone wants the best tea, that's the kind to look for!

At the BOH plantation, the tea is more often machine-picked than hand-picked, though apparently this does not give the best results as the machines cannot distinguish between different parts of the plant, and the youngest shoots produce the nicest drink. (Darjeeling is hand-picked, in case you were interested!) It was interesting to note that the tea plants that are at the plantation are still the originals, planted years ago in 1929. A tea bush can live for up to 150 years before it renders itself useless.

We were permitted inside the factory, where the smell of tea was even stronger, and actually began to smell more like the drink itself. It was incredibly loud inside, as all the machines rotated, vibrated and shook, but we strained to listen to the guide describing the 5 stages of tea production:

Stage 1. Withering - usually done overnight, as it can take 16-20 hours.

Stage 2. Rolling - takes 45 minutes.

Stage 3. Fermentation - takes between 2 and 3 hours.

Stage 4. Drying

Stage 5. Sorting - the tea is graded into particle size, and each grade has different flavours and characteristics.

We were also given a brief lecture on why tea is so good for you, and why you should drink it. I was interested to discover that green tea is excellent at lowering cholesterol levels, the reason being that it skips the fermentation stage, so fermenting occurs in the stomach, absorbing all the excess fat. Sounds like a good deal to me! I also was unaware that black tea can control sugar levels and hypertension, although how I don't know.

The tour guide was insistent that tea leaves are far superior to teabags, and told us that it was lazy to use teabags and not as good for the body. In his words, "Work hard, and live easy later!". Quite a good motto, in my opinion!

Anyway, now that I've bored you with my ever-so-fascinating tea knowledge, I'll move on to our journey to KL. Another 5 hour trip on a bus, once again with over enthusiastic air-conditioning. The roads were torturously winding on the descent from the Highlands, and the bus was definitely picking up speed, worryingly! We survived anyway, and further into the journey I noticed a field on one of the hills that was filled with some giant yellow chinese lettering, akin to the Hollywood sign. I have no idea what it said, but I was pretty impressed (it's not hard to impress me anymore!).

The time passed quite quickly as we cut through the hills. The road was a concrete snake, slithering it's way smoothly around the drops, which were often too close for comfort. We passed huts with straw rooves, selling various goods, including the largest peas in pods I have ever seen, and the infamous durian - a fruit that is banned from many hotels due to the God awful smell, and which is apparently capable of raising your body temperature. In fact, in Penang, we had been told that the durian is known as the King of the Fruits due to this capacity to heat you up, and the Mangosteen (which we tried in Krabi) is the Queen of the Fruits, and can combat the temperature rise. Interesting, no?

It still amazes me that there are these tiny villages seemingly in the middle of nowhere. How people manage to live on the side of a hill escapes me, but they do it, and they always look happy. It's a mystery to me.

As we drew nearer to KL, we surfed a sea of deep green palm trees, and passed through modern towns as well, which was a sign that we were close. Upon arrival into Kuala Lumpur, I was impressed (again) to see how modern it was. There were plenty of tall buildings, including hotels, office blocks and banks. The roads were busy, and we queued in traffic for some time before reaching our drop-off point.

Our hotel is in the middle of Chinatown, and was a fifteen minute walk from where the bus set us down. We walked through the bus station, which Andy had referred to as 'The Pits of Hell' - I could understand why! As we walked through Chinatown, the market was just setting up and it looked set to get busy.

In the hotel, I decided it was time to check my mobile phone bill online and I got the shock of my life. Oh my God, I've really done it this time. I've gone and landed myself with a 600 pound bill since I arrived in Thailand. I've haemorrhaged money so quickly that I've bled out. I felt sick, I couldn't believe that I could have been so stupid, and let it get so out of hand. It's almost our wedding venue deposit, it's a week in the sun...it's a sign of how much I'm missing home. This really put paid to our plans for the evening, and I had to resort to Nando's in a miserable attempt to put a smile back on my face. It didn't work that well though, so we headed back to the hotel to watch TV and await a phone call that could possibly help me to sort out this mess that I've got myself into. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

 

 

From Mum on Jul 18th, 2007

Hi Kim, sorry i was late with the phone call, didn't get Martyn's text til 3. I'll chop your fingers off when you get home, that'll sort it!!! No panic anyway, sure your Dad will have you washing dishes for months on end when you return. Love Mum xxx

From Dad on Jul 18th, 2007

make that years!!!