For someone like me whose knowledge of tea making did not extend beyond opening a box of Tetley, putting a bag in a mug and adding hot water, it put a whole new spin on the drink.

I completed my visit with a cup of freshly brewed fine tea and enjoyed a peaceful view of the magnificent rolling green hills.

For those who fancy something a little more adventurous, the Cameron Highlands have some thrilling jungle trails. But beware, there are tales of tourists who got lost in the forests for a couple of weeks, so it’s probably best to consider hiring a local guide.

If you decide to go on your own, consult your hosts about the route you are taking and when you plan to come back. Begin earlier in the day rather than late in the afternoon. Some of these walks take several hours and you may not finish before nightfall.

Beach Life – Take time out on Tioman Island

At Mersing marina, in south-west Malaysia, you can jump on the express boat and sail to idyllic Pulau Tioman. Located in the South China Sea, 56km off the Pahang coast, Tioman was supposedly formed when a magical dragon princess turned herself into an island. She did a good job. Tioman was voted one of the 10 most beautiful islands in the world by Time magazine and was the setting for the magical island of Bali Hai in the 1958 movie South Pacific.

Despite these claims to fame, the island still manages to feel undiscovered thanks to its near empty, litter-free sandy beaches. You won’t find crowds or rowdy nightclubs here, plus there’s only one short road from the village of Tekek to Lalang beach, which makes it the perfect escape.

You won’t get bored though – Tioman has excellent snorkelling and scuba-diving possibilities. I tested them out, exploring the beautiful underwater world of colourful fish and coral reefs.

After that it was time to splash out in a different way – a full body massage at the Berjaya Golf & Spa Resort.
After an hour of pummelling, I was ready to truly relax on a palm-tree lined beach.

I grabbed a cold drink and, seeing it cloud over, fell asleep without applying any sun cream. Big mistake. By the end of
the day my back was red and raw. I looked like a typical Brit on the Costa Del Sol. I’ll take the equatorial sunshine a bit more seriously next time!

Kuala Lumpur

First-time visitors to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur (nicknamed KL) are often surprised to find a bustling metropolis. The vibrant city with a population of 1.5 million is a mix of communities and cultures.

Probably the most striking thing about KL is the blend of old and new, tradition and modernity. The historical colonial buildings contrast with luxury hotels and glorious skyscrapers.

View from above
Petronas Twin Towers and Menara KL communications tower in Kuala Lumpur are world-famous landmarks.

At 452m high, the iconic two towers of Petronas are officially the world’s tallest twin buildings and featured in the movie Entrapment starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Visit the famous skybridge on the 41st floor
and feel like you’re on top of the world.

The view from the KL tower observation desk at 276m is also spectacular.

Down in Chinatown

Watches, handbags or any type of knick-knacks are available in KL’s Chinatown at night. The best bit is that the stall-holders aren’t nearly as persistent as in other countries, so you can browse without the hassle.

The crowded and busy Petaling Street has bakeries, chemists, haberdasheries and grocery stores, but even if you’re not looking to do any shopping, head there for the food, ranging from local coffee shops to noodle houses.

Make a pit stop

With a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine, dining in Malaysia is just as fun as travelling around the country. Food markets (kedai kopi) are reasonably cheap and portions are huge.

The easiest snack to pick up is tasty satay – beef or chicken skewers barbecued on an open fire and served with spicy peanut sauce – from street stalls on wheels. Try nasi lemak – a breakfast dish of rice cooked in coconut milk and served with spicy anchovies (ikan bilis), hard-boiled egg, roasted peanuts and fresh slices of cucumber.

A Chinese steamboat is a real feast. A hot plate with a pot is brought to your table and you cook the meal yourself by adding various meats, seafood, vegetables, and noodles to a thick stock.

When it comes to Indian food, daun pisang – rice, curry and yoghurt served on a banana leaf – is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. Traditionally it should be eaten with your right hand, but you can always ask for a fork.

Independence Day

On August 31, 1957, Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first prime minister of Malaysia, proclaimed the country a new nation by shouting the word “merdeka”, which means independence in Malay.

Exactly 50 years after Malaysia gained its independence from British rule, I was on Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) celebrating this important milestone with the locals.

The perfectly orchestrated Golden Jubilee ceremony began early in the morning with hundreds of thousands of people gathered in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad building in the square and on nearby streets. The massive crowds held national flags and reacted emotionally to patriotic speeches, artistic performances and military parades. A stand
full of hundreds of young people dressed in uniforms waved colourful flags with military precision to make patterns and slogans for the cameras. All the while, the national anthem Malaysiaku Gemilang (My Glorious Malaysia) was played repeatedly in the background.

The crowd’s pride was palpable and the whole experience made the perfect welcome to this wonderful country.

» Marcin Ochonski stayed at the Cameron Highlands Resort ( Call YTL Hotels Travel Centre on +800 9899 9999 for more information.