If only I could package smells and temperatures and transmit them through the Internet then you could truly understand what a magical place The Lakehouse, Cameron Highlands is.
Arriving on a Friday evening after a week of work and congested streets in Kuala Lumpur, the scent of crisp pine and dreamily brisk temperatures mark the distinct separation of the city and the highlands, of work and play.
Perched on a slope above the lake, The Lakehouse is surrounded by nothing but green. Doing a happy spin on the property’s lawn, eyes are filled with three-sixty-degree views of lush forest-clad hills. Pretty floral gardens bloom year round and mark the border of the Tudor-style property, and that mountain air is oh-so pristine; every breath becomes intentionally more profound in an attempt to purify the body of its usual intake of urban smog.
Formerly built by British army officer Colonel Stanly Jack Foster, The Lakehouse, Cameron Highlands began operations as a hotel in 1970. The HPL group took ownership of the property in 1989 and has since lovingly restored the hotel, preserving a way of life and custom of gracious service that one might imagine typical exclusively of a bygone era. Housing only 19 rooms, guests are treated with such care, as if they are being hosted in someone’s home. By the end of my stay, I know the names of just about everyone on the team and feel as though I’ve become part of the extended family.
Antiques furnish and adorn the rooms and common areas so much so that history buffs could gladly pass numerous hours admiring the various furnishings, artworks and period pieces. From the rotary-dial telephones to the Singer sewing machines and old oil lanterns, there are many an object here that you’d have to be over a certain age to even comprehend their former use.
The Foster Suite
The concept bridges seamlessly into the rooms, which vary from the entry level standard to junior suites and the ultimate Foster Suite – ideal for celebrating an anniversary or special occasion. The Foster Suite is fabulously romantic lodgings. An open fireplace is the star attraction but the finer details make it truly special. Separated into an entry hallway, enormous bathroom, bedroom and living room, the half-timbering style of Tudor architecture feels like a step backwards in time, but contemporary technologies (espresso machine, giant TV, mini-bar, Wi-Fi and so on) provide comforts of the 21st century.
The four-poster bed is of high quality, supportive and dressed in luxurious linens. With blackout curtains and the cool temperatures, I have one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long while.
The bathroom is equally sumptuous. A separate walk-in wardrobe stores the electronic safe and luggage, dual sinks provide convenience, a rain-shower and a magnificent circular bathtub that begs to be filled with hot water and bubbles, are near the size of my entire living room of my KL apartment. Natural handmade soaps add to the opulence and I appreciate the reusable dispensers for shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer significantly reducing the amount of plastic waste.
Meals at The Lakehouse, Cameron Highlands
Breakfast is a compact menu of western and local classics supported by a small buffet.
Dishes made a la carte include eggs done any style, nasi lemak and French toast. They’re backed up by a spread of fruit, toast and pastries, cereal, dim sum and rice. Tea, coffee and freshly squeezed juice make up the beverage list. I’m delighted to have the option of plump ripe strawberries picked this very morning and could easily make a meal of them alone. Common sense prevails, however, and poached eggs with a vibrant mix of wonderfully crunchy seasonal veggies become my main.
A full lunch and dinner menu are also served and again feature a mix of local and western recipes. With the availability of some of Malaysia’s best produce right on the kitchen’s doorstep, I’m in healthy food heaven requesting plates of lightly-cooked veg with every meal. Chef Edmund Ling has a reputedly good western menu, with lamb and salmon some of his specialities, yet he happily indulges my requests for more and more plants. I am sure to not to miss out on his talents, however, and you can find photos and notes on The Restaurant at The Lakehouse, Cameron Highlands here.
Things To Do At The Lakehouse, Cameron Highlands
Of course, tea plantations, local markets, nature trekking and a handful of tourist attractions such as the bee farm and butterfly park keep tourists occupied in Cameron Highlands; and the hotel offers a shuttle twice daily to the town. I’ve seen these all before though, and I work damn hard during the week, so the things I am most grateful for are no schedule and some time outdoors in the invigorating air.
The Lakehouse façade rolls out to a lawn dotted with sun recliners and park benches overlooking the lake framed by the branches of decades-old pines. It’s an agreeable scene for writing or reading a book, and I too observe a family using the grassy area for a game of catch.
Just around the corner, The Lakehouse has a floral trimmed patio and this is a favourite location for an afternoon tea of warm scones and house-made strawberry jam. The kitchen team also prepare picnic baskets meant for a day out, but I’ve been told that some families order the hamper and enjoy it right there on the patio. With water and hilltop views, it’s a hard scene to beat.
Acres of virgin forest back The Lakehouse and a two-kilometre trail has been marked for guests to trek. Weather permitting, guided walks with the resident landscape artist, who has been part of the hotel since its inception, are offered daily.
For a few days’ respite from harried city life, The Lakehouse, Cameron Highlands has been a terrific getaway. Check out their website for their latest promotions and room rates.
Reasons to visit: superb guest experience; charming boutique hotel with all of the finer details given attention; excellent choice for a relaxing stay in beautiful temperatures surrounded by greenery.