Monday, December 15, 2008

Fraser's Hill

misty

Or Bukit Fraser, as it is now known.

A note to those driving up from Singapore, (as we did). If anyone tells you the journey will take 4.5 hours, or even 5.5 hours, don't believe them. We took 8.5 hours to reach the foot of Fraser's Hill. Admittedly, we did get lost a bit in Kuala Lumpur, and get caught in inner-city traffic, but I don't see how anyone can make the trip in 4.5 hours short of running the North-South highway (and its gauntlet of highway police) at insane speeds. We made better time on the return leg by ignoring the GPS, and following the advice of the hotel owner and taking a longer but faster route. This turned out to be the same route that Google Maps and Google Earth recommended, so if anything, I'd say the lesson from this is to trust the following in sequence for route advice: the experience and brains of people; the computing power of a Google application rooted in some massive server somewhere; and last of all, the rather small chip in your handheld GPS unit.

At the foot of Fraser's Hill

When we reached the foot of Fraser's Hill, we had to wait an hour as the final stretch of road is so narrow that the direction traffic alternates up and downhill on odd and even hours respectively. We got there at 6.05pm, so we had to wait till 7pm before driving up. Apparently, after 8pm and till 7am, the gates are left open and traffic is two-way - but take it from me, DON'T try it. I can't imagine driving that narrow road with its switchbacks at night, let alone two-way traffic on a road that in parts is really only one lane wide.

instruments 2

Speaking of GPS units, counting the 2 mobile phones I was carrying, there were a total of 4 GPS units in the car with us. If you'd told me 5 years ago that I'd be carrying 4 GPSes on me for one holiday, I would've laughed ... Anyway, for those so inclined, this second photograph tells you all you need to know about where and when the first photograph was taken (the watch is showing the altitude, for completeness' sake). You can go to Google Maps/Earth and figure it out.

Ye Olde Smokehouse

Home for the weekend was Ye Olde Smokehouse, one of the oldest hotels on Fraser's Hill, and a place for which it is almost impossible not to use the words "quaint" and "English" in describing. I dare you to stay there one night and not use these words. Go on. I mean, look at this:

The Smokehouse, Garden gate

Devonshire cream teas served every afternoon in an English garden, ivy-covered brick walls, vaguely Tudor-ish black and white buildings, four-poster beds, and more fireplaces that you could chuck a log at. And it was cold enough (at 1250m altitude) that you could very well chuck a log into the fireplace.

The garden, Smokehouse

New Haven Suite

lamppost

Did I mention the cream teas? They were so good we went back for seconds, and spent a lovely afternoon reading in the garden. Not shown in the photographs, of course, is the rain that forced us indoors after a while, but even that was quintessentially (and quaintly) English.

afternoon tea

tea in the garden

What's there to do on Fraser's Hill, besides afternoon teas in the Garden? Well, I completed reading Book 2 of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, and if you know how long the Baroque Cycle is, that tells you a lot. I did manage to take some interesting photographs of the many dew-laden spider webs you can find at dawn, when the hill is invariably shrouded in mist (or poking it's head into the underbelly of a cloud, depending on which way you look at it).

spider web net

dewy spider web

After having gone to the trouble of digging out my old Sony Cybershot and charging in in expectation of some lovely infra-red photography, I discovered, 450km too late, that I'd left the Hoya R72 infra-red filter at home. While not quite a complete disaster, it meant that all of my IR shots were hybrid IR/visible light shots (take a look at the larger photo of the garden, and compare it with the smaller photo below in visible light to see what I mean). Instead of the glowing white leaves that pure IR would produce, I got a faded green tinge, which resembles old hand-coloured photographs. Not too bad, but I allowed myself a facepalm moment for forgetting the pack the filter.

That's about all I can say about the trip for now.