Review: Kea Farm Homestay @ Brinchang, Cameron Highlands

N was in town recently, and the fam and I thought it’d be perfect to show him some of our local sights – so we booked a short weekend getaway to Cameron Highlands. It has been five years since my last trip, and boy oh boy has the place changed. Even back then, it was losing its charm because of the huge influx of tourists – but now it’s just super commercialised, the hills have been stripped bare to make way for development (they’ve even got a shopping mall now. Good news for locals, I guess?) and it’s BLOODY HOT IN THE DAYTIME. We talk about going up to CH for some ‘fresh air and greenery’ but it’s no different from being in KL these days. Sigh.

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It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to CH at all – you just have to plan your trip carefully. I suggest going on a weekday to avoid the insane crowds, and you’ll have a lot more time to explore the attractions comfortably. As for accommodation, there are plenty at Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang, CH’s three main towns. Staples would be Copthorne, Avilion, and if you’ve got money to splurge, one of those fancy English-style cottages – but this time around, we went for an Air BnB; and a pretty unique one at that. It doesn’t even have a proper name other than ‘A Rustic Wooden House on Hillside’ – which is exactly what it is.

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To get to the place, drive through the Kea Farm market and make your way through hilly roads until you reach a cluster of homes at the top of the hill. The rundown-looking wooden house (complete with slanting roof, lol) is situated right at the end of the road, close to the edge of the slope. Don’t be fooled by appearances – despite its deceptively small-looking exterior, the inside is extremely spacious, able to accommodate up to 10 guests at a time.

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We’ve seen pictures of the property from the website, but were still blown away by the interior (the owner, Tony, is an interior designer). Like most traditional village houses, the walls, beams and flooring are all wood, paired with modern touches such as block colour furniture and tasteful paintings. I think a lot of effort has been put into giving the place a ‘vintage’ element, from the display of old household items to the old flip-style light switches.

The living area is also extremely cosy, and the best part for me was the large selection of comics and books stuffed into shelves underneath the seats. Now all I need is a hammock and I won’t even need to go out exploring.

Oh wait, they have one of those too lol.

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The dining area at the front is equally cosy, with a long wooden table and benches to comfortably seat a large party. The glass roof provides plenty of natural light in the day, while at night, a warm glow emanates from the light bulbs, hung from the ceiling in glass jars.

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For those who wish to prep food, the place has a kitchenette with a fridge and microwave, as well as cooking and dining utensils.

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As for rooms, there are three – two on the ground floor and a ‘loft’ accessible via a ladder. The beds are equipped with mosquito netting. You’ll want to use these – I foolishly thought mozzies won’t be active in cold weather, and woke up in the middle of the night itching all over lmao.

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The back room.

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N and I immediately called dibs on the loft, coz it’s something I’ve only seen in Western films and I really wanted to experience sleeping in one. The two queen-sized mattresses up here are soft and comfortable, as are the pillows and comforters which kept us warm and snug throughout the night. There are more books up here if you want to do some bedtime reading.

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Millennials, fret not – the place has WiFi!

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As the sun sets, so does the temperature, plummeting to below 20 degrees. And what better way to warm up than with a hotpot?

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Time to unpack the ingredients we brought up from KL  – simple fare like fried fuchok, noodles, cheese balls and meat balls and pork belly. The veggies and corn we got fresh from the nearby market. Feel free to utilise the portable stove available here to make your hotpot! 🙂

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Evening view from the house.

One thing to note is that sounds carry easily here. Someone talking next door sounds like they’re talking right next to your ear, so you might want to keep it down after dark.

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Before checking out the next morning, we went for a morning walk around the vicinity – only to be greeted by a friendly, enthusiastic doggo. He sprinted up and placed his front paws on my chest, wagging his tail furiously. When I didn’t pet him (didn’t want to wash my hands again) he gave a most heart-wrenching whimper 😦 But then he perked up and decided to give us a ‘tour’ of the village, following us as we made our way around the houses.

The view is beautiful in the morning, especially on one side where you can see a quaint wooden house in the distance which was used as setting in a local film.

Pros

  • Clean, amazing interiors
  • Cosy and spacious
  • Beautiful views
  • Books everywhere
  • WIFI
  • Kitchen facilities

Cons

  • -Far from most attractions, difficult to get to unless you have your own car
  • -Lots of mozzies, make use of mosquito netting
  • -Very poor sound proofing

You can rent Tony’s Kea Farm Homestay for RM300 per night.

A Countryside Winery Experience @ Fowles Winery, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria

When you talk about visiting Australia, big cities like Melbourne are probably what come to mind. I spent my first day tucking into artisanal coffee at a hipster cafe-cum-roaster, stuffing my face on freshly baked breads, gelato and cheeses in the city’s Little Italy district, before ending the night on a high note with some fine dining. While there’s certainly plenty to see and do in the city, there’s a different kind of adventure when you set out beyond, into the surrounding region of Victoria. 

Known as the third largest producer of wines, Victoria boasts stunning vineyards and hills, with rustic countryside views and fresh produce served in homely farmsteads. So much so that the tourism authority has put together a food and wine trial itinerary, where visitors can literally eat and drink their way across the region from one rural town to another. Which is what I set off to do on my second day. 😀

Our first stop was to Fowles Winery in Avenel, located in the Strathbogie Ranges some 100km north of Melbourne. Our car rolled past hills and through segments of bush. The grass was yellow and the trees had that dry tinge as it was autumn time, but the  views were gorgeous all the same. Arriving at their cellar door cafe, we were greeted by a modern-looking circular structure sitting atop a hill. The interior was spacious yet cosy, with lots of sunlight filtering in from the glass windows.

Shop area selling wines.

Other products, such as sauces.

Was still groggy from the early morning wake up call, so had a coffee for starters…

Although a relatively young brand, the family owned Fowles Wine has been making waves in the winery scene, winning the great Australian Shiraz Challenge for Australia’s best shiraz, while their cellar door was awarded Hall of Fame status by the Victorian Tourism Awards. One of their best selling ranges is the quirkily named Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch, which are available in Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz varietals. The concept and blends were developed specifically around game, so it wasn’t surprising that they had a tasting platter that paired wines with game meat. Unusual, since I’ve only seen wines paired with items such as seafood or regular red meat.

PS: (Above) real photography and (below) my shitty photo… this is why businesses need to invest in a professional photographer xD

Initially we were only here to taste the wines but the friendly proprietor Matt insisted we go with the whole experience, so he had the kitchen whip up ‘the Gamekeeper’s platter’ for us. My favourite was the pale-coloured Riesling, which had a flowery aroma to it with hints of lime, citrus blossom and notes of rose petal that gave it a fine and complex flavour that lingered on in the mouth. To go with it, crispy grilled trout with horseradish and lemon cream. It was nice to try the wine before on its own, and then after with the trout to really bring out the flavour of the seafood and horseradish. The other game meats we tried included a pork and rabbit rillette, duck and venison.

Why hunting and game meat, you might ask? In an interview, Matt explained that meat in the wild has a different texture and flavour compared to commercial meat – which creates a completely different wine and dine experience. As a hunter, one is also confronted with the realities of meat-eating: you actually go out, hunt, track down and kill the game before it’s served to the table, so it creates a respect for the animal and less wastage.

Aside from food and wine tastings at the cellar door, interested visitors can join private guided tours to find out more about the wine making process as part of their Ultimate Winery Experiences programme. Those who sign up for the Stone Dwellers Experience will get to enjoy a scenic coach ride to the vineyards and winery, as well as tank and barrel room tastings before adjourning to take in the scenic views of the central Victorian plains while sipping on a glass of wine.

 

We were pressed for time so we couldn’t go on the tour, but it was certainly a great experience to kickstart our food and wine trial across the Victoria region. More to come!

FOWLES WINE 

1175 Lambing Gully Rd, Avenel VIC 3664, Australia

Open daily: 9am – 5pm

Phone: +61 3 5796 2150 

fowleswine.com

 

*Photos not watermarked are courtesy of Fowles Wine

*Views expressed are the writer’s own