Tanah Rata: A taste of Europe in Malaysia

In record numbers Australians are travelling overseas and exploring the best the world has to offer. It’s a growing appetite for cultural tourism that looks to continue given the rise of budget airlines and strong Australian dollar. After counting the number of family, friends, and friends of friends who have travelled over the past 12 months, it’s no secret we love a good deal, and at risk of becoming a rite of passage, must travel overseas and explore lands beyond our own island paradise.

What’s interesting from the data is that we’re choosing to visit our regional neighbours over longer, more expensive flights to Europe. But what if you had Europe on your doorstep and you didn’t even know it? I must admit it’s not something that you travel to Asia to experience, but it’s definitely a surprise when you find yourself being offered a scone and tea in the middle of Malaysia.

I recently returned from the Cameron Highlands where I found the design of Tanah Rata, the administrative capital of the region, looking more like Tudor England than Malay. The pitched roofs, timbering and white facades of the town, are now built into the local design code and encouraged as supporting the character of the area. But where did it all start? The answer lies in a local celebrity, ‘Ye Old Smokehouse Hotel’.

Built in 1937, the Hotel was designed to mimic an English Inn, and since its foundation, has been a local and international attraction. Not only is the exterior impressive, but inside it only gets more interesting with imported furniture, open fire places and English inspired menu.

The Hotel, while being too expensive for most locals, is a popular destination for professionals, businessmen and Europeans. In 2013, several additional hotels will open in the region, responding to demand from local and international tourists and Malaysia’s growing middle class. Over the next few years, it will be interesting to see how the new hotels position themselves given the popularity of the Smokehouse, and how the Smokehouse responds to an increase in competition. One thing is for sure, the architectural design of Tanah Rata will continue as an obvious sign post to the regions colonial past.

More information about Cameron Highlands here.

Ye Old Smokehouse Hotel Interior
Ye Old Smokehouse Hotel Interior
Ye Old Smokehouse Hotel Exterior
Ye Old Smokehouse Hotel Exterior
Tanah Rata High Street
Tanah Rata High Street
Tanah Rata Park Entrance
Tanah Rata Park Entrance