23 November 2009

On the Jim Thompson Trail - Cameron Highlands

photos : http://www.jimthompson.com/

Perhaps those of you who have travelled in the Far East will have come across the name Jim Thompson, the Thai Silk King. Jim Thompson single handedly revived the cottage industry of silk weaving in Thailand during the 1960's and was renowned throughout the region for his expansive nature and gracious hospitality. His house by the klong in Bangkok was always full of good food and good cheer and today his spirit lives on in silk emporiums, the Jim Thompson House and museum and restaurants throughout the far east.

But - did you know, that this man disappeared without trace one evening in March 1967 in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia?

Moonlight cottage http://ipohtalk.com/camerons/camerons.html

Thompson was visiting his Singaporean friends the Lings at Moonlight Cottage. Following a picnic on Mt Brinchang, he and his friends went back to enjoy a siesta and then he simply vanished. Stories about his mysterious disappearance abound - there are numerous theories as to why Thompson was never seen again, some plausible and others complex and far-fetched. For example, many believe that he was kidnapped for his previous involvement in spying activities. Others reckon it is more likely that he was eaten by a tiger, murdered in a botched robbery, or fell into an aboriginal animal trap (a pit with a spike) and buried by the the local people (Orang Asli) when they discovered what had happened. It has also been said that he may have eloped with a beautiful local girl! Many hypotheses have been put forward to explain Thompson's disappearance and there were some reported sightings of him after his disappearance, but what happened to him still remains one of the greater unsolved mysteries of Southeast Asia.

Map of the highlands

Well, a visit the Cameron Highlands is certainly not complete without a search for the legendary Jim! We recently spent a couple of days in this beautiful cool region which is 3 hours drive north of Kuala Lumpur. Whilst there we followed the Jim Thompson Trail which was not far from our hotel , the Cameron Highlands Resort. Our guide (one of the original search party back in the 1960's) provided us with an interesting short trek through the jungle, peppered with stories about the legendary Thompson and fascinating facts about the flora and fauna of the rain forest. Unfortunately, I don't have many good photos as the late afternoon light in the forest was dim and our guide set a cracking pace!! We saw a lot of trees, fungi, ferns, ginger plants, bamboo, rare orchids and animal tracks. We heard many birds and insects and babbling streams, but we didn't find Jim!

At ground level fascinating fungi. This one's a Stinkhorn fungus - see my blog post here.

Magic mushrooms!

statuesque ginger,

and small bright flowers.

Tree trunks and branches are festooned with wet moss,

orchid plants

and ferns

Cameron Highlands was named after William Cameron, a British Government surveyor who discovered it in 1885 whilst on a mapping expedition (on elephant back!) of the Titiwangsa range. However, he failed to mark his discovery and it was not until 1925 that Sir George Maxwell recorded Cameron's discovery and decided to develop it as a hill resort.

Mock tudor buildings abound in the Camerons!

The fame of Cameron Highlands grew during the colonial era. The British were attracted to this cool hill station; its climate tailor-made for nostalgic reconstructions of English cottages, narrow village lanes, invigorating hikes through the countryside, rounds of golf and afternoon tea and scones accompanied by jam made from locally grown strawberries.


Tea Plantation

British planters soon realised the potential of its fertile mountain slopes for growing tea, then a prized commodity. Cameron Highlands is still home to many tea plantations, as well as strawberry and vegetable farms, jungle trails, cascading waterfalls and rose gardens.

We visited the verdant Boh Tea plantation.

Tea pickers

Tea plant

The production process

Various grades of tea

Flowers in the plantation gardens

Our hotel room

Late night snack!!

Highly recommended holiday destination!


  1. OOh! Lucky you!! What wonderful photos of what looks like an amazing holiday. Caroline, thank you for swinging by..I very much appreciate and enjoy your visits. Glad to see all of the goodies you've received in the mail, too! What a treat the Art Exchange has been.

  2. Fascinating post Caroline and wonderful pictures. I love the tea plantation. It felt as if I was there ... well almost!

  3. Really enjoyed this post about the mysterious disappearing man. I do like a good mystery. I love all the photos too especially the tea ones and those strange reddy gold cups growing out of the tree. Your hotel room wasn't to be sniffed at either.

    Oh and wonderful prezzies you received through the post. The large one of the lady with the black hair is striking.

  4. What an interesting post. I had never heard of Jim Thompson. Those silks are gorgeous colors. Your hike was marvelous. So many different things to see.

  5. What an interesting post!! Who knew?? Not me. I had no idea there were British territories in Malaysia. I found this all so educational and entertaining. You are such a good writer. I adore tea and now I have an even greater appreciation for it. Thank you so much, and gosh, I hope they find Jim some day, but probably not.

  6. OOOOH MY! The places and stories we all get to hear through your travels...most fascinating...Your retreat looked divine...the strawberries yummy! (I hope ol' Jim fell madly in love and ran away with a local girl...)Thanks for this delightful post! :)

    P.S> Something from the desert is winging its way to you this very moment...;) Fingers and toes crossed she lands safely! :)

  7. Thanks for dropping by Caroline.
    I haven't been to Cameron Highlands before. So so inspiring...I will do that one day:)

    I have read your previous posts, I love the wax lesson a lot!
    Hi Hi teacher Caroline, I see you again with another lesson!

  8. what a fabulously interesting post, i am so glad you are enjoying this trip.and look at all those goodies you got. wow too.

  9. Super post, I really enjoyed it and the amazing pics. I just love Jim Thompson stuff!

  10. Ooooh, WOW! Thank you for taking us along with you on your adventures. How breathtaking! Incredible fungi specimens. And that tea hill. That is fabulous. I would have loved to go romping through those hills, running my fingers through those leaves, but I'm sure I would have been chased by angry workers with long sticks.

  11. Have really enjoyed reading about Jim Thompson and your picture record of the Cameron Trail - it looks beautiful.

  12. Beautiful photos and write up


Thank you for passing by. I love to read your comments!


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