When one thinks of Malaysia, good scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam are probably the last things that come to mind. But about 31/2 hours north of Kuala Lumpur, the niceties of an English high tea are just as much of a staple as a piping-hot satay. The Cameron Highlands, or the Camerons as locals refer to them, are dotted with tea plantations, strawberry fields, vegetable farms, villages and as implausible as it sounds English-style mock-Tudor hotels standing incongruously amid the jungle.
One of these is the Smokehouse, www.thesmokehouse.com.my/ch.htm, built in 1939 and a surreal dream of English suburbia, with its impeccable lawns and heavy wooden beams. Originally created as a getaway for safari-suited colonials stationed in what was then called Malaya, the Smokehouse remains steeped in another era, in good ways (antiques, cozy nooks and crannies, double scotches by the fireplace) and bad (shabby rooms, peeling paint, awful food). The hotel website even refers, rather sniffily, to "electronic mail." There's something very old-school British about all of this, of course. Lovers of luxury may be disappointed, but children of empire will have a ball.
Just across the road from the Smokehouse is the plusher Cameron Highlands Resort, www.cameronhighlandsresort.com. Bedecked in Jim Thompson textiles (in memoriam the former CIA agent turned silk mogul, who disappeared while on a walk in the Camerons in 1967), the 56 rooms and suites offer lush views of the Cameron Highlands Golf Course and the hills beyond. The Highland Bar is the venue for sundowners and single malts, and the Jim Thompson Tea Room the place for high tea. If you don't feel like ingesting it, head for the Spa Village and have it applied externally in the form of tea baths and strawberry body polishes.