Wednesday, 28 April 2010

booking the bus to the Cameron Highlands

am blogging the planning and booking stages so that it will help others - hopefully!!

Our original plan was to fly to Bangkok and train it up to the River Kwai, but due to the unrest in Bangkok and deepening fears of further civil conflict, we decided to save that particular excursion for another time. Instead we heading north to the Cameron Highlands!

We are leaving Singapore on Friday May 7 and returning Wednesday May 12, not a long time there ... but enough to experience the area and some COOL WEATHER too.

As we do not have a vehicle a bus is the next best option. Or is it?

Planning holidays in Australia was easier, firstly there are travel agents ... shops of them, not just a small stand in a shopping mall. They have full glossy brochures, not just photocopied info sheets that are difficult to decipher!

Am not complaining ..... just saying that it is very different. Yes, we do have internet coverage and yes I do all my bookings on-line here .... but as old fashioned as it may seem, I also like to 'browse' in a travel agency!

But even 'on-line' it is not that easy. It takes a lot of homework to understand what you are wanting and to get what you want, be it flights, bus, train or hotel bookings. The right days the right times - and no they do not all coincide! 

The bus idea is a classic example.

I do know there is a bus to the Cameron Highlands.... in fact more than one. But most people suggest the Konsortium Line. I ventured onto TripAdvisor - which I always do - as I get valuable advice from the members there. I check hotels and the comments, I also check the forums for extra advice.

 I never go anywhere without first checking TripAdvisor. 

But to deal with Konsortium direct is a joke...... I emailed them twice with queries but after 48 hours no reply. I phoned them to ask questions and that was even worse. Either they do not understand me and my accent or they are just plain lacking in common sense - I. do. not. know.

I asked where there are pick up points and was told only one..... only ONE?  Yet on the website there are THREE pick up points. OK gave up on that one. Back to booking .....

They asked what date I was traveling, I replied with May 7, they tell me this is not possible as it is "all fully booked".  I ask again and add that the website suggests that there are 17 seats available. They repeat "all fully booked" ... so I say can we please recheck the date we both have, assuming they have miss understood me and are looking at a different date ....

they hang up on me!!

I think their problem is that they don't want to HEAR the customer, certainly they only 'hear' what they want to or assume that is what I am saying.  WRONG!
so much for S E R V I C E ..... unfortunately, sadly lacking in many area's of business. I do think Konsortium needs plenty of In House Training on courtesy and service though.

In the end gave up on dealing with them direct ..... it just did not work.
Decided to go thru ESI-BOOK an online express bus ticketing website for bus travel in Malaysia & Singapore. Easy done..... tho the bus will be Konsortium.It was simple IF you follow the steps carefully.

I should mention here that there are other options, you can travel by bus or train to KL and stay over night in KL and travel the next morning to the Cameron Highlands ... there are always other options. We have chosen to travel by bus direct from Singapore and hope it will be fairly comfortable. If not you will certainly hear about it here!!!!

Safety and comfort are our priorities and I will be blogging about the complete experience, so stay tuned. This bus trip is expected to take 8.5 hours.

OK. OK. Torture ... I know ..... but lets do the trip first before we make further comments.

This is where we are heading to, the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, and you can see the travel route in the second image ... Singapore being way down the bottom of the image and the A being the Cameron Highlands.

Once you log on to the ESI BOOK site you need to locate the dates you wish to travel:

the bus choice is then displayed ... we have only one choice for the outward bound journey and two choices for the return journey and YES .. there are 17 seats available !!
choose the seats you want ......


 We are - of course - hoping for the Snoozer Bus with the reclining seats. But they cannot tell us till day of departure what bus we will be on!!!

Now for payment and this is where you need to be careful ... I decided to pay by NETS, filled in all the details - don't forget, here in Singapore they need to know EVERYTHING - so yes you need your passport number, your IC number, your full name, your nationality, your contact numbers etc. and I clicked in NETS payment, filled in the secret numbers and passwords and then into the next screen....

oh yes .... I need the little pin device that JF carries on his key ring and where is it?

yes with him at work.

So I hit the back button to pay by VISA.

Whoops .... am shut down completely ...... no second chance baby. Don't know that extra secret little number? 

Too bad sunshine.....

back to square one.

YES start all over again.

YES  ... to rechecking the travel dates, the seat allocation, re entering all the IC numbers, the passport numbers, the full name etc etc ... 

at this point it has already taken me just over an hour.

and yes this is why I am documenting it - FOR YOU - so you will not have to go thru the nightmare I have just been thru. Hopefully by reading this you have been pre-warned and will be able to do your own bookings without any drama's, you don't need extra drama's here, especially when you are trying to book a few days of peaceful relaxation!!

Give me BATAM any day.... oh yes.

anyway ... am booking Cameron Highlands, so lets not digress and get back on track:

If you are booking and using NETS, make sure you have ALL the req'd details  before you start. You have SEVEN minutes to complete the booking at this point. That means no time to go running around looking for your bag / wallet / credit cards etc.
I ended up paying by Visa ... only because I did not have the extra pin number here at home. 

Now my booking is complete:

yes ... it is $220.00 SGD from Singapore to the Cameron Highlands and return not cheap eh?

But once there we are staying at the Old Smokehouse Hotel as seen in this image that belongs to our friends Lesley and Darrell who stayed there recently:
we know we are going to have a  lovely time - once we get on the road next week.

Stay tuned for the bus trip, the hotel, the foods, the walks and everything in between.

as an addition:
late this afternoon I have rec'd an email apologising for the lack of understanding, the lack of service etc ..... the staff member admits he did not understand that I was trying to ask a question and assumed I was wanting a booking for May 27. He is being counseled on customer service and to be more alert and attentive to customers needs.

the apology is appreciated.

To read about the bus trip on May 7 to the Highlands, click HERE.

(update) To read about the bus trip on December 23 to The Highlands, click HERE

JAN 2011 update

a few links that maybe of interest to you:


georgiesharpreflections said...

Looks amazing... we have paid for our holiday in July... Kuala Lumpur, Paris to Prague, Ireland... I am looking forward to it.

fiefie said...

Hi, I am planning a trip to Cameron soon and your photos of Ye Olde Smokehouse hotel are great!!! Planning to do the same as you (book Konsortium + Smokehouse hotel), but I am just wondering, as the bus return trip is only from either Equatorial Hotel or Brinchang, how did you get from Smokehouse to the pick-up point? And when you arrived there, did the coach take you directly to Smokehouse? Thanks alot!!!

Leone Fabre said...

FieFie ...... cannot reply to you as your profile is not listed publicly.

Email me direct at:

leonefabre AT gmail DOT com

sunny_em said...

Thank you for the detailed information, it helped a lot to plan my trip!

Wilz said...


I read your comments with lotsa sympathy. Booking of buses at the agency is way faster and you can ask tons of questions that way. I guess we asians deal better face to face.

Besides that I agree the online and phone method is horrible. I stayed in Australia for a couple of years, I also met good and bat hats too.

Am going to Cameron too in 2 months time but am driving with my photography group so thanks for the input!

Wilz said...

Hi Leone,

Just want to let you know, I will be posting your blog link for my photography group members to read for the trip.

They can be accessed at

SPIN - Singapore Photography Interest Network.

Happy days ahead!


Jack Witson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.