As the bus wound it's away around the mountains into the Cameron Highlands I was presented with two contrasting views. The first of undulating hills of infinite rows of tea. They stretch off into the distance filling whole valleys with their dark green leaves. Cameras are pulled out and people snap away. The hostel I stay in has a three metre painting of a tea plantation behind the counter.
The second view is that of strawberry hot houses. White sheets of plastic covering skeletal frames. They fill countless hill sides and soak up the suns rays allowing the fruit to ripen all year around. Strawberries are a huge industry in the Cameron Highlands, just as tea is.
As I hiked around the area I couldn't help but think that the burgeoning strawberry industry has desecrated these beautiful valleys. On the trip to see the rafflesia flower the guide had said that the forest we were in was not protected and within twenty years it could be gone. Filled with white sheds.
I realised that the majority of the beautiful valleys were destroyed when the British planted tea here. I was shocked at the loss of virgin forest for strawberry hot houses but am completely ok with the loss of virgin forest for tea plantations.
I concede that tea plantations are inherently more beautiful than white plastic pavilions. Tea is at least something that grows in nature while plastic is refined. But I should not value the tea industry over the strawberry one purely because its superficially aesthetic. I know nothing of the true impact of either industry has on the local environment and the local economy.