This new route to Cameron Highlands starts at the town of Simpang Pulai, which is pretty much a suburb to the south of Ipoh city. For visitors driving along the North South Expressway (NSE or PLUS Highway), take the Simpang Pulai toll exit and proceed to the main town area. There should be ample signs that point to the entrance of the route to Cameron Highlands.
Simpang Pulai is located some 20 minutes from downtown Ipoh. For visitors coming from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bharu or Singapore, they are better off using the older Tapah-Ringlet route. The distance from Tapah to Simpang Pulai is about 30 kilometres, hence drivers can weigh on whether to use this wider and straighter route by adding the extra mileage, or use the old Tapah-Ringlet-Tanah Rata route which is narrower and winding.
This new route will bring you from Simpang Pulai (state of Perak) to Kampung Raja (state of Pahang) and down south to Blue Valley, Tringkap and finally Brinchang. Journey to Kg Raja will take about 30-40 minutes.
It had taken some time for this second link to Malaysia's most popular highland destination to be constructed and opened for public use. In fact, even in the earlier days of its opening some years ago, there were occasional landslides at parts of the highway which resulted in temporary closure. Driving along the route, you will indeed notice steep terrains being cut out and enforced by retaining grass or concrete walls. Surely, it wasn't easy to construct this road that cuts across some of tallest peaks in the Titiwangsa Range. The grand masterplan was to link Simpang Pulai in Perak to Gua Musang in Kelantan and eventually to Kuala Brang in Terengganu as an alternative link that connects the West Coast of Peninsula Malaysia to the East Coast.
Overall, the driving along this route is very comfortable and pleasant. The two-lane road is wide enough even for tourist buses or big lorries. The stretch is mostly straight, although there are some sharp bends which drivers can easily anticipate and act swiftly, unlike the older route from Tapah to Ringlet which has more sharp switchbacks and narrower surface.
Honestly, there wasn't much that I could see when driving along this route. Common tourist traps like strawberry and vegetable farms thus far made it just outside Kg Raja. The rest of the road stretch is not inhabited, mostly. The views can be considered fantastic at certain stretches of the road. In fact, I made a quick stop at this one scenic overlook which provided me a decent vista of the massive Banjaran Titiwangsa. This mountain range proudly boasts a number of peaks that rise up more than 2,000-metre above the sea level. In fact, among avid mountaineers, there is a known term called G7 which denotes mountains that scale up more than 7,000-ft in height. It is some sort of a pilgrimage agenda for avid climbers to scale these G7s of Peninsula Malaysia solely for bragging rights. Some of the mountains are Gunung Korbu (2,183-metre), Gunung Yong Belar (2,181-metre), Gunung Gayong (2,173-metre), Gunung Chamah (2,171-metre), Gunung Yong Yap (2,168-metre) and Gunung Ulu Sepat (2,158-metre). Note that only one of the G7 mountains is not in the Titiwangsa Range, namely the fabled Gunung Tahan (2,190-metre).
Otherwise, it was a rather uneventful drive from Kg Raja down to Simpang Pulai. As you hit the lowland areas, you will start to see spectacular limestone hills which the city of Ipoh is famous for.
Rather uneventful but it is a pleasant and quick drive to Cameron Highlands and back.