During our company’s weekly virtual Friday lunch, my boss proposed that we take a weekend trip up to Cameron Highlands to break out of our two-year WFH routine and needless to say, we were on board.
Not only would I be able to vacation again, but I also saw this as an opportunity to take some scenic pictures and fully utilise the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. It gave a promising performance in my previous review of it, after all.
After spending about 30 minutes copying data over from the Z Flip 3 I was using, the Lavender S21 FE became my main phone for the trip.
Breakfast at The English Coffee House
The first place we visited was located in a town that felt as if we had travelled to the English countryside with big family homes. Okay, the architecture wasn’t exactly on point for those of us who’ve actually been to England, but it’s close enough and was still a different sight to take in.
The English Coffee House is hidden in an apartment complex called Smurf Inn, which brought me back in time to my childhood watching that cartoon of blue gnomes.
After a fairly light meal, my colleague and I used the toilet before heading down, but after we emerged, we discovered that we’d been separated from the group. We then got slightly lost in the Smurf Inn’s maze-like building with its many stairs.
Struggling to find the exit, we ended up taking an unexpected tour of the premise, as if we had unlocked a hidden path in an open-world game. (Which, by the way, is a genre that’s a pleasure to play on the S21 FE’s 6.4-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display.)
Luckily, we eventually emerged from the building and headed back to our waiting colleagues in the car.
Next stop: photos at a lavender farm
We drove further up to Brinchang for the Cameron Lavender Garden.
This was the location I was most looking forward to as A) I adore lavenders, and B) it would make for the perfect featured image for this article with the phone’s lavender back.
Tickets to enter the floral attraction cost RM15 per pax, and we were hit with the reality that not everyone had necessarily digitalised yet: the park only accepted cash (a recurring theme throughout the rest of Cameron).
Side note: We at Vulcan Post are used to a certain luxury of going cashless for most things. One of us has even walked away from making a purchase because there were no contactless payment options.
To make matters worse, ATMs were few and far in between, clustered in the city of Taman Rata, about a 30-minute drive down the windy road from where our Airbnb was.
So, we loaned whatever cash we had to each other, keeping track of every expense so that we could calculate our IOUs once we got home.
Entering the farm, you’ll find visitors taking pictures of each other and of flowers. We did the same, with the addition of photographing the S21 FE. What passersby thought of us, we don’t know, but you can’t deny these shots were pretty.
I was also tasked with taking at least one good photo of my boss that she could post on the ‘Gram. Equipped with composition skills I learnt on TikTok and the S21 FE’s 12MP wide, and ultra-wide cameras, I’d say I did a decent job.
There isn’t a dedicated macro setting but the S21 FE still did adequately in capturing tiny details, using only its normal setting with its 8MP telephoto camera and Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS).
I found little use for portrait or food modes, as the background blurs that come with them can look rather artificial.
With heavy use of the S21 FE’s camera throughout our rough 2 hours at the lavender farm, some message replying, and social media checking, its battery was still going strong at around 60% after a full charge that morning.
Might I add that the phone was also kept on its 120Hz refresh rate the whole time too (my Z Flip 3 could never)!
Tea time and sheep feeding
At the BOH Tea Centre, we took a short hike up to reach the café on the hill’s top to sip on some tea. We call it a hike as most of us are couch potatoes, so climbing the stairs was rather strenuous.
The food was alright and slightly pricey (it’s a tourist spot after all) and the tea drinks were good (how could they not be), but overall, it was worth it just for the experience.
Tourist tip: If you want someone to help take a photo of your group, you can always do the same in return, since most people would be wanting group/family pictures too. No tripod needed! Think of it as a barter exchange, with lots of sanitising.
We later returned to the Airbnb to freshen up and feed my colleague’s kitten that she’s still fostering, so I gave the S21 FE a quick charge before we were out on the road again.
The Sheep Sanctuary located at the Kea Farm market was our next stop. Scraping our wallets for cash (once again) to pay the RM8/pax entrance fee, each ticket came with a small box of food for us to feed the sheep.
The sheep were a little hard to photograph because they moved a lot and did not listen to instructions. Nonetheless, I got some workable shots thanks to the camera’s quick shutter speeds.
Shopping for souvenirs and dinner
After shopping for some souvenirs at Kea Farm market, we got a head start at the night market to pack some dinner so we could dine together at the Airbnb.
We’d had a full day of travelling by now so we were starving, which materialised as greed, and subsequently this led to us overbuying the savoury and greasy fried snacks at the market.
The morning after
Waking up early to make the most of our fleeting time in Cameron, we went down to Taman Rata where we were relieved to finally get our hands on some ATMs.
A few shops away was our breakfast spot, Yong Teng Café, run by an elderly deaf couple who were extremely welcoming and adorable. To better communicate with them, I looked up some simple sign language videos to say “please” and “thank you”.
Shortly after, some colleagues visited the Time Tunnel Museum while the rest of us finished up our souvenir shopping at its gift store which sold plenty of tea and strawberry products.
Again, we were prepared to pay for our items in cash, only to realise that they accepted MAE as a cashless option (finally!), albeit reluctantly.
A personal takeaway I had from the trip was finally understanding what tech entrepreneurs and companies meant when they say that small businesses (especially those run by older generations) are reluctant to digitalise.
It seems that in more rural areas like Cameron Highlands, this sentiment is even stronger, despite the large numbers of tourists. In the Klang Valley, we’ve already seen kopitiams and sundry shops begin offering at least one form of QR pay options.
We don’t stand a chance in advancing the country if only our major cities are picking up digitalisation efforts, since it opens up a larger digital divide if we leave other states behind.
With that thought in the back of my mind, we had packed up by afternoon to head back to KL, where we didn’t have to constantly wonder where the next ATM would be or if we had enough cash.
In all, this trip to Cameron Highlands was still a refreshing one. I saw how things changed (or didn’t), spent quality time with my colleagues, ate good food and fruits, and I’m glad the S21 FE was able to experience it all with me.
In terms of my overall experience with the S21 FE, I must say that I felt relieved using a well-performing, non-foldable phone with a gorilla glass screen again.
The battery on this phone was also reliable. It was able to last up to 7 hours of regular usage which was by no means light, especially with all the photography and searching for directions.
However, I can’t get behind using an optical fingerprint sensor as my default, it’s just too laggy compared to physical fingerprint scanners.
Though the S21 FE is a solid phone, it’s tough to recommend it as the phone to buy now, what with the S22 launch coming soon. For a price tag of RM3,099 for the 256GB model and RM2,899 for 128GB, you can anticipate better specs in the S22 line-up for around the same price range anyway.