In short, if we take the Tapah to Cameron Highlands, all my kids will vomit.
If we take the Simpang Pulai to Cameron Highlands, then probably none or at most, one will vomit. So, that’s basically the difference.
Blues skies, big mountains
If you are from the northern part, like Penang or Perak, then there is no reason to use the Tapah road.
If you are from KL and curious to try out the new road, then, it is worth making the extra 40 KM from Tapah to Simpang Pulai.
A road sign along Simpang Pulai. Hope you can use your mathematical mind to guess the distances.
But remember that when you drive from Simpang Pulai to Cameron Highlands you reach the top of the hill, going down. You will reach Kampong Raja, Kea Farm (where Hotel Equatorial is), Brinchang and down to Tanah Rata.
Sights like these make it worthwhile to drive.
The good part about Simpang Pulai is the road is less winding but still enough to make those prone to motion sickness, feel woozy. The sight is beautiful but the looming hill with its open red earth can appears like they are going to crumble anytime. We had used that road even before they were gazetted (officially open) and boy, we did feel freakish, expecting to be buried in an avalanche of laterite. Which is why I always get my kids and I to say out loud a prayer for a safe journey.
As for the Tapah road, they had widen it and it is not that hard to travel anymore. Moreover, the little stalls by the orang asli are nice sights. They sell everything from roots to trees to honey to fruits and vegetables.
There are all sorts of stalls around Lata Iskandar selling Tongkat Ali (some roots purported to enhance male viriliity to antiques and handicraft)
On our last trip, we took the Simpang Pulai to Cameron Highland road and going down, use the Cameron Highland to Tapah road because we were heading to KL. The good part about Tapah road is the waterfall. It is worth a trip, if you do not feel woozy, to see the marvellous Lata Iskandar. I.e. if you can ignore the crowds.
So, if you ask me, I will use the Simpang Pulai road at least once. Even if it means driving an extra 40KM from Tapah to Simpang Pulai to go up to Cameron Highlands. There is nothing like the excitement of finding that the air is getting fresher and colder and you can switch off the aircond, wind down the window and enjoy the ride up.