By Shivya Nath
THERE are some places that you keep going back to, because you can’t get enough of them. After three visits over three years, the highlands of Genting are one such place for me! Where else, about a six hour bus ride from Singapore or a few hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, can you find one of Southeast Asia’s best theme parks, gorgeous mountain landscapes almost always adorned in mist, and a countryside filled with greenery and colors?
The journey from Singapore to Genting is beautiful. The skyline of Kuala Lumpur has a homely feel; nature and modern buildings coexist in harmony. The Petronas Towers look fascinating even from the bus window on a far away highway. From Kuala Lumpur to Genting is an up-hill ride, on which the landscape gradually and magically transforms into the hills; greener, denser, cooler, mistier.
Genting is almost at cloud-level. Our hotel, First World, was an interesting sight, painted in vibrant colors – green, red, blue and yellow, as though out of a child’s story book. For most part of the day, it was half covered in mist, just like other relatively higher rising hotels dotting the periphery of the theme park. From time to time, the theme park took on a misty aura too; the clouds gracefully and without warning, descending upon it to add to the thrill of the rides.
The outdoor rides were exciting, many chilling to the bone, and some not for the faint hearted! I screamed my guts out on the cork screw ride, by far the scariest, most exhilarating roller coaster I’ve been on. The space shot was quite an experience too. It threatens gravity. They take you 20 floors high, then drop you, without so much as a sign. One second you are up in the clouds, the next you are raised in your seats, bawling, screaming, praying, laughing. It’s almost like a seventh sense, the thrill of such adventure, the adrenalin rush, and the high it gives you.
The theme park is akin to a mini carnival. Every one is in holiday mood, adults and kids alike, now snacking on corn and other such street food, now riding the tempting rides, now waving out and clicking photographs. For the little ones, there is an even more exciting theme park inside the First World Hotel. It has the canals and gondola rides of Venice, mini indoor roller coasters, plenty of food options, and a Starbucks to while time away with people-watching and a good cup of coffee.
Outside the theme parks, down the road from The Genting Highland Hotel, we found a perfect spot with the perfect view, adorned with tiny waterfalls, surrounded by lush green hills, partially covered in mist. As we walked along, the path blended into the clouds, which gradually rose and moved fast over our heads. We felt like we were right out of a romantic movie, or that the heavens had come down to greet us, or that we had entered a postcard. The beauty was moving. The serenity was calming. It felt like one of those places where you can imagine living forever, one of those moments that live and grow within you. It felt like one of those times when you stop questioning everything around you, and you just want to live in the moment.
Just as we walked among the clouds, the silence of the surrounding hills was broken by the whistling sound of a mini train, ferrying people downhill for a ride. We tried to hail it, but the driver smiled and told us we must get a ticket from the hotel or the theme park. We waved to the passengers, and slowly walked behind them, soaking in the silence of the highlands again. Wild shrubs and small trees lined the path, the clouds played hide and seek with us, and the photographer in us awoke to capture nature at its best.
That night, we wandered into the only bar / pub at First World Hotel, a cosy place with old English music and smiling staff. We chatted late into the night completely taken over by the holiday spirit. Unexpectedly, we found some of the best North Indian food and vegetarian kebabs at a restaurant at one end of the hotel, with a corner of Arabic-style floor seating and mint-flavoured shishas. It is a pleasant feeling, to be far from home, in a country where no one speaks your language, and find familiar food that also tastes delicious!
Wrapping up the night with a stroll inside the hotel, we spotted things that were easy to miss in the daylight, with the indoor coasters and the gondolas stealing all the attention. These things ranged from tattoo parlours, to shops selling shining ornaments, to ‘I love Genting’ souvenirs. I was more than happy to buy the latter; I do love Genting after all!
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website
Shivya Nath (India)
Shivya is a travel blogger with a penchant for offbeat destinations that few have been to and fewer have written about. She blogs at The Shooting Star and tweets @shivya.