TOPIC ASIA MAGAZINE

Genting Escape

When I lived in Malaysia I visited the Genting Highlands twice, and they were two very different experiences. The first time I stayed for a few days in a quiet guesthouse located in the middle of the 100 million year old forest. I went for long hikes, ate entire home-cooked chickens and breathed deeply of the mountain air. It was an outdoor, invigorating experience.

My second visit consisted of a day at the Genting Highlands Resort and didn’t have quite the same healthy appeal. However it was a huge amount of fun. We took the Genting Skyway up the mountain, and this was an amazing experience as it is the world’s fastest, and south-east Asia’s longest cable car system. It was only the beginning of the adventure.

Once you arrive you realise that everything is possible. Where to go first? We went to the Attraction Park as my partner is a devotee of death-defying rides. After going on the Pirate Ship, Space Shot and Spinner I was ready for a break. There is a dizzying amount of restaurants to choose from but we ended up snacking from the food court because we didn’t want to waste time sitting down when we could be seeing more of this enormous space. The Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum is a strange world of abnormal happenings which amazes and terrifies in equal measure and leaves you looking for something normal at the end of it.

Unfortunately, the Genting Highlands Resort doesn’t do normal, not the way it has been developed. For example, in 2006 Guinness World Records listed the First World Hotel as the world’s largest hotel with a total of 6,118 rooms. Although we didn’t actually stay at the hotel, the size is staggering and as everybody who stays there is only there to do the same things as everybody else, it does lead to a very crowded atmosphere. The shops were full, the restaurants overflowing and the Attraction Park had queues for every ride. But like Disneyland, it has a crazy, happy appeal and I didn’t see anybody complaining.

Although not a gambler I did want to see the casino. This is one of the major advantages of the resort, as it is the only legal, land-based casino in the country. The Muslim population obviously is not allowed to gamble there, but for the Chinese constituents it is absolute heaven. Every weekend carloads of Chinese descend upon the resort and millions of Ringgit exchange hands every hour. Business-wise it has an incredibly enviable monopoly. Baccarat, Blackjack, Keno, French Bull, Roulette, Tai Sai and slot machines; it has it all.

Although there were no big events happening when we were there, the Arena of Stars, which is a musical amphitheatre can hold up to 6,000 people and has hosted the MTV Asia Awards, and regularly boasts an international line-up of stars. The similarities to Las Vegas are endless, but it is strange to find all of this in a Muslim country.

For those who like to fit in a little golf between gambling sessions the Awana Golf and Country Resort offers a challenging 18-hole, par-71 golf course, and can be enjoyed in the cool and fresh air that the region is famous for.

For me, one visit was certainly enough, but if you live in Malaysia, it is almost a crime not to experience the mountain-top craziness at least once, even just to say you don’t like it. For some of the population of Malaysia however the Genting Highlands Resort is a weekend retreat which lures them back every Friday night and provides an enticing escape from the drudgery of work and daily routine.