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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Virgin Trip To The Genting Highlands: Day 1

All along, I've been thinking l must be the only person in my country (barring newly-born infants) who hasn't been to the Genting Highlands in my neighbouring country. All that will change today, since me & my Lioness will be making our way there; thanks to my second sister who gave us the free vouchers to Genting she got from Mary Chia.

This Genting trip is a first for me, which explains the choice of words used for the title of this blog post. Sorry for the anti-climax if you've been thinking this was something about locational pornography, whatever the heck that means.

Anyway, my Lioness has been to Genting during her teens, so she's the veteran while I'm the noob. After our breakfast, we reported to Five Stars Tours at 6:30am, after which we loaded ourselves up to the coach assigned to us.

The great thing regarding the 2-way transportation of this trip is that the travel agent's premise is like just 15 minutes walk away from our house and when they transport us back during the final day of the trip, they will drop us back at the same premise and we can just walk home from there.

Northwards into Malaysia
We are travelling light this time with just a haversack for our belongings and a 77th Street carrier for shopping stuff, since this is going to be just a 1 and a half day stay at Genting. The coach started heading towards Malaysia via the 2nd link and I've never travelled into Malaysia via the 2nd link before, I've always done so via the main Causeway.

It's been like 3 years or so since I last visited the neighbouring country and it's good to be going back.

Now that we have passed through the Malaysian customs, we continue with our journey which is supposed to take around 5 hours plus or so in total. Earlier, the coach driver played some Korean MVs for us to watch and he is now playing a Chinese comedy movie made in Malaysia. I'm alternating between watching it, staring at the scenery outside and getting some shut-eye.

From past experience going towards Malacca years ago, I know that our first rest point will be the town of Yong Peng situated further up north in the state of Johor. After experiencing Yong Peng, I used to comment to my Lioness and friends about how I would like to migrate there and spend the rest of my life there selling tidbits or food to weary travellers passing through there since I liked that peaceful little town.

Now? Given a choice, I very much prefer another place with cold autumn and winter seasons, preferably with falling snow. I fell madly in love with cold weather ever since Cupid shot me with true winter's arrow over at Hokkaido where I got baptized with her falling snow.

Yong Peng
We finally arrive at good ol' Yong Peng and Déjà Vu strikes me as I hop down the coach and set my eyes upon the place. Gosh, it seems that nothing has changed. Well, the trees here must have grown taller than they were before when I last came here around 7 years ago but for the most part, this place seems frozen in time.

Here's the Wikipedia page on Yong Peng. In the article, there's a picture of a part of Yong Peng town with rows of shop houses but from where we are now, I find it hard to imagine that there's a part of town here that doesn't seem this remote, since everywhere I look, the remote rest point here seems to be surrounded by wooded wilderness.

I suppose our current position must be the outermost fringe away from the hustle & bustle part of Yong Peng town. I'm liking the charm of the remoteness of it all, which was exactly how I felt during my first experience of the place years ago. The stores here may get periodically busy at times but there's still something relaxing and peaceful about it all here. Okay, it's time for a 30 minutes lunch break..

I feel bad saying this but my lunch earlier tasted quite horrible. Anyway, we just came back to the coach and are now continuing our journey towards the farther north. I'm trying to alternate between getting some shut-eye and periodically looking out the window to marvel at the vast terrain, which is a really nice change from the concrete jungle back home.

Billions of trees must exist in Malaysia and I like the more natural environment in-between the cities here. It's nice having the accessible option for an escapade away from the cities when you need a break to be with Mother Nature. In Malaysia, Nature can have miles and miles of real estate to herself and that's awesomely therapeutic for me as I lay my eyes on the unbroken sea of green.

Almost left behind
After more travelling time has passed, we are now in some rather remote-looking area with small pockets of buildings scattered here and there. I have no idea where we are but it seems we are at the outskirt area of a town or city, probably Kuala Lumpur.

The coach pulls over at this petrol kiosk where the driver allows us to go for a quick washroom break, so off I go to the gents while my Lioness chooses to continue resting in the coach. Comparatively, I drink gallons of water while she drinks trickles.

Now that I'm done with refreshening myself up at the washroom and coming back out outside, I begin to take a look-see at the surroundings and vast landscape around me while taking photos here and there. I'm sorta half taking my own sweet time when I suddenly begin to realize that the washroom queue is gone. Everyone else is done with their washroom break and gone back to the coach while I'm all alone by myself still out here. Damn.

Feeling like an abandoned lost kid left to fend for himself in unfamiliar territory, I trotted back towards the direction where the coach is parked and.. it's gone?! The coach is no longer where it was and I can feel a cold sensation crawling up my spine. Just then, my eyes catch sight of the coach moving slowly towards the petrol kiosk exit and it's almost reaching the main road. Moments like this one makes me appreciate free-&-easy tours that allow you to dictate your own timing. Time to break into a panick run.

Making arm gestures in the air to catch the attention of the coach driver and succeeding, he stops the slow rolling of the coach, opens the door and I sure as heck don't feel the least bit of need to restrain myself from flinging my entire body back into the coach like a speeding bullet. How embarrassing.

The driver returns my pissed glance with a sheepish grin and tells me he wasn't intending to leave without me since my Lioness has just reminded him about me only seconds ago. He says he just wanted to park the coach at the kiosk exit. Right. My own fault though, so I returned his sheepish grin with my own sheepish grin and head back to my seat.

If it wasn't for my Lioness and if it wasn't for the fact that she didn't fall asleep in the coach, then chances are, I think the driver would have left me behind without realizing it. I'm amusing myself at the thought of what I would have had to do if that was the case. Well, I would have to take a cab to the Genting Highlands myself and there would have been no other practical options.

Our journey resumes with a full head count while somebody in the coach gulps. That was close.

The coach starts winding its way up the Genting mountain and my heart leaps with joy now that I can see mountain mist enveloping everything outside through the coach windows, which means the temperature has plummeted. Reminds me of Silent Hill by day.

The coach stops at the Genting depot and off we go right smack into the cool atmosphere outside, every pore of my being sucking in the natural cool air hungrily. Good riddance, hot and humid weather. The only thing I don't like is the huge crowd around us though.

Just in case you've been wondering if we are here for the casino, I gotta let it be known at this point that no, me and my Lioness detest gambling as much as we detest seeing people we know getting their lives and families ruined because of gambling. We are here mainly to enjoy the cool mountain weather, followed by checking out the theme parks here as well as for yours truly to lose his Genting virginity by experiencing the place ♪for the very first time♪

We will be staying at The First World Hotel; which rumour has it is supposed to be haunted. I don't do mean to sound morbid and in all honesty, I find that to be rather exciting. We are going to find out for ourselves it that's actually true..

Oh wait, even if we don't bump into the boogeyman here, gambling dens are still spiritually dirty places to me, considering how some gamblers tend to harness spiritual aid and I can't say that such spiritual aids aren't of the 'dark' varieties if you get what I'm saying.

One would be naive to think that the same spiritual aid, as well as Feng Shui, are things which gambling dens don't utilize, especially the high profile ones - It doesn't matter whether you believe such things work or not, that's not the point here. The point here is that places like these in Asia do make use of such things, whether effective or not. You just need to pay attention to the architectural designs of gambling premises and you should spot a clue or more if you are discerning enough.

The hotel
Walking to our hotel from the depot is only a matter of minutes and my heart sinks as I lay my eyes on the crowd in the hotel lobby. Man, it's freaking crowded in here and this means a looong wait in line to get our stay here processed by the reception before we can go to our room. Can't help but groan as I take a queue number.

We both take a seat to wait it out and there is this elderly man slumped over a chair and sleeping right in front of me. I wonder why he is sleeping in the busy lobby as I begin to entertain the following possibilities:

  1. He's probably waiting in line too just like we are and dozed off. Wait, he has no luggage nor even a small bag with him, so that can't be it.

  2. He probably came here and gambled overnight, which could be why he got tired and burned out this time of the day and it's still afternoon. Since he didn't book a hotel room to sleep in, that could mean he lost money and has to crash at the lobby instead. He will probably go gamble again when he wakes up.

Possibility 2 above doesn't seem so far-fetched to me, considering the fact that most folks come here to gamble at the casino. How is he gonna go home if he loses all the money he has on him, walk down the mountain on foot?

For what it's worth, don't ever get yourself hooked on gambling, dear gentle reader. It's so much better being able to afford sleeping on a proper bed and you owe that to yourself.. and your loved ones.

But what the hey, I didn't come all these way up a mountain to ponder about life's self-inflicted miseries and I ain't here to judge anyone and according to our queue number in hand, we still have a long wait ahead of us..

Our hotel room
After enduring the excruciatingly long waiting time at the hotel lobby (alleviated some by small strolls in the area here and there), we finally managed to get ourselves into our hotel room on the 11th floor, thank goodness. The first thing I'll always do everytime I check into a hotel room is to go take a shower to clean and freshen up, which is S.O.P. for me.

A few wet minutes later..

Ahhh, all freshened up again. Stepping out of the bathroom, I see my Lioness resting on the bed. She looks up at me and forces a smile but something doesn't look right - her face has gotten pale and as I've just mentioned, her smile seems forced. When your loved one looks and smiles at you this way with the wrong pale colour, your internal alarm begins to ring.

Me: "怎么啦? 干嘛妳的脸这么苍白啊?"
She: "没.. 没什么, 没事.."

So she doesn't want to tell me what exactly happened while I was in the slower even after asking her a couple more times. Something tells me it probably has something to do with our hotel room. One of the windows at the back of the room was left ajar to let in some fresh air by me earlier before my shower but it's now closed with the curtains drawn.

I think I can roughly guess what she has just probably encountered and judging by how things are going, whatever that she has just seen, heard or felt wasn't within the room itself but outside. As such, I figure that's the reason why she doesn't see the need to change rooms when I suggested it and to me, as long as whatever that was outside stays outside, I won't insist it out of her to tell me exactly what just scared her.

On the next day, after we checked out, she finally told me what exactly happened. In order to keep things in their proper chronological order, I'll blog about it tomorrow, so stay tuned. 是灵异事件哦。

Back outside
We just took the lift back down to the ground floor and this is how the lift lobby looks like:

I'm just keeping a record here that we are staying at the newer Tower 2 and First World Hotel has a total of 2 towers. Now that we are both back among the crowd, I hope my Lioness is feeling better and braver from whatever it was that creeped her out when we were in our hotel room just now.

There is this cafeteria just in front of the lift lobby and we are trying the Nasi Lemak as well as some snacks there. The food is ok but I'd suggest that you come here only if you are looking for a quick bite, whereas when it comes to a proper full meal, you should head to the eateries or restaurants in the shopping mall instead.

Other than enjoying the cool weather, the indoor and outdoor theme parks, the shopping malls and taking a look at the few different hotels here, I'm really not sure where else and what else we should do to entertain ourselves here, considering we both don't gamble. I'm keeping an eye out for a blueprint of sorts that can give me an idea just how big or small the entire vicinity of the area this part of the Genting Highlands is and what it contains.

There's also the strawberry and mushroom farms somewhere further down the mountain nearby and my nephew has recommended this 煮炒 restaurant which we could go for some Chinese delicacies a little further down the mountain nearby too, accessible by some cute tram transport service.

Upon estimation in regards to timing and the fact that we will be leaving tomorrow, I don't think we will have enough time to visit these other places outside of our immediate vicinity. We'll see if we can squeeze out some time for at least one of them tomorrow morning but for now, let's go take a look at what's around us.

Ahh, just my kind of weather outside the hotel:

I mentioned I was looking for a blueprint of sorts that could give us an idea of the scale of the vicinity we are in as well as what's around us. Looks like we just found it and it seems like a couple of hours or so should probably be enough to stroll a complete full circle round the entire area.

Certainly wasn't complaining there though, don't get me wrong. We wouldn't have enough time to check out the entire area if it was any bigger anyway. In case you've been wondering, we didn't arrange to stay here longer than one and a half days. Well, we actually did plan to do so initially, it's just that the tour agency told us if we wanted to use the Mary Chia vouchers for this trip, then we are not allowed to make extensions to our stay. Heh.

Since the agency has a one-track mind, we could have worked around this limitation by booking another room after checking out tomorrow on our own expense and booking another coach to bring us back to home turf once we are done here. But I figured that since we didn't plan to come here to gamble at the casino, we should be able to make use of the time we have to check out the majority, if not all, of the prominent places in the Genting Highlands; the area we are in now is actually the main central area of attraction anyway.

To give you an idea of how thick the mountain mist here is now, check out the following shot of our hotel engulfed in the mist which I just took from here outdoors:

And that's me engulfed in the mist too but wait, it seems like the mist is behind me instead but that's just a visual Illusion brought about by discernible field and range of visibility through the mist but you can be darned sure my entire being is enveloped by the mountain mist.

Yeah I know, I've added a frame to the photo for decorative purposes but not to the extent that it went far from, nor is it looking drastically different from the original untampered photo. The photo still shows the intensity of our misty environment the way it actually is.

Let's head back indoors to check out the shopping mall:

The shopping mall
The shopping mall consists of a few levels within the building and besides the usual stores, restaurants, eateries, boutiques and souvenir shops typical of shopping malls, there's also a row of palmistry and fortune-teller stalls here.

Well, I've mostly seen individual outdoor fortune-telling stalls and I've come across standalone fortune-telling shops within shopping complexes but I've never come across a row of open-concept fortune-telling stalls within a shopping mall. Other than that, the rest of the stores within the shopping mall are selling the usual range of typical shopping mall merchandise.

And then we bump across the casino. Like I've mentioned, we didn't come here to gamble but we will still go in there for a look-see, since this notorious casino is the main reason why most people (I didn't say 'all') come here to the Genting Highlands.

But we shall leave the casino for tomorrow, since we want to go play at the indoor theme park now that we've had our dinner and I'm getting the feeling the indoor theme park ought to keep us preoccupied for the better part of the night.

The indoor theme park
In order to play in the theme park, you can just pay a fixed one-time fee, let them tie this white band around your wrist as proof of payment and you can enjoy every station by just flashing it at the station attendants (not transferable to any other day, of course).

I think you can also choose to pay for every individual station instead but if you've planned to enjoy as much of the theme park as you want to, especially if it's your first visit here, opting for the one-time fee makes better financial sense.

Ok, I gotta admit here that because my Lioness and me have a fear of heights coupled with extreme velocities when it comes to theme parks, we will be avoiding any fast-movers and we will just stick to the kiddy-friendly rides like this one, for example:

I can hear the cluckings of chickens.

Here are some more photos of the indoor theme park:

Sightseeing around the area
Now that we've enjoyed most of the indoor theme park, we are taking a stroll around the vicinity. You've seen the miniature blueprint model of the immediate surrounding area up-top and how everything is linked in a circular fashion that doesn't seem very big. To prove the point, we just walked a semi-circle over to the opposite of our hotel area where I took a photo shot of the hotel. As you can observe, the hotel isn't very far away from my current vantage point opposite.

The outdoor theme park is right smack in the middle of the circle of buildings and because it's already way into the night and it's dark at the outdoor area, we decided to take a look at the outdoor theme park tomorrow. In fact, the outdoor theme park is closed. It's probably too misty out here tonight for the outdoor theme park to operate safely anyway.

Well well, look who came to the Genting Highlands too.. It's the Android mascot Andy. It was only 2 months ago when I got my Galaxy S3, my very first Android device and I've been enjoying it very much and wondering why I didn't make the switch earlier from iOS, since the open-source platform and the freedom and flexibility associated with it suit my needs much better and allow me to do a whole lot more.

Even an unrooted Android device is capable of doing more than a jailbroken iPhone.

"Can't wait for the Galaxy Note 2 to get launched," is what I'm now thinking to myself as I look at the Android mascot. Anyway, this is the very first overseas trip for my S3 and I always look forward to bringing my new phones abroad just to see how they cope with different climates, especially cold weather and to see if their batteries can last an entire day with lots of photo-takings and some video shoots.

After having coffee and pastries at The Coffee Bean at one of the other hotels, we strolled right back to the indoor Theme Park to enjoy the rides some more before having supper at the shopping mall area linked with our hotel.

Another thing which I've noticed about the Genting Highlands as we were strolling about earlier was that quite a number of stars and singers come here for performances. You can see memorials of their performances and concerts all over the place within and around the vicinity of the concert halls and performance venues. Before coming here, I didn't know that the Genting Highlands was a star-strucked place.

Well, it's good to discover something new in a day. That's one of the reasons why I like to travel whenever I can.

Calling it a night
We are now making our way back to our hotel room but before we call it a night, there is still something I wanted to do since earlier in the afternoon when we arrived at the hotel but haven't and that is, to take a photo of Hotel First World's main entrance area.

I wanted to dash over to the area opposite the hotel's main entrance where I could have a wide field of vision but that would mean running right smack into the paths of the busy throngs of tour coaches and cars there during the busy afternoon. Now that it's rather late at night, I can have the area to myself.

Right, so the photo has just been taken and we are now going back to our room to rest. I can't help but wonder again just what it was exactly my Lioness encountered in our room earlier in the day. Looking over at her, I don't see any signs of fear or worry on her face. Either that or she is getting a grip on herself.

Since she said it was ok and we didn't have to change rooms when I asked her if she wanted to earlier, I suppose she should do ok for the night in the room. Stay tuned, for she will reveal to me tomorrow just what exactly it was that made her face go pale.

( Click here for Day 2 )

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