Genting: Cool mountain playground
GENTING HIGHLANDS—It’s Baguio weather up here in the mountains between the states of Pahang and Selangor in Malaysia, where stands Resorts World (RW) Genting—the mother of all RW properties that include one in Singapore (Sentosa Island), another in the New York (soon in Miami), and the Philippines (Pasay City).
We were in Genting four years ago, but only to cover the MTV Video Awards show held in its amphitheater, Arena of Stars, where we saw The Script, OneRepublic, Leona Lewis and Super Junior perform.
This time we’re on a media familiarization trip around the 6,000-ha resort complex which was developed by Genting Group founder Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong. It opened in 1971.
It’s overwhelming to learn that as many as 20 million people come here annually—Singaporeans, Koreans, Indians, among Asian nationalities, and locals wanting to escape the hot and humid Kuala Lumpur, which is about an hour’s drive away.
A horde of guests
The first thing we notice upon arriving: A horde of guests coming in from all directions. Many of them are probably headed to the casino.
In 1969 the Malaysian government granted Genting an exclusive license to operate a casino on the condition that Muslims—who comprise the majority of the country’s population—are not allowed to engage in any form of gaming.
The casino has several access points within the complex, with strict security measures that also bar minors and cameras.
But Genting is not just a casino but a fully integrated tourist destination that has something for everyone—lots of rides and games in two (outdoor and indoor) theme parks, retail shops, restaurants, bars, beauty salons, health spas, among others.
Staying here for a few days is no problem, with six hotels—Genting Grand, Highlands, Resort, Theme Park, Awana and First World—having more than 10,000 rooms whose rates vary according to low and peak seasons.
The three-star First World, where we are billeted, used to be the world’s largest hotel in 2006 with 6,118 rooms. It has modest, functional accommodations and doesn’t need air-conditioning because of the cold weather which averages 18°C. It gets chilly especially at dawn when fog envelopes the surroundings.
Yield to temptation
The food choices from over 100 dining outlets are so varied and mouth-watering that those on a diet would surely yield to temptation.
Buffet dinner at Maxims Genting’s Coffee Terrace, for instance, overflows with Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, Western and Asian gustatory delights—almost like what Spiral in Sofitel Philippine Plaza offers.
The set lunch at Genting Palace Restaurant boasts Prawn Platter, Schezuan Hot and Spicy Soup, Almond Chicken, its signature dish Braised Pork Spareribs, topped with a dessert called Glutinous Ball with Mango and Cream.
We spend almost half a day exploring the outdoor theme park, where the adventurous among our colleagues get to enjoy some of the rides like Corkscrew and Flying Coaster. Only one among us is willing to try out the Space Shot, whose rapid vertical ascent and descent is not for the faint-hearted.
But the cable car ride on the Genting Skyway is exhilarating, giving us an aerial view of the thick rainforest around the resort. We are told that only 4 percent of the forest’s 10,000 acres has been used for the development of Genting, and that RW management has taken a proactive stance to preserve its natural beauty and conserve energy.
Not far from the resort and within Genting are other scenic attractions. The Chin Swee Caves Temple, whose land was donated by the Genting Group, is a Taoist temple which has the Sky Terrace—a vast observation square on the 15th floor where we appreciate the virtues of silence and contemplation while looking at a gigantic statue of Buddha, a nine-story pagoda, and the lush forest cover all around.
There’s also a strawberry farm on a 5-acre land. KC Chung, who runs the place which also has a bee farm, says he leases the property from Genting. He teaches us how to properly pick a strawberry fruit from the stem; we sample a few, but they’re not as sweet as the ones from Baguio.
Pinoy band members
At night we hang out at The Patio, a bar in the indoor theme park, where a band plays pop hits. A guessing game ensues on which of the band members are Filipino; turns out that the lead guitarist and bassist are, indeed, Pinoy.
We order San Miguel Pale Pilsen, which unfortunately is not available; the waiter offers us Heineken instead.
Yet no amount of beer can match the exciting buzz of watching “Freeze 2,” an ice magic show of eye-popping acrobatic stunts, illusion tricks and ice-skating maneuvers by an international cast from Armenia, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Australia and China. Heart-stopping is the sight of a 12-year-old Chinese girl doing a balancing act on a high stack of chairs.
We make a brief visit to a “winter downtown” inside SnowWorld, until it gets too cold for comfort.
While having dinner at Bubbles and Bites, where champagne is served, we realize that three days are not enough to enjoy the cool mountain playground that is Genting, especially for those with money to burn. We also imagine that Filipinos won’t feel envious of it, if only Baguio were just an hour’s drive from Manila.
Back in Kuala Lumpur for our return flight to Naia, the weather gets hotter than hell.