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Sunday, March 30, 2003
Travel

An attractive resort for a fun-filled vacation
Mohinder Singh

The Awana Golf and Country Resort
The Awana Golf and Country Resort

AFTER we had stayed for a week in Kuala Lumpur, someone suggested we go to Genting Highlands for a day or two.

Situated at 6000ft, Genting is less than an hourís drive from Kuala Lumpur. We found the 50-km 4-lane expressway, well-designed and well-maintained. Every bend in the hilly part is separated not only by dividers but also by flowering bushes.

The Malaysian driving standards have grown significantly superior to ours. And the taxis at Genting are in top condition; meeting the prescribed requirement for the hill sector.

We were expecting a smallish place: A couple of modest hotels, a few shops and eating places. What greeted our sight was something truly majestic. Genting Hotel (566 rooms), Genting View Hotel (420 rooms), and Resort Hotel (821 rooms) tower over a man-made lake; all three hotels are connected through escalators and covered passageways. A nearby tower houses blocks of luxury flats dotted over surroundings hilltops.

The central hotel complex boasts of scores of major restaurants and umpteen food outlets. The Theatre Restaurant, for one, is equipped with an impressive stage for holding shows. And thereís the usual complement of shopping malls. The place is so big you can lose your way but for the bold signs displayed all around.

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Seven kilometres downhill, Awana Golf and Country Club (with an 18-hole golf course and 511 rooms) forms part of the Genting complex. A cable-car service connects the two. The 15-minute ride is a delight. You are wafted over lush forests; not an inch of exposed soil to be seen. And what a sylvan place is the golf course complex! Others sports like riding, tennis, and fishing form part of it.

Whatís really impressive about Genting is not so much the size of the complex and the variety of facilities on offer but the evident orderliness everywhere, the meticulous upkeep and cleanliness ó in sharp contrast to the current state of our hill stations. Primarily because the whole setup is owned and managed by a single private company. In fact the whole project is the brain-child of just one self-made man, Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong.

The company which has invested billions in the place is most concerned that the leisure hill resort, billed as "City of Entertainment", retains its attractive image. So it takes extraordinary care about landscaping stabilising hill slopes, planting trees and bushes, and stringing festive lights in them. There is plentiful water supplies and no power cuts. Traffic and parking are under strict control. Vast underground and multi-storeyed structures serve as parking lots, thus leaving the landscape relatively free of vehicle presence. And the place boasts of an elaborate helipad, with all the supporting services.

No one is allowed to encroach on roads or put up unauthorised structures or stalls. No one hawks goods around or sells foodstuff on pavements. And there are no beggars.

For the staff which runs into thousands, the company has built a vast housing complex some distance away.

And to our present surprise, we found room-rates in the 5-star hotels markedly low. We had a large double-room tastefully furnished on the 18th floor, commanding a grand view of the lake and forest beyond. Expect for Friday and Saturday nights, when locals come up in large numbers from Kuala Lumpur, you can get a room at almost a third of the price for a comparable hotel room in Goa. And this includes buffet breakfast of excellent variety, plus some free coupons for games in the theme park. Possibly the best value for money you can expect anywhere.

Holiday packages turn out even more economical. No wonder the complex has become popular as a venue for conferences, conventions and business meets.

Surely one reason why such attractive room rates can be offered is the presence of a casino, which is rated as the best in South East Asia. Casino de Genting is a world-class casino, with its banks of slot machines, roulette tables, blackjack, baccarat, and the other usual games of chance. And the Malaysian dollar itself is the currency used in play.

Even on week days the casino tends to be crowded; the Chinese, it seems, are inveterate gamblers. To meet religious susceptibilities, Malaysians professing Muslim faith are barred from playing here.

Besides the casino, there are a host of other facilities that offer varied entertainment to holidaymakers, more so with children. These facilities include a huge heated pool ó actually two pools and a Jacuzzi ó under a high dome and multi-lane computerised bowling alleys.

Then there is an extensive indoor theme park. It has items such as Virtual Reality Dungeon, Merry-Go-Round, Coin-operated kiddy rides, bumpy ride cars, safari-jeep adventure, cinema, video games, around the world train, gift castle, and a score of stalls offering prizes for shooting games. The park also sports several fast-food joints.

Also present is an outdoor theme park. This boasts of an amphitheatre for shows, a monorail, pirate train, show boat, paddle boats, rolling thunder mine train, mini train around the park, skyway station, racing cars, the roller coaster, cable car rides, and other outdoor entertainment. Indeed, the place has become a veritable mine of fun for teenagers.

The more energetic of visitors can take long walks in the cool, invigorating air amidst hills covered with dense tropical vegetation.

All in all, a few daysí stay at the Genting Highlands Resort offers one of the best holidays: relatively inexpensive as well as filled with fun.

It makes one wonder why we canít have a similar complex in one or more of our hill stations. That would give a boost to both foreign and home tourism. Whatís wanted is the requisite management structure and techniques that can make a particular hill section clean, orderly, attractive, the way Genting has been shaped and operated.

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This feature was published on March 23, 2003

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