Monday, 30 September 2013

One Reason To Visit The Genting Highlands (And Many Reasons Not To)

After touching down at Kuala Lumpur airport, I headed straight to the tourist info kiosk to peruse their array of leaflets and decide where my first port of call in Malaysia should be. One brochure contained sections all about the two famous Highlands of Malaysia: the Cameron Highlands and the Genting Highlands. The Cameron Highlands definition mentioned a lot of tea and strawberry plantations, misty hilltop walks and lots of beautiful scenery. Delightful. However, after 6 weeks of gorgeous scenery, jungles and farms, it didn't seem to offer anything new so I flicked my eyes across the page to the summary of the Genting Highlands. I was immediately sucked in by superlatives such as "most fun you will ever experience", "craziest adrenaline rush" and "best place in the world" and thus decided to be spontaneous and to hop on the next bus there.
After an hour long bus journey up some dubious cliffside roads we arrived at a sky bus station where we were ushered into a gondola which was to convey us to the top of the mountain atop which sits the notorious Genting Highlands. Thank God that gondola ride happened so I can write the following paragraph:

The Sole Reason to Visit the Genting Highlands

The ride in the gondola was probably the most exhilarating half an hour I'd yet spent on my travels. Imagine being conveyed in a tiny little pod on a moving wire over the tops of relatively untouched Malaysian jungles. The only noises are the light hum from the wire pulling you up and your own breathing. Below you is enough foliage to make you forget that cities ever existed, let alone that Kuala Lumpur is only an hour away, and make you feel like you are currently privy to some sort of Lost World/ Jurassic Park. You can only guess what secrets lie below those treetops. Can't imagine that? Here's a photo to help:

Our view from the gondola

Unfortunately, this is the only benefit you will gain from visiting the Genting Highlands. As soon as we got to the top we realised we had no idea where we were or what we should be doing so we sat outside Starbucks (yes Starbucks made it all the way to the top of a mountain in Malaysia) and used their wifi to work out what the hell we should be doing. Of course the first thing that came up when googling "Genting Highlands" was a news article from the day before about a bus that had careered off the edge of the cliff killing almost everyone inside and making the road up to these godforsaken highlands MALAYSIA'S MOST DANGEROUS ROAD. Great start. We the looked for accommodation only to find that the cheapest rooms in the whole area were still about $50 a night and therefore utterly unsuitable for two backpackers who were living off less than that per week. Thoughts of all nighters and sleeping in the forest were discussed and subsequently rejected as we decided to take a look around. Carrying our gigantic backpacks and wearing the comfort clothes we'd donned for the plane journey we traipsed through this concrete hellhole for about 20 minutes and saw nothing but ├╝ber-rich muslim men dressed head to toe in Dolce & Gabbana with their Burqa-clad wives (making me feel virtually naked in my shorts and T-Shirt), a sea of western food chains and an impenetrable multi-storey jungle of arcades, fancy restaurants and glitzy hotels including the tastelessly named "First World Hotel" which is one of the largest hotels in the world. In short, we came, we saw, we felt nauseous and left. 

I found this on google images but it pretty much sums up the garish mess that is the Genting Highlands
If you've gone backpacking around Southeast Asia or even just visited Malaysia in order to go to what is essentially Asia's version of Disneyland, then this is most definitely the place for you and thanks to the fact that every American fast food chain under the sun has an outlet in the main arena's astronomically large food court, you won't even need to eat any Asian food. In fact while you're there you might as well go to the country's only casino and pretend you're in Vegas or London instead of boring old Malaysia. However, if the whole reason you left home and decided to travel was to escape the suffocation of Western capitalism and experience a truly alien culture in its natural habitat then DO NOT COME HERE. Or at least don't get out of the gondola. There's no harm in going up and then coming straight back down again in order to get a few kodak moments!

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