I'm standing with my colleague in the Genting Highland Casino, surveying the hundreds upon hundreds of people covering every inch of space. "They call this 'a gambler's heaven,'" my friend smiles as we turn to push our way through the wall of humanity, hemming us in on all sides. I have visited many casinos but never have I seen such crowds. "It's a gold mine without end", I thought to myself as I finally made my way out the casino door.
A day before, walking in the heat and humidity of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, I dreamt of the Genting Highlands, a 2,000 m (6,560 ft) high mountain peak of Malaysia's Titiwangsa Mountains. The most developed hill resort in Malaysia, it features a huge casino, theme parks, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. Here is a world of coolness, combining excitement, luxury and entertainment, to make a glittering nightlife resort destination, seemingly far away from the coastal heat.
Instead of endless traffic and clothing wet with sweat and the rat race of city life, here, in the clouds in the midst of lush green tropical rainforest shrouded in a veil of perpetual mist, serenity reigns. The cool, invigorating air created by the consistent temperatures of between 16 and 23 C degrees provide natural air-conditioning and a snail's pace of living - that is, if one does not dabble in the country's only casino - one of the largest in the world and featured in numerous films produced by Hong Kong, Taiwan, and even Hollywood.
Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, one of Malaysia's most enterprising pioneers, in 1965, launched the project around Gunung Ulu Kali, subsequently renamed Genting Highlands. In ensuing years, Tan Sri Lim's entrepreneurial skills developed the Genting Highlands into a comprehensive and integrated resort enveloped by lush greenery. A creation of majestic splendour, it encompasses seven hotels with 10,000 rooms and suites and an 18-hole golf course. Called the Las Vegas of Malaysia and Shangri-La in the skies, Genting has become the premier holiday spot in Southeast Asia and the third most popular tourist destination in Malaysia, drawing some 18.4 million visitors in a year.
There are 30 km (19 mi) of roads inside the resort compound and an excellent serpentine mountain highway from Kuala Lumpur making it comfortable to drive to this resort in the clouds, just 50 km (31 mi) - less than an hour's drive - from the tropical heat of the capital. Visible from Kuala Lumpur on clear days, the resort appears to be a magical-mysterious temptress, luring onlookers.
Many Malaysian people head for Genting Highlands specifically for its nightlife - the international dinner shows and discos. However, what has put Genting Highlands on the map is the world-class Genting Hotel Casino - the only one in Malaysia and reputed to be the best in Southeast Asia. Called Malaysia's gaming paradise, it is open 24 hours a day and is frequented mostly by the Chinese who woo Lady Luck in lushly carpeted smoke-filled rooms.
When I visited the casino in the middle of the week, I was amazed to find that every chair was taken. Even the aisles were jammed with people. When I informed a hotel clerk of my astonishment at the number of visitors, he smiled, "If you think there are crowds today, you should have been here on the Chinese New Year. The whole hotel complex was one mass of humanity. And you know? Everyone came to gamble. It's a gambling paradise!"
All that day I could not get the roaring success of this casino out of my mind - a phenomenally thriving enterprise that owes its very existence to one man, Tan Sri Lim, known for achieving objectives others found impossible. His crowning success, the Genting Resort, standing in the mist like a fairytale palace of pleasure and luring through the clouds unending visitors, is a testimony to his vision and wisdom.
Habeeb Salloum is a regular contributor to Gulf Times, Contemporary Review, Canadian World Traveller and the Toronto Star. He has also written several cookbooks.
Facts About Malaysia and the Genting Highlands:
For Further Information, Contact:
- For most countries, no visas are needed to enter Malaysia, only a passport, valid for at least six months.
- For more information about the Genting Highland resort see website:
- Malaysia is well organized, reasonably clean and safe. There are virtually no beggars and violent crime is rare and theft is not a major problem. Beware! Drug trafficking carries the death penalty.
- Currency can be exchanged at moneychangers, hotels or large department stores, but the most favourable rates are to be found in the banks. Currently US $1 equals 3.54 Ringgits.
- The whole of Malaysia is a real gastronomic adventure. Besides Western food like McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, Malay, Chinese, Thai and Indian foods excel those in their homeland. Even though Malaysia is largely Islamic, alcohol can be bought in almost all larger towns and cities.
- Drinking tap water in Malaysia is not recommended. Drink and wash fruit with bottled water.
- The climate in Kuala Lumpur and along the coast is hot with humidity between 70 and 80% and temperatures averaging between 24° and 32° C year-round.
- There is a 40 Malaysian Ringgit departure tax on all international flights.
- All prices are quoted in U.S. dollars.
Tourism Malaysia: 17th Floor, Menara Dato' Onn, Putra World Trade Centre, 45, Jalan Tun Ismail, 50480 Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 603-2615 8188. Fax: 603-2693 5884/ 2693 0207. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.tourism.gov.my/ or
Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board: 1590-1111, West Georgia Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6E 4M3. Tel: 604-689-8899; Toll Free: 1-888-689-6872. Fax: 604-689-8804. Email: email@example.com Website : www.malaysiatourism.ca or
Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board: 818 West Seventh Street, Suite 970, Los Angeles, CA 90017 U.S.A. Tel: 213-689-9702. Fax: 213-689-1530. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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