Beas made sure that we did not lose a moment. The first point of attraction we were headed to was the popular Genting Highlands — a regular feature for visitors to Malaysia. With the destination punched into Google Maps, we wound our way through downtown Kuala Lumpur.
In case you’re wondering, an Indian driving licence is legally valid there, as is the case in most other countries. Even in the UK or Canada, an Indian licence is valid for up to three months. Thereafter, applying for a local licence is mandatory. You do not necessarily need an international driving permit; at least I have not needed one yet.
Once we were in the suburbs, we made a brief halt at a fuel station. There was also a McDonald’s outlet there. Being rural dwellers, we were glad to gorge on some burgers and fries after what seemed an eternity. Zarah, meanwhile, was a very co-operative passenger. She found herself a cushion and barring the odd “are we there yet” question, she threw no tantrums. In fact, she mostly slept during the drives.
To Genting we go
Driving in Malaysia is easy to get accustomed to quite quickly. Since the steering wheel is on the right and you drive on the left, there is not much mental conditioning needed. What does need conscious thought is to keep a close eye on both rear-view mirrors, especially when changing lanes. Since the highways are three-lane carriageways, it is imperative to check blind spots during lane changes.
Personally, the first aspect I noticed was the higher speed limits that Malaysia’s highways permitted. Vehicles in the overtaking lane were comfortably cruising at over 30 kmph the prescribed 110 kmph limit. And this, I realised, was also possible because of the scant presence of highway patrol vehicles. Not that I looked forward to an encounter with the law, but in earlier drives overseas, highway police presence was relatively higher.
About two hours into the drive, we exited the highway, towards the Genting Highlands. From there, it was a single carriageway. This section was hilly but the roads were wide. Our earlier meeting in the day with the taxi driver had led us to believe that it was very steep and treacherous. I was, therefore, looking forward to a Darjeeling hills-like climb. But, the road up to this tourist locale was more akin to a walk in the park.
As the buildings that make up Genting’s enormous hotels came into view, we were greeted with a heavy shower. Fortunately, it had reduced to a drizzle when we pulled into the parking area. An excited Zarah was raring to see what was in store. With an equally enthusiastic mother in tow, I too, put on an excited demeanour. Pardon my cynicism here but I must explain why.
A whirlwind visit later
Amusement parks, and the kinds that offer roller coaster or giant swings do not scare me per se. However, they get me excited beyond measure, and such high levels of dopamine are hard for me to process. It puts me out my element, if that makes sense.
But off we went in the direction of rides, complete with colourful lights and cheerful yells. Genting is actually an enormous place and it probably takes the better part of two or three days to explore at leisure. In our case, we had set aside three hours. Nonetheless, the unanimous highlight for all three of us was the simulated snow chamber. It replicated the street scene of a region that receives heavy snowfall. There was even a snow tube for those wanting to sample some winter sports in an otherwise tropical region.
Zarah, meanwhile, was ecstatic to see so much snow and ice. An interesting addition to the street scene was also an igloo. And for me, it was a nostalgic moment, a quick opportunity to reminisce my stay in Canada. Freezing temperatures and snow were the norm for the better part of seven months each year.
We didn’t staying at Genting; rather we were booked at a picturesque village hotel called Colmar Tropicale. Located at about an hour’s drive from Genting, this was another beautiful stretch. While the Genting visit was a blink-and-you-miss tour, I was glad Beas had found out about this less-visited place. And when I saw its medieval castle like structure, I was then truly excited — the kind of effect that a roller coaster usually has on most normal people.