The drive from Genting to Colmar Tropicale took just about an hour. Once we exited the highway, we drove at a leisurely pace, drawing comparisons to other hilly regions we’d visited. With regular rains at the time, the hills wore a shade of lush green. Pleasing as the views were, I also marvelled at the lack of open garbage. Popular hill towns in North Bengal, at least, have fallen victim to the menace of mindless littering.
A history buff’s delight
A few gentle turns later, Colmar Tropicale came into view. All three of us wore an expression of glee, because staring at us was this scene, straight from a fairy tale. I mean it even had a moat, and a draw bridge at its entrance.
We found our way to the underground parking lot, where Zarah caught sight of a vintage looking stage coach. Familiar as she was with Cinderella’s story, she wondered if this might have been of the same era. With our baggage in tow, we then found a lift to the reception area.
The history buff in me was excited beyond measure. Not only did the whole place look like a medieval French village but it even felt like one. Close to the check-in desk was the replica of an armoured outfit that an infantryman might have worn when going out to battle. The attention to detail, I must admit, was par excellence. And just as I was beginning to soak it all in, we were upgraded to a suite. This whirlwind of a trip was definitely shaping up well, I thought.
Drawing inspiration from a French town
Colmar Tropicale was founded by a Malaysian conglomerate called Berjaya Corporation. The idea to build this beautiful resort was conceived by former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. On a state visit to Colmar in France, he was so enamoured by the place that he decided to replicate it in the Malaysian highlands. The village hotel is part of a larger ecosystem that comprises an adventure area, botanical gardens, and also country homes.
We were given brief directions of how to reach our suite. We were to walk along the main thoroughfare, that was flanked by quaint stores and restaurants. Several, of course, served French and Continental cuisine. Some even had musicians performing live. I also noticed the cobbled stone roads, that up until then, I had only seen in old Montreal in Quebec, Canada. Co-incidentally, Montreal too has French lineage.
The suite we were allocated was more a one-bedroom apartment — complete with a large living room, a dining section, and even a kitchenette. It was a pity we were only going to be there for one night. A relatively smaller bedroom was adjacent to the common area but one that had a pretty Juliet balcony attached to it. Open as it did to a forest view, it complemented the whole medieval experience perfectly.
Zarah, Beas and I then set about exploring this make-believe Colmar. The equivalent of a village square had a large fountain, where a dance troupe was performing. Above us were strung fairy lights and had it not been for the predominantly Asian visitors, one would sure have thought this was France. After trying out a few baked goodies in a café, we made our way to a restaurant for dinner. The food was great, but not quite befitting of superlatives.
Malaysia strikes a great balance
The following morning, and the ensuing breakfast, was the highlight for me. And going by the food options, I also derived a more subtle message. Now Malaysia is a Muslim country; a fair share of its people will identify as conservative. But religious affiliations aside, Muslims and non-Muslims seem to co-exist in harmony.
The breakfast spread, for instance, served both pork and beef options and there was no separate areas where either dishes were served. I guess there’s is a more evolved approach — a case of “to each his own”. In India too, and especially in the hills of Sikkim and Darjeeling, a similar approach is followed. What is unfortunate though is when needless verbal exchanges are made over dietary choices. I will reiterate again: to each his/her own.
Following breakfast, we boarded the resort’s shuttle bus to ferry us to the botanical gardens. I was especially looking forward to the Japanese one since I’ve always been keen to build a Zen Garden. A major advantage we experienced was the lack of crowds. This was well before the pandemic had struck but we’ve always made a conscious effort to try and steer clear of places thronged by people.
The whirlwind tour continues
The Japanese garden was a delight to experience. All the water feature were man-made but every single element seemed to fit right in, as if it had occurred naturally. While Beas and me were busy admiring the plants and snapping pictures, Zarah decided to occupy herself with a wholly different activity. The shiny white pebbles on the ground were perhaps too attractive for her. So, she decided to load up as many as she could into her pockets. It was only when we noticed two bulges on either side of her shorts did we realise the volume of her loot. Needless to say, we made sure she returned them to where they belonged.
The trail that meandered through the Japanese garden then took us to a little café. While browsing through the menu, the green tea and matcha based offerings caught my attention. In what was to then become a common observation in the region, I realised these tea derivatives were being used in an array of products — from cosmetics to desserts.
Not too long after, we boarded another shuttle bus, back to the resort. We checked out of our rooms and en route the reception, we stopped at a souvenir shop. No trip is complete without grabbing a knick-knack or two to keep as memorabilia. But we had no time to lose, because the whirlwind trip planner, Beas, had already entered Melaka into her GPS device.