Most independent travellers coming to Kuala Lumpur are probably unaware that one of Asia’s largest entertainment and gambling complexes is less than a hour by bus from central KL. Located at about 1,700 metres above sea level, Resorts World Genting is a modern reworking of the colonial hill station concept.
While places like Cameron Highlands or Fraser’s Hill trade on their old world charm, Genting is all about having loud, brash, fun, whether that be a rollercoaster ride, a glitzy pop concert, or the only legal gambling in Malaysia. Not being a fan of any of the above pastimes, I was never much interested in paying a visit, but that changed when I heard Genting was staging an arts festival.
The first thing that struck me was how easy the place is to get to by public transport, unlike say Fraser’s. Regular express buses leave from several locations, the most useful for visitors being KL Sentral and Puduraya. It’s also possible to get there directly by bus from much further afield.
Most of the buses stop at the bottom of a Skyway, a 3.4 kilometre cable car ride to the resort itself. On a clear day, the views from the cable car are so good they almost justify a trip to Genting by themselves. The combined ticket (bus and cable car) costs less than 10 ringgit, which is somewhat of a bargain.
Even though I was expecting the resort to be big, I was still amazed by how large an operation it is. Quite apart from both an outdoor and indoor theme park, umpteen shops, a huge variety of eateries, and several gambling halls, it has six massive hotels, with about 10,000 rooms between them.
Another thing that quickly became apparent is that I am most definitely not the target market. The vast majority of visitors to Genting are ethnic Chinese, whether from Malaysia or further afield — and increasingly that means tourists from mainland China.
Not surprisingly, the centrepiece of the arts festival, a contemporary art exhibition (free admission; August 12-21) was not mobbed with people, despite being of a generally high standard. The festival also includes a contemporary art dinner and painting workshops with the artist (and exhibition curator), Phillip Wong (50 ringgit; August 20/21).
Before planning a trip to Genting, it’s worth bearing in mind that the weather is not just cooler up there, it also rains a lot, which means frequent suspensions in the rides at the outdoor theme park.
It’s also worth getting the (free) Genting Worldcard, which offers decent discounts, as well as keeping an eye out for promotions. The resort is best avoided at weekends, on public holidays or during Malaysian school breaks, unless you want to spend a day in the seventh circle of hell.
By Pat Fama.