The Jakarta Post
Dynamic: Winch balls make a lively configuration as party of SkySymphony performance inside the Sky Avenue mall. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)
The Jakarta Post’s Musthofid and Dhoni Setiawan were recently invited to the resort, which is located 1,800 meters above sea level. The following is their report.
A young man gambles all of his chips on one number. He rises from his chair, walks a few meters and watches from a distance. He glances over the sprawling gambling area where people sit engrossed at their tables before casting a look back at his own.
When the dices fail to fall in his favor, he struts away.
At the poker table, an old man is on a winning streak and as the chips pile up, his face beams. The others look dejected but they soon find themselves back at the table fingering their chips, pondering the next move.
Genting Casino is where those who want to try their luck to score a massive payout end up docking.
Established in 1971, the casino houses 30 tables with games ranging from blackjack and tai sei to Russian roulette and French boule. It also has 400 types of electronic table games and 3,000 slot machines.
It is also divided into several themed sections, including exclusive international and VIP rooms for elite gamblers, as well as 24-hour dining services.
Not everyone is allowed entry. Malaysian Muslims are barred, as well as those aged below 21.
Aware that gambling is a sensitive issue in the predominantly Muslim country, the resort’s management shies away from discussing it in detail.
Katherine Chew, the vice president in charge of communications and public relations, says Genting Highlands offers much more than just the casino.
“We are marketing Genting as an integrated resort. Entertainment for family will increase when we open the theme parks,” she adds, referring to the under-construction 20th Century Fox World and SkyTropolis Indoor theme parks, which are expected to open in October.
Prehistoric: A visitor takes a picture inside the Jurassic Research Center. Prehistoric: A visitor takes a picture inside the Jurassic Research Center. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)
When they are operational, visitors can expect 25 thrilling rides and attractions inspired by Hollywood blockbusters such as Planet of the Apes, A Night at the Museum, Titanic and Ice Age.
The new theme parks are projected to add another 8 million visitors annually to the current 25 million.
Chew says local visitors make up 80 percent of arrivals with the rest coming from other countries including neighboring Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, China and India.
The new theme parks will add more variety at the resort.
SkyAvenue — a 1.4 million square foot, five-story shopping mall — has brought the resort to a new level of dining and shopping experience with 168 retail outlets.
The Jurassic Research Center on the fourth floor gives visitors, especially children, a chance to learn more about dinosaurs. Some of them can move thanks to animatronic technology.
There is also the Alive Museum, a 3D optical illusion park that is a social media enthusiast’s dream. Those looking to indulge in some self-pampering can visit Healing Touch after a long day.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is in the same area. Also on site is Zombie Outbreak to provide visitors with some thrills and screams.
There is also the PlayTime! Video Games Park where there are arcade games galore and even a virtual reality game for some out of this world 3D fun.
Mock winter: A visitor experiences the freezing cold in Snow World at Resorts World Genting, Malaysia. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)
Snow World on the second floor of First World Plaza is worth a visit for some fun in the snow. With tickets costing RM47 (US$11.39)for adults and RM38 for children, visitors can experience a freezing stroll inside an indoor winter wonderland.
Snow World looks like a European town with fairy lights twinkling above and being reflected in the windows of an English tea shop, a French bakery and an Italian pizzeria.
The mall’s Times Square houses three-story high LED screens, which is synchronized with the SkySymphony show that showcases 1,001 winch kinetic balls.
Malaysia’s cultural diversity, particularly from the East Coast, which includes Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan, is on display at SeniKome Péng Heng, on the third floor.
The exhibition is dedicated to promote the three states’ local craft, fashion, games, food and music.
Visitors can choose to be accommodated at seven hotels, which have more than 10,000 rooms. The First World Hotel is said to hold the Guinness World Record for being the world’s largest hotel. Other hotels include Maxims, Genting Grand, Crockfords Hotel, Resort Hotel, Theme Park Hotel and the Awana Hotel.
Floating: SkyWay cable cars glide through the clouds as they travel from Sky Avenue Station at Resorts World Genting, Malaysia. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)
After exploring the indoor entertainment, visitors can head to the Sky Avenue station for a cable car trip, which allows for a bird’s eye view of the resort and its scenic surrounding.
Passengers have two types of gondolas to choose from — standard and glass-floor. The 99 standard gondolas and 10 glass-floor gondolas have a seating capacity of 10 and six passengers, respectively.
With the gondola running at 6 meters a second, the trip takes 10 minutes to the Awana Sky station.
Passengers can disembark at Chin Swee station to explore the Chin Swee Caves Temple, located 1,400 meters above sea level.
From the station, visitors can visit the open plaza where a large statue of Genting Resorts World founder Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Lim Goh Tong stands. An inscription on a board tells the brief history of the establishment of the temple.
Lim is said to have chosen the temple site based on a deity’s inspiration and the serenity of the site. One night in 1966, it says, while taking shelter and camping overnight in a cave, where the temple was later built, in his search for a suitable location for the development of the resort, he got inspiration from the Chin Swee Deity to go ahead with his plan.
The Chin Swee Caves Temple was officially opened in 1994 after 20 years of development, overlooking the green forest slopes and the picturesque setting of the hills.
Chin Swee Caves Temple (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)
At the compound’s entrance, the Nine-Color Dragon Wall of Luck greets visitors. Large statues of Buddha and Kuan-Yin stand tall behind the five-story temple.
Just a few meters from the entrance is the iconic nine-story pagoda, which is decorated with hundreds of Buddha figurines. Inside, some 10,000 blessing lamps are installed and dedicated to devotees wishing to be blessed by Buddha.
Those wanting to enjoy thrilling experience can take a ride down to the Awana Sky station.
A trekking package awaits them at the Awana Bio Park, which is about a five-minute drive from the station, for a journey through the lush greenery of Genting’s rainforest.
Discovering Fashion Forest in Bio Park
The Genting Highlands in Malaysia are not just a destination for casinos and theme parks. The large forests that surround the highlands have potential for eco-tourism, as found at the Awana Bio Park.
The Bio Park can be reached in less than five minutes on a shuttle bus from the Awana SkyWay Station.
Visitors can lodge at the Awana Hotel before being transferred to the park.
Conservationist: Eddy Chan points to a sign board inside the Awana Bio Park at Resorts World Genting, Malaysia. The Bio Park offers excursions into the jungle dubbed the “Fashion Forest”. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)
“The Bio Park is not open to the general public, only for guided tours. Guided walks usually take two hours starting at around 9 a.m.,” conservationist Eddie Chan from the Bio Park’s managing company Treks told The Jakarta Post.
Treks arranges jungle trekking for visitors to experience the “Fashion Forest”, during which information about flora and fauna is readily accessible, thanks to the available 4G connection.
Three trek options are available based on age and ability with the Eco Trek being the most challenging and not recommended for senior guests or children.
The Eco Trek takes tour participants deep into the jungle. The walk is strenuous, but has the highest probability of encountering wildlife and exotic plants.
The 200-hectare conservation area, which borders the Awana Golf Course, is home to more than 100 species of trees and plants as well as five species of primates, three species of large mammals, one large cat species, five hornbill species and two types of eagle.
There are also more than 200 native and migratory bird species, as well as many species of moths, butterflies and beetles.
Visitors only need to tap their phones on the tags installed on the trees or plants to see detailed descriptions, some of which are shown with videos.
“We will be reinstalling some new ones beginning mid-September, and also whenever applicable we will install NFC [Near Field Communication] tags,” Chan said.
NFC is a technology installed free of charge in high end Android phones. With activated NFC, a phone can be used to tap the tag to get information about the trees or plants.
“This technique was developed by us here at Treks,” Chan said.
“But this can only be done if you have Internet. So in the forest here on Genting we have 4G speed and we provide free WiFi to guests who walk with us,” he said.
Chan and his wife Pat Ang are currently also running a pitcher plant conservation program.
Goh Tong: Pioneer of Genting business empire
Resorts World Genting (RWG), originally known as the Genting Highlands Resort, is an integrated hill top resort nestled on the border between the states of Pahang and Selangor in Malaysia.
The resort is only a one hour drive from Kuala Lumpur.
The development of the resort began in 1965 from an idea of Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, who arrived on the shores of Malaysia from Fujian, China, in 1937.
“We acquired 10,700 acres [4,300 hectares] of land, 4 percent of which was for the development of this resort,” Katherine Chew, vice president for communications and public relations, said.
Of the land, 70 percent is in Pahang and 30 percent in Selangor.
The first four-year phase of development involved the construction of an access road through the dense virgin tropical jungle and rugged terrain to the peak of the 1,800 meter-high Mount Ulu Kali, 59 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur.
The first hotel opened in 1971, and the resort has since grown into a mini city on the mountain. It now comprises seven hotels, two shopping malls, theme parks and two casinos, employing a total of 13,000 people. Five decades after the milestone step, Genting Berhad, the holding company, has expanded its business empire overseas including to Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“Overseas, we have 46 casinos in the UK. Six are in London. The biggest in the UK is NEC Birmingham, about half an hour from London. It is not as big as Genting but it is also an integrated resort. We have casinos, hotels, a shopping mall and concert hall. But basically our core business is gaming,” Chew said.
In the US, its resorts are located in New York next to JFK Airport and on Bimini Island, Miami.
“In Hong Kong, we run cruise ships,” Chew said, adding that the company had also diversified its business into the plantation, energy and property sectors.