If you have missed the earlier parts: Part 1, Part 2
******** DAY 4: Malaysian mania ********
Early next morning (it was barely morning - 0300 hrs) we woke up, had a cup of tea and awaited our ride back to the airport. A few of the members of the group had chosen to spend the night at Colombo airport itself rather than wear their bums going all the way to the hotel and back as we did (and they had a point), so we were eager to compare and see who had the last laugh. Their advantage - 3 more hours of sleep. Our advantage - freshing up and mattress to sleep on.
Our flight to Kuala Lumpur(KL) was due at around 0710 hrs or so. We lingered about in the lounge before boarding. The aircraft was a huge Airbus A340, with 2-4-2 seating in each row. Every passenger had mini TV sets embedded in the back of the headrests in front(not touchscreen, however) and the inflight entertainment was very good. The only thing good, again. Terrible food was served and I settled down to watching Om Shanti Om (WITH English subtitles, of course :) The movie was pretty good, except for some liberal amount of sleaze in the songs. (If I had wanted sleaze I'd rather have watched porn. And instead of having some nice videography they got some rubbish dancers to show skin, spoiling the serious atmosphere of the movie. WTF).
We reached KL International airport (KLIA) around noon or so (KL time) and boarded a train that took us out of the airport. That done, we split up into two groups (consequently, two buses) to proceed to the famous Genting Highlands in malaysia. We had a guide in each bus, mine was a fat little lady who introduced herself as 'Zai'. And for the next few days we would see wierd words on signboards, which we would attempt to understand and then suddenly remember that Malay was written in the English(Roman) script itself. Well, since some boards were thankfully bilingual, I remember(and guess) some of them:
First and foremost -- Tandas, meaning toilet :)
Keluar, meaning exit. (both Tandas and Keluar can be spotted almost everywhere)
Pematan api -- fire extinguisher (I guess api means fire... yes mallus, I can see you laughing!)
One more for mallus: Kurangan Laju -- doesnt mean 'Laju the monkey', simply means "Reduce your speed".. not very obvious, this one :)
Jam -- hours (so you find spped-limit boards like "90 km/j" on roads, and "24 jam" outside shops)
Many english words are kept, but with a simplified spelling - Bas, telefon, execituf, restoran... a lot more)
And hiyah we goth ova faahsth thaysthe of the famous South Asiaan accenth, ya? Qwyth differenth from ova khanthree, ya? (It later dawned on me that this continuous application of 'ya' was derived from their 'lah', which is very common in that region). Our bus was a rocker... very comfortable suspension, spring seats for the driver (or is it pilot? ;) and numerous other bells and whisltes. The first thing that struck you was the disciplined nature of traffic there. Everyone stuck to the rules (and his speed-limit, and his lane) - a more extreme form of which was awaiting us in Singapore. As a result of such neat driving, there is absolutely no honking. Unlike India, where we lean onto our horn-buttons and swear using the horns in morse code, here in Malysia you needed to honk only if someone jumped in front your speeding vehicle unknowingly (and similar circumstances). And there is no congestion, implying, traffic glides like over oil.
As I was saying, we were proceeding to Malaysia's highest region - Genting Highlands - altitude: 2000 MSL or so. They had this impressive conveyance - "South Asia's longest and fastest cable-car": The Genting Skyway. Seating about eight passengers in a small, light car that moved with the cable supporting it, through three and a half kilometres of lush green tropical rainforest. Since it was cloudy when we arrived, we saw nothing but fog for a while, with visibility restricted to something like five metres. We passed through the jungles at stomach-churning heights as the car ascended and descended, clinging onto the moving cable for dear life! After a thoroughly enjoyable twenty minutes, we arrived at 'First World Hotel', one of the five or six HUGE hotels situated atop the highland. The weather was very cool and would get chilly at night. Our hotel itself had two towers (we were in "tawthoo" - Tower 2) around three thousand rooms, all opened with electronic cards (which would cease to function after 1200 hrs on the day of checking out... neat, huh?) Our rooms were kinda small - something like those on a cruise vessel - but we had been warned in advance to expect such a contraption. Anyway, dinner was waiting for us famished souls and we proceeded straightaway to the blessed 'FirstWorld cafe'. At this point, certain complications arise:
First of all, we(two families out of 15) were vegetarians. This habit is, be warned, recognised only in our beloved country. The rest of the world thinks of you as some kind of exotic breed. But that was not the problem. Outside India, people think vegetarian food is made by chopping veggies raw and putting them 'as is' into a saucerful of water. (YUUCCCK!) This was the case. We first found some noodles, to our delight and got our chopsticks ready... but looking around we saw: Lettuce put in a bowl of water, tomatoes and cabbage put in a bowl of warm water (with some bits and pieces, like the ends of carrot, fallen leaves of some plant, seed-coats, mud off feshly dug potatoes, etc for company). AND NO SAUCE/KETCHUP AT ALL. I asked a waitress politely if they had any, and she seemed not to have heard of it. There was, however, sulking in a corner, a big bowl of mushroom soup. Finally finding something viscous (if you get what I mean), we poured liberal quantities of the stuff over the sphagetti and got the first mouthful to the buccal cavity.
And that was all. Quite unlike-... Horrible would be an understatement. I wonder how many of you have tasted fan-belt. You guess the rest. But, merciful heavens, sitting over the other end of the buffet was a whole load of fresh cut fruits, which formed the chief item at dinner for the day. After having had our fill we came out of the cafe and I went over to some people (they preferred non veg) and asked them good humouredly how it was. Boy, if looks could kill... Well, our tour operator dude Mr. B came over with his ever smiling face and assured all of us that this was the last meal of this sort. From the next day we were to dine at Indian restaurants wonly :)
And God bless the Paneer!
With not much of the brighter part of the day left, we went around the whole of First World plaza (the HUGE shopping/recreation/entertainment complex attached to our hotel), trying to call back home. After a little roaming about (and LOTS of window shopping :) I got an 'Inthenasinal Khollinh khaah' - (I think she meant an International calling card). The lady at the counter was apparently giggling at this 'foreign guy in some stupid clothes and a funny cap' and I too smiled at whatever joke she found in my tshirt and jeans. I had to 'yoosth thiths khaa on a puppyfon'. In reply to where in the world a puppyfon(whatever that was) could be used, she again hushed her friend who was giggling uncomfortably and pointed to a board nearby that said, "Public Phone - Telefone awam" *sigh* We made the necessary telephonic conversation and retired.
******** DAY 5: Getting high on Genting ********
Morning... woke up frozen after sleeping right below the air con vent. We had most of the whole day to try out the rides and activities (which included a casino) The rides included - roller coasters, a slow monorail that covered the whole of the 'indo an otdho thempaa' (indoor and outdoor theme parks - I swear I'm not making this up!), skydiving (yeah! but sadly it was closed for maintenance, damn), the numerous water-based stuff, etc etc etc... Genting Highlands was discovered by someone who struck it big in the tin mining trade, and he liked the place to such an extent that he built a private guesthouse for his people... later the bloke died and the place has been expanding and expanding since... "Yoo com bakh aftha three munths, ya, an yool find something has change... iths alwaaays being upgradhedh...", as Zai, our guide put it.
Around mid afternoon it was another ride down the dizzy heights in the cable car, back to the hot and humid KL. Now, KL would seem to be a small city, but that is because you always spot the Patronas Towers(the famous twin towers) and the KL communication tower anywhere you go. But before we could go there, we had another stop - Batu caves - "tha playce of Lod Muroogha"... we were quite a jolly bunch of tourists in the second bus, and our guide Zai was also very good humoured. We heard from her how the people there ate five times a day - brekfasth, brunch, lunch, dhinnah. suppah. "And somethimes, ya, we also haf tea", she added, amidst loud cheering and remarks like "Kochu kallee!", "Ippo pidikitti ee size-inde rahasyam!" :)
Batu caves is a natural formation that has been conveniently annexed by Lord Muruga :) There is a huge gold-plated statue of the latter at the base of the hillock, with the rock-cut temple up at the summit. Two hundred and seventy two, very very steep steps is what one had to climb in order to reach the temple... and boy, we were few of the adventurous who chose to climb... Around 150 my legs started to give way, but I spotted two guys(co groupers) making it up further, so I thought I might as well be the third up there and went up the remaIning, without stopping... and up there, all three of us boys stood in weird postures, gasping for breath and holding our leaping hearts in place :) "Aiyyo.." "Entammey.." *wheeeeze* *Phooo* *wheeeeze*
Well, you get the picture.. it was only about five minutes later that we could see properly and admired the view from the place. A few steps into the cave, and one sees the temple. The cave at this position is very very tall, with small naturally formed holes to let in air and light. Monetary offerings were accepted both in Malaysian Ringitts(RM) and Indian Rupees(INR) ;)
As a rule, it is recommended to have atleast ten minutes of rest before climbing back down. Brakes are very important while going downhill and if you legs are not strong enough to control the whole mass of you, then chances are that you'll have a very blurry ride down, headfirst and end up unable to go back to India before your visa expires >:) My 60-kg minimalist frame was supported satisfactorily by the legs and we coasted down. Once down. I recommend trying out the various Indian eateries at the base - "Restoran Rani" for example, and taking a leak at the nearby Tandas for 10 sen(0.1 RM) - they're very clean, quite a world different from our govt's public conveniences :)
It was twilight already and we proceeded straight through the congested evening traffic(again, no honking!) to the KL communication tower. The tower is four hundred and something metres tall and the observation deck for the public is at the first level, which is at two hundred and someting metres. We were taken up to the deck in a very fast lift (so fast that your ears go on mute, like during takeoff). At the observation deck, we were greeted by the nothing-short-of-awesome view of KL city by night. One could see the brightly lit Twin towers, vehicles speeding like ants on the orange expressways... There was a telescope too, which almost everone used to take a peek at the Petronas towers. We also had headsets, with which took place a guided tour at each and every window of the deck. We then came down and had dinner at a Tandoori restaurant at the base. Then it was back to Hotel Puteri Park which held us for the night.
...Continue to part four...