The sojourn started with Malaysia. The first impression I have of the place is wide well-maintained roads, green surroundings aka plush lawns, which were neatly manicured and a very Indian climate – if anything it was hotter. On reaching, we went for the night tour of Kuala Lumpur, which was breathtaking to say the least. Passing by Orchard Street with its plush malls, bank buildings that would put high-rises to shame, the Petronas towers which glittered like diamond crystals dwarfing the stars and a view of the entire city from the KL tower, which looked like a flower perched on a single stem had us mesmerized. The magic only grew as we walked on the streets, all of which were lit up in different shades for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Top left to bottom right: The KL tower, night view of Kuala Lumpur and streets of KL
Buddhist temple: The first item on our itinerary the next day was the Buddhist temple. A huge admirer of the Pagodas, especially the curved eaves, I started clicking fervently. Besides the Buddha idol, the ornate carvings, colourful depictions and architecture, the temple had come alive with the innumerable orange lamps being put up for the Chinese New Year – the year of the dragon.
Top left to bottom right: The decorations, exterior of the temple, Lord Buddha’s idol, wall painting, interiors
King’s palace, War memorial and Batu caves: The King’s palace (Yes, Malaysia still has monarchy) shimmered in the harsh sunlight as we caught a glimpse of it from outside the gates. The horses and guards, fully dressed, were however left outside the gate for us to click snapshots of and with. The war memorial, built to commemorate the fallen soldiers during the Malayan Emergency, was quite picturesque again. And then it was time for Genting! En route we stopped at Batu caves dedicated to Lord Murugan. I and mom gave a miss to the 272-step climb to visit the shrines atop the caves but dad and my sister successfully conquered it.
Genting Highlands: It took us a little over an hour to reach Genting Highlands. It was foggy, chilly and windy out there. A draft of air would engulf you while walking around, little droplets would settle on your face, and you would get an air spa at around 1800 metres above sea level. The first day or rather night at Genting was all about getting lost in the labyrinth of hotels called Resorts World Genting – these are interconnected hotels spread over a massive area, which hold an indoor theme park, outdoor theme park, malls, innumerable shops, a Casino and lot of other activities. We first headed to the Casino courtesy dad. We sat at the table while dad played and lost $100. That was enough for us, we dragged him outside to the First World Plaza. The mall was lit up, there was a live performance, all around the lights created a different aura while the drizzle outside added to the charm of the night.
Top left to bottom right: Genting Indoor Theme Park, First World Plaza, New Year decorations, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
The next day, we took the cable car ride to get to Genting theme park. At the outdoor theme park, there were rides and rides to hop onto. Some were mediocre, some were already experienced and then there was Space Shot! If you are ever in Malaysia, try this ride out, it will blow your minds out. The mechanics of the ride are like this – you hop onto the seats, you are taken right to the top where all you can see the clouds leisurely and then you are dropped at breakneck speed! Those 15 seconds, your heart accelerates, your eyes close, your heart fills with dread and you feel like this is it—the end. Then it stops and before you can think you are up again and then down and then up and down, all the while the altitude reduces and those 60 seconds end. Your heart is now yours to reclaim.
Singapore: The day at Genting went by in a jiffy with all the rides and the next morning we left for Singapore. We thought Malaysia was great but that was before we entered Singapore. I must confess I’m biased towards Singapore– I just loved the place especially the modern architecture — Marina Bay Sands, the Opera house are few examples.
In Singapore, we were staying at Little India. And it felt just like home. There were temples, Indian fast food joints replete with South Indian, Mughlai and North Indian cuisines and Indians! The only difference was it was a lot cleaner and colourful. Singapore has strict policies about littering where the minimum fines are $500 or that’s atleast what we were told. And to add to the feeling of home we had Mustafa’s and Niranjan’s just two minutes away — they are the recommended shopping centres in Singapore. After barely finding time for shopping in Malaysia, this was heaven for us girls. We would only realise our folly later.
Night Safari: The first night at Singapore we went for the Night Safari. The Safari itself was ok — it was dark and we didn’t get to see all the animals but the Creatures of the Night show made up for it. Animals teaching us recycling, walking on ropes right above our heads and an unsuspecting lady being scared to death with snakes — it was fun.
Universal Studios: The next day was all about Hollywood at UNIVERSAL STUDIOS! And it was magical! Right from the Madagascar simulated ride to getting our faces wet with Donkey’s sneezes in Shrek 4D to escaping the wrath of Imhotep in Revenge of the Mummies to experiencing the wildest roller coaster rides — it was sheer joy and thrill. We were back to being kids — even Mom and Dad — floating in happiness for a moment before moving on to the next ride, which turned out to be even better. But the best was rightly saved for the last.
TRANSFORMERS was out of this world — we were driving left right center at breakneck speed, cutting corners, swiveling around, falling from atop a building and doing all sort of stunts while trying to escape the Decepticons and saving the All Spark with Optimus Prime, never for a moment this felt like a simulation. The movie never seemed better let alone nice before this — but we are all fans now. And it was not just the rides. They had recreated the setting for each ride — So you had Mummies for Egypt, the Statue of Liberty for NYC, Far Far Away for Shrek, Jurassic Park, Transformers and scary characters like Frankenstein and huggable ones like Po from Kung Fu Panda roaming about. Also, there were shops and memorabilia that made you wish you were a millionaire — grossly over priced but we managed to sneak some things back. (Thanks Dad!)
Top left to bottom right: The Kingdom of Far Far Away, roller coasters, the Universal globe, Revenge of the Mummies, Po (Kung Fu Panda) and Bumblebee (Transformers)
China town: Tired to the bone we should have gone back to the hotel but instead we went to Chinatown to see the night market. And again it was dressed up for the Chinese New Year. You had all sorts of stuff — clothes, spices, accessories, electronics, bags — at reasonable rates. The glitter of these made us drag our feet through the market for over an hour. Of course, we pocketed some goodies.
City tour: Next day it was the city tour. We first hopped onto the Singapore flyer and saw the Merlion, the floating stadium, Marina Bay Sands, the F1 race track, the culture hub and much more. We then descended down and headed to see the Merlion, half lion half fish, which is the tourism symbol of Singapore and headed to the last leg of our journey — Sentosa.
Sentosa: Sentosa Island was beautiful — especially the small beaches with crystal clear water and white sand. Water World out there was full of different varieties of fishes including sharks and we got to see dolphins and sea lions perform their cute little tricks. I and dad then tried out the Luge, which is a very simplistic form of Go Karting and then we headed to watch Songs of the Sea — a story told with waterworks, light works, animations and songs.
We should again have headed back to the hotel but headed to Mustafa for last minute shopping before our morning flight — this was the third time in three days, now you see why it was a bane instead of a boon.
By now our feet were dead, our minds were forever alert for calculations — that’s what we were doing for the past week — currency conversions, and our heart and cameras were full of memories of this wonderful sojourn that had built a special place in all our hearts.