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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Holiday @ Genting.
Day One - Getting There.

As you know, I am a graduate student. Which means that I'm not made of money.

So just last week, instead of a holiday to Europe or some other uber-expensive location, I had to settle for somewhere significantly cheaper and nearer.

Like Genting Highlands (云顶高园 in Chinese) in Malaysia.

For good reason too. First of all, it has been insanely hot in Singapore lately.

30 degree nights? Madness.

Those of you who know me understand that my brain overheats easily. Probably due to faulty wiring.

Thus, Genting at 1 828 metres (6 000 feet) altitude gives me nice cool 20 degree days and chilly nights. Me likes!

Then there is the gambling of course. If you understood my Chinese blog entry earlier, I mentioned that I was itching to get my hands on some slot machines again. I went to Genting last year and it was good fun.

This year though, you get to come along for the trip. How cool is that?

I know, I know. You are asking "Genting? That is such a pedestrian place to go. I've been there a dozen times! What could possibly be so interesting about your trip?"

Relax dude. I'll show you some cool stuff you might not have noticed in your last trip.

Alrighty then.

That's me at home, 5 am in the morning. Actually I wanted to start my trip with a photo showing my "just-woke-up" face. Unfortunately it was so hideous that even thinking about it now makes me want to throw up. Ugh. To spare you the agony, here's the freshly showered version, all ready to go. Yippee!

Next, I arrived at Golden Mile Complex and parked my butt on a comfy chair in a 24-seater tour bus. I was going on one of them free 'n' easy tours where you get the coach ride and hotel room in a package. I chose Grassland Tours because they have a reputation for good service. The price was really cheap since that was the low season for Singaporean travellers. Therefore, I was expecting a nearly deserted Genting when I arrived, but boy will I be surprised.

The bus travelled to the Tuas Immigration Checkpoint via the Ayer Rajah Expressway. I was happily listening to my radio and looking around randomly like a stupid kid. My fellow passengers, on the other hand, all looked half-dead and were trying to get some sleep.

Yay! I'm getting a nice holiday-ish feeling!

Next we drove over the Second Link Bridge into Malaysia. The border lies in the sea between our two countries, so it has no visible marking. However, once we got over to the other side - BZZZZ! My cell phone alerted me that the Malaysian service provider Celcom was online.

Now you may not know this, but I use Geiger counters (which detects beta radiation) for a living. Since you can't see radioactivity, my counter acts as my eyes when I am doing experiments. After a while, I got so used to the counter's incessant clicking sound that I started to feel the radioactivity. Talk about connecting to your gadgets.

So when my cell phone buzzed, I felt the Malaysian border hit me.

Like a brick wall.

After we got through customs, the bus drove through a toll gate to enter the North-South Highway. I immediately noticed a smashed-up lorry ahead which was still driving along despite the fact that its cabin was twisted 45 degrees away from the front!


Then as we overtook it I realized that... oh it was towed by another vehicle.

That made more sense.

Poor lorry. It has seen better days.

As we travelled down the highway, I caught this sign that reminded me that Genting was still some 6 hours away. Genting is about 40 km north of Kuala Lumpur.

Okay the real reason why I took this shot is just to show off what my camera can do to a moving target zipping by at 110 km/h.


We arrived at a rest station in Yong Peng, which is approximately halfway to KL.

Yong Peng always gives me a nice feeling. It is the first stop, so I always have a happy holiday-ish feeling here on the outward leg. On the return leg, I also have a happy relieved feeling here, because it is the last stop before Singapore.

This time we stopped at a newer looking cafeteria which I haven't been to before. Not much business that morning. There were a number of Mainland Chinese tourists, some of them wearing Chinese flag pins.

After a brief stop we continued traveling down the highway for hours with kilometre after kilometre of oil palm trees on both sides. There were a number of construction vehicles along the way because some highway expansion work was going on. Eventually we reached Kuala Lumpur and passed through the city.

The most touristy thing to do here is to take a picture of the Petronas Twin Towers.

Which I did, of course.

Then our bus stopped at a petrol station for some passengers to take a pee. As I waited, a car drove up and its owner went into the minimart to get stuff. I stare in awe at this old, beat-up, rusty one-eyed dragon (独眼龙). I have to say that this car is purely a transportation tool only, as I can't imagine anyone considering this as their pride and joy.

Which is absolutely fine by me. I've never understood why people obsess so much over their cars anyway.

Finally, after a meandering, dizzying climb up the hills, our coach arrived at Genting. Yes!

That towering, monolithic building with bright, clashing colours is the First World Hotel. I don't think it will win any awards for its appearance, but it certainly looked welcoming after that long bus ride. Need a comfy bed!

The First World Hotel bus station maintains the same gaudy colour scheme as the hotel itself. Ouch my eyes!

It was quite sunny when I arrived, and certainly not as cool as I had hoped. I like the crisp mountain air, but I find it a little thin to breathe. Especially if I exert myself by climbing stairs or something. It doesn't seem to affect anyone else I know.

And I don't even smoke. I think I just suck.

Did I mention that the First World Hotel is the *radio announcer voice* Largest Hotel In The World? It has over 6000 frickin' rooms man. I have never seen a longer check-in counter than this one. My photo doesn't do it justice. It is really really really long.

And now for my room. It was actually bigger than I expected, compared to what I saw in the virtual tour at the Genting website. It was also very neat and clean. Plus I get TV with cable. Goody!

On the downside I don't get a view at all. You can only see somebody else's window from my window. The First World Hotel has two huge towers, and each of them is built like a sandwich with a narrow airwell between the two "slices".

Here, I'll show you what I mean with this vertical panorama of the airwell.

Isn't that neat? You can make cool panoramas like this using Autostitch. I think the arrangement of beams remind me of a vertebral column. There goes my inner science geek again.

Now that I have settled in nicely, it's time to take a look around. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

To be continued... in my next post!