For the next few days, I would be exploring some locations outside of Kuala Lumpur before coming back into the city for a day, so to make getting around to these other locations easier, I rented a car from Sixt. While the car itself was fine, and in general I found driving in Malaysia not to be too terribly difficult, it seems like the first two days could have been called “The Misadventures of Malaysia’s Tolling System” because of how it led to two long delays during this day and the next.
In Malaysia, the tolls on their highways use a system called Touch ‘n Go which uses an RFID card that you touch on a touch point before continuing, and the amount of the toll is deducted from the account associated on the card. The same card can be used to pay at convenience stores at some other places. The problem comes in trying to obtain one when you arrive in Kuala Lumpur.
When I was getting the car from Sixt, the agent told me that I could either rent a Touch ‘n Go card for 20 Ringgit, or go to a gas station and buy one for 10. This seemed like an easy choice as buying would be half the price, so I went ahead and got in the card and made my way right to the first gas station where the agent said one could be bought. Unfortunately they were sold out. So I looked up another gas station on the GPS, and it showed one just a little bit down the road, so I went there, and they too were out. Since I had no idea where the first toll would be in my drive, I figured that I would go ahead back to the rental desk and just rent a card.
In trying to get back to the desk, I had some trouble figuring out where I could park the park nearby the rental desk as I wasn’t sure how easily I could get back out if I went back into the rental lot, so I ended up parking in the regular airport garage, which meant a bit of a walk back over to the Sixt desk. One the way there though, I found a vending machine for Touch ‘n Go where you could buy cards or reload them. So I thought I would be saving myself a little bit of a walk, but unfortunately the first machine I saw was out of service. Then as I got closer to the rental desk, I found another one that was working, but it wouldn’t accept my cash when I attempted to buy a card. At this point, I was already frustrated, so I went to the Sixt desk, and they got the card for me, all I had to do was load some money onto it.
When walking back to the car, I wondered if the machine that wouldn’t take my cash would work for loading it. Sure enough, it would accept the same cash for loading the card…..If I was a more hostile guy, I would have kicked the machine, but I was just glad that I wouldn’t have to stop at a gas station to load it, and I could just get on the road.
On a side note, this was the first car I have driven where the air/heat dials essentially said to me “What is this ‘heating’ that you speak of?” As there is no heating in the car, just air conditioning. Makes sense considering that it wouldn’t be very likely to get all that cold in Malaysia.
There are a few things to keep in mind about driving in Malaysia. First of all, the driver sits on the right side, and you drive on the left side of the road (same as the likes of Australia, the UK, South Africa, and others). The actual act of driving in Malaysia isn’t for the faint of heart as driving through the cities can be filled with congestion and traffic, along with the weaving of scooters through cars in close quarters at times. Trying to get to different places can become a challenge as there are multiple roads for various exits and the GPS can be a bit ambiguous about which road or lane to take, which could lead to some extra driving at times as you go through a detour, sometimes made longer by the traffic.
Driving on the highways outside of the city tend to be easier as the exits are usually much easier to determine, and the traffic is usually lighter, plus they are well built for a smooth ride. The one thing that may make some uneasy driving on these roads is the aggression with which people drive here compared to others. The use of turn signals for switching lanes is pretty much non-existent, and if you are in the fast lane, you can pretty much count on someone tailgating you until you switch lanes, even if you are going much faster than those in the slow lane.
I wouldn’t say that these things alone should keep anyone from driving here in Malaysia, but I will say that you may want to think about it a bit more than you may other places. I personally never felt overly uncomfortable while driving here, but I also drive a tour bus for my day job back home, and I have experience driving on the other side of the road than back home, so it felt relatively easy to make the adjustments, and I am used to having to drive a bit more defensively as people will cut off the bus fairly often much like some would in Malaysia.
For the first long drive, I went from KLIA to Bukit Gambang. There was a bunch of traffic in outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, but after getting to the highway going into the hills, it would be quite pretty drive.
After about three hours of driving, I made it to Bukit Gambang Resort which has a couple of hotels, as well as an adventure park and water park. I had made this drive because according to Roller Coaster Database, there was a roller coaster here, but they didn’t have any pictures of it, and from the Coaster-Count website, no one on that site has ridden it yet. Looking at the Google Maps satellite view of the area, you could see what looked like a roller coaster, so I had tried contacting the resort to get information about it before hand, but no one had responded. While I could have taken the safe route and skipped this place, it seemed like it was still be fun to go on a scouting trip to see what the situation was.
Using the GPS to pinpoint the location of where the coaster is supposed to be from RCDB, I found an area with some amusement rides, but as I looked around the area, there was not a coaster to be found. It seems to be that what was seen in the satellite image is no longer there. To be honest though, even if it was there, it might not have been likely that I would have been able to ride it as the rides did not appear to be running at that time, although I may have taken the time to try and see if someone could tell me if they would be operating later in the day.
I didn’t go all the way back, however, as I went into the Genting Highlands to explore. This resort is one of the most popular destinations for those who live near Kuala Lumpur as it offers an escape from the heat in the city because the cooler temperatures in the mountains. The drive up to the resort was pretty intense with how steep the drive up is, as well as the curvature of the roads.
Upon arrival to the resort area, I went ahead to my hotel for the next two nights, the First World Hotel. This hotel is the world’s largest hotel in terms of the number of rooms with 7,351. Originally, I was planning on just staying in Kuala Lumpur, but when I found out that this hotel was here, I thought it would be fun to stay here just to say that I did.
While it is incredibly large, the hotel itself wasn’t overly fancy. In some ways it reminded me of some of the hotel rooms you find at the large hotels in Las Vegas as they are there pretty much to provide you a bed to sleep in. The pricing seemed to suggest this as well as I only paid about $25 USD per night for the room. Walking through the hallways to my room, I was a bit worried as there was a bit of an odor to the hallway, but that very well could have been because the hotel only has one non-smoking floor, and this wasn’t one of them. The room itself wasn’t bad though as it was clean and there wasn’t a smell to it. In fact the room I had offered a really neat view of the 20th Century Fox theme park next door!
After getting into the room and dropping off my bags, it was time to explore the resort! While the hotel I was staying at seemed a lot like a cheaper Las Vegas Hotel, the resort itself seemed like a mini Las Vegas in the mountains. There was a large offering of things to see and do here including a large shopping area, casino (which had an emphasis on table games like the casino at Sentosa Island did), a ton of restaurants and a variety of entertainment offerings like this really cool light show involving video screens and these light orbs that would rise and lower to form various patterns and shapes.
In terms of theme park offerings, this resort is currently in progress with that regard. They had recently opened a new version of their indoor amusement park called Skytropolis, which offered a wide variety of Zamperla rides with some great lighting. They had a special for their all day ride pass since they had recently opened the refurbished park.
The park will soon offer a roller coaster Super Glider, a Zamperla Volare model coaster. This particular coaster used to operate at the next-door amusement park, and was being reinstalled inside of the indoor amusement park. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite ready for my visit as they had the track built, but there was still work going on around it.
Heading outside to get some views of the neighboring 20th Century Fox World, this used to be Genting Highlands Theme Park. The outdoor park was closed in 2013, and then they struck a deal with with 20th Century Fox to use their properties for themEing of their park. When I spoke with an employee of the Theme Park Hotel on the resort, he told me that the park was about 85% complete. What may have caused a slow down on their progress is the legal matters between the resort and Disney, as Disney is looking to void the contract for the resort’s use of the 20th Century Fox properties for themeing of the park and attractions.
I knew ahead of time that it was very unlikely this park would be open, and I knew it was quite likely that Super Glider wasn’t going to be ready upon this visit, but I still enjoyed getting to explore the resort, as it was much larger and had a lot of offerings that I wasn’t expecting there. Hopefully in a future visit, both parks will be completed and open (even if 20th Century Fox ends up being rethemed). The next day would hopefully offer some open coasters.