Sisters' Highland Holiday

When my sister, Pearly, suggested planning a Sisters’ Holiday during her visit from the UK, she also stipulated that it should be to a destination that does not need a visa.

The iconic clock tower at the town square in Fraser's Hill
That’s because when we, the three sisters, made a previous trip to Hoi An, Pearly had to go to London to arrange for her visa into Vietnam. That experience was just too stressful for her so she requested that this time, we should go to where she does not need a visa.

While considering various destinations in Asia, Pearly suddenly proposed a road trip to local destinations.

Then she narrowed it down to visiting the highlands, just like how our dad used to take us to Fraser’s Hill, Ipoh and Cameron Highlands during the year-end holidays.

Mum and dad would pack their three daughters in our trusted Volkswagen to head North from Johor Baru in the wee hours of the morning for a day-long drive.

We stopped our drive to enjoy the view of this waterfalls
In those days, there was no North-South Highway so dad would drive the scenic route from dawn to dusk, making pit-stops at coffee-shops for us to use the restrooms, before we reached our destination.

I remember being seated in the center of the back seat (between my two older sisters) with a small plastic bucket wedged between the two front seats, positioned just below my face so that if I felt car-sick during the drive, I could throw up into the bucket…

Memories of our family highland holidays – that later also included our younger brother – compelled us to seriously consider our destination options.

Finally Ruby, our eldest sister, made the reservations online for late November to Fraser’s Hill and Awana at Genting Highlands because Cameron Highlands was just a bit too far a distance to cover for this road trip.

My sisters, Ruby [Left] and Pearly [Right]
The idea of staying in Awana was to explore the Premium Outlets there (shopping!) and to experience the recently upgraded cable-car ride to Resorts World at the summit.

In fact, dad talked about going on the cable-car but at that time, the system was closed for refurbishing and he did not have the opportunity to enjoy the ride. So our sisters’ cable-car ride was somewhat on dad’s behalf.

The drive from JB on the North-South Highway was a familiar route but I had, however, even forgotten how to get to the foothills of Fraser’s Hill. It was far too long since we last visited this hill resort…

So with Ruby as our navigator, we made our way through Rawang before coming across another familiar town, Kuala Kubu Baru.

The sign outside the property named, Banglo Johor
at Fraser's Hill
Pearly, who was half-reclining on the back seat, was reading and dozing most of the way – and asking, “Are we there yet?  She was also supplying us with snacks and sweeties (from the UK!) to keep us fortified for the drive.

And when we reached the foothills and started to climb up Fraser’s Hill, she had her camera out to snap shots of the lovely scenery to keep as photo mementoes.

Every now and then, she would let out a yell when she spotted an impressive sight and I would slow the car down and stop, if necessary, for us to take in the view and snap some shots.

I remember the Rest House and its flower gardens at The Gap where we used to stopover for the wait because back then, there was a single route for up and down. Cars had to stop for the all-clear signal and took their turns to travel up or down that route.

Dinner on the terrace of Aida Daniya Restaurant
& English Tea House, Fraser's Hill
When we reached the turning to head uphill at The Gap, we spotted the Rest House and were sad to see how the once charming building, had fallen into a depressing, derelict condition.

Perched on a hillock, the stone building still looked sturdy but the jungle had taken over and it was badly overgrown with weeds.

How I wished someone or some authority could do something to preserve this old building…

As we leave the humid lowlands, the air was much cooler and I kept the car windows open to let ourselves be cooled by the natural air-conditioning!

In the current monsoon season, the wind and rain had caused minor landslides along the winding route but there were ample signs to warn of the road conditions ahead.

Enjoying a hot cup of tea in our tower room,
Awana Hotel, Genting Highlands
Maybe it was the feeling of anticipation coupled with the many stops we made along the way but it seemed like a long, long drive to reach our destination.

Soon the drive was getting steeper and steeper and we were reading the stone markers along the route to see how much further (kilometers) the drive was …

The weather was comfortably cool and a mist hung heavily ahead when we read the sign, “Fraser’s Hill” at the top of the one-way ascending route that led to the town square, marked by its iconic clock tower.

We were finally there!

I drove in a crawl, taking in the familiar sights, enjoying the cool air and followed the signs that led to our hotel.

Darkness descended upon us quite quickly and after such a long drive, we decided to keep the exploring for the next day.

Instead, we explored the hotel and discovered a bookcase filled with lots of books – mostly in foreign languages – but we picked a few in English to enjoy during our stay.

Stopped at George & Dragon Genting Highlands to
buy cream cakes for takeaway
Dinner in the hotel restaurant was both comforting and satisfying, especially with the cold setting in that night.

After dinner, I was more than ready to switch off for the night to rest and gear up for the next day.

Snuggled under the cozy blanket and sheets, I dozed off quite quickly but was awakened by a consistent chirping noise that sounded rather close, in the dead of night.

While this loud chirping was annoying and keeping me awake, I had no choice but to embrace the calls of night creatures and insects in this wild and natural hilltop neighbourhood and tried to get some sleep…

After breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we took a walk around the town square. Then armed with a route map of the network of roads at the summit, we hopped in the car to explore further afield.

Three sisters in the cable-car ride to Resorts World Genting
When we stopped to admire panoramic views of the nearby range of hills, we saw many hills enveloped in thick clouds while the air that swirled around us was cool and crisp. For a while it felt like we were really above these clouds!

We saw that while most properties were privately owned by individuals, corporations or government agencies, Fraser’s Hill remained largely undeveloped.

When I spotted the sign outside a property bearing the Johor crest, Jawi inscriptions and the words, BANGLO JOHOR, I screeched my car to a halt. It was a pleasant surprise but I just felt proud that Johor had a claim on this bit of Fraser’s Hill!

As my sisters and I explored the sites, we realized that the walking trails and trek to the waterfalls were closed for the season so we went about admiring the lovely flowers and giant ferns that thrived better in the cooler and more conducive climate here.

Sharing a crepe snack with our aunties,
Polly [Right] and Sylvia [Centre]!
While our time at Fraser’s Hill was a total chill-out Nature retreat, the opposite can be said about our time at Genting Highlands.

Ruby, our able navigator guided us on a smooth drive from Fraser’s Hill to Awana at Genting Highlands and soon after we checked into the hotel, the monsoon rain came pouring down in a fierce storm.

Unknown to us, our aunties Sylvia and Polly along with her husband, Uncle Steven, had planned a trip to Genting Highlands to coincide with ours – to surprise us!

Once again, my sisters and I decided to dine in the hotel restaurant instead of going out in the heavy rain.

Eating local street food at
Malaysian Food Street
While we were having our dinner, I received a phone message from uncle asking, “Where are you?” followed by another line, “We are on the way up…”

We were glad to know that they arrived safely in the storm and were booked to stay at another hotel at Resorts World Genting. Then we arranged to meet the next morning at the Arrival area where we would exit from the cable-car ride.

A short drive from the hotel took us to the Genting Highlands Premium Outlets – laid out quite similar to our Johor Premium Outlets – but before exploring the shops, we found our way to the cable-car station (within the building) to head uphill.

As our cable-car ascended, the morning mists gradually cleared for us to enjoy panoramic views of the hills and greenery. This was probably what dad wanted to experience...

When we alighted, our aunties were eagerly waiting to welcome us and show us the sights they thought should interest us.

The entire Genting Highlands network of buildings in Resorts World was new to me and it was good to have our aunties (who are familiar with it!) to be our guides.

Waving farewell to our aunties who saw
us off to a cable-car ride back to Awana
Besides eating a wide range of local street food at the Malaysian Food Street food court, we also spent time in the Visitors Galleria to see a gallery of photos, mementoes and video of the work and legacy of the Resorts World’s founder and developer, Tan Sri Dr Lim Goh Tong.

From the fogged up glass panels, we knew that it was raining heavily outside but our aunties wanted us to step outside for an experience of the natural coolness here.

So we made our way to the porch and stepped out, just to get whipped by the wind!

Then we went browsing in the shops and finally, took a walk through the casinos – from the smoking section to the non-smoking section – just for a view of what went on in there.

After spending the day in Resorts World Genting with our aunties and uncle, my sisters and I took the cable-car back to the Premium Outlets to explore the shops.

Looking back, it was amusing that the second half of our sisters’ Highland Holiday also included our aunties and uncle, and it was altogether, a very special time together.

After breakfast the next morning, we loaded our luggage in the car along with extra bags – filled with shopping – and headed downhill, for a drive back to JB via Kuala Lumpur.

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