Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gambling and roller-coasters in Genting

From Malaysia 2010
(wonder what the Hotel Third World looks like?)

If there's one thing that Chinese people love more than eating, it's probably gambling... and dangerously so.There's always stories you hear about old Chinatowns in the US, full of gambling dens, etc. That's for a reason.. it's because Chinese people really love to gamble. And we saw lots of it in Genting.

I'd never been to Genting before, but it's in the highlands of Malaysia, about 1-2 hours outside Kuala Lumpur, and its high enough in the mountains that the air is significantly cooler than KL... so cool that S had to wear a fleece jacket, and I (being from Minnesota), just had to put a t-shirt under my short sleeve polo shirt. It's amazingly refreshing to be such cool weather when it's 90+ degrees and humid in KL. It's so cool that there's no need for air conditioning in the hotel room. (probably the only place in Malaysia where that's possible)

Strangely, Genting caters to two very different groups of people.

From Malaysia 2010
Malaysia's first roller coaster...

Group 1 - Non-Gambling
First - there's an indoor and outdoor amusement park, shopping, games, and restaurants. You'll see lots of international tourists here, it was particularly crowded with Middle Eastern tourists, particularly those from Saudi Arabia, with some Indians and Malaysians. We met a funny couple from Saudi Arabia.. the husband's name was Mohammed, it was his first time to an amusement park, and he was scared of the rides (even the simple ones, like the swing that lifts up in the air goes in circles). His wife (we didn't get her name), was completely covered in black, but had some fashionable shoes on. She was scared of EVERY ride - even the swing, or go-karting. (maybe because women don't drive in Saudi Arabia?). Somehow, Mohammed convinced her to do the rocking pirate boat ride... which she was still shell-shocked after coming off. But she was a good sport, laughing as we tried to convince them to try other rides with us.

It's funny to see the amusement park, which could be easily mistaken for any amusement park in the US. But there are some odd things... like this space shuttle that looks a lot like the US one, except it has a Malaysian flag (granted, it looks like the US flag), but it says MASA on it. Yes - I know Malaysia has had their first astronaut, but it's strange to see a Malaysian flag and "MASA" on what is actually a US spacecraft.

MASA? on the US Space Shuttle?

The other odd thing is how any of the concession stands for snacks look like something you'd find at the state fair... except all the words appear to be in English, but not understandable. Instead of seeing "cotton candy, hot dogs, and pop", you have "Powerpop, Manjoo, and Mee Goreng". The only one I recognize there is Mee Goreng = fried noodles.

Group 2: - Gamblers
HUGE gambling halls, and you'll primarily see Chinese, with some Indians and international (primarily European or Australian) visitors. One of the halls we were in was decorated in a Chinese style.. huge open room, lanterns hanging from the ceiling, huge wall murals. And it's nothing like Las Vegas...

First, there's no waitress bringing you free alcohol. You have to get your own drinks.... as long as its hot tea, water, or Milo (hot chocolate).

Second - it's amazingly QUIET. There's no ruckus from slot machines, mainly because there aren't any. People are playing card games... and VERY seriously, and very superstitiously. I sat down at a table to play Pontoon (a blackjack variant). The bet size is more my style... RM25 = $7. As soon as I put my chips down, there's a middle aged auntie next to me who takes my chips (!!) and moves them to another player's spot. I say (in Chinese) - "you can't do that!", then she starts spouting off (good thing I didn't understand everything), that she didn't want to open up another position, it would be unlucky, the cards are bad etc. After my bonus hunting experience, I know it's all statistics. I move my chips back to my spot.

Ironically, my "spot" actually becomes "hot", and she starts putting her money into my spot. So much for unluckiness of opening a new "spot". By the end of the night, I win RM 100 (about USD30). Probably the first time I've won anything ever in a casino. Good thing my blackjack training came in handy. Amazing to see how many people don't know how to play perfect strategy... and taking really bad side bets too.

We saw some very interesting people while gambling. First - there was this older man (80's probably) at our table who was literally falling asleep AT THE TABLE. The dealer had to slap his hand in front of his cards to wake him up. Probably a sign of too much gambling. Second - while playing, we kept on hearing this guy shout out "picture! picture! GOOD-BYE!" at the Baccarat tables. Then we realized he was doing it at really random times, and probably had Tourette's syndrome. I went over to investigate.. with all that shouting, you'd think he'd be playing for big stakes. Nope.. just RM10! (US$3!)

Genting was great fun.. although a bit constraining. It's a lot like Vegas - food is expensive (by Malaysian standards), but usually good, although it's satisfying to get a KFC snack after a late night of playing pontoon. You can do the rides during the day, but non-gambling entertainment is limited at night.

Oh - and the funniest part of my Genting story... We went to do this bumper boat ride, it's a bit like bumper cars, except you're on a floating raft with a small motor. As we're in line, an employee takes out a scale and ruler (like the kind you see in a doctor's office). I thought he was going to measure the kid in front of me, but he points to me and says:

"Can you please stand on the scale?"

I stand on the scale.. and it reads... 76.5 kg

"I'm sorry sir, you can't take this ride. Maximum weight is 75 kg"

I was absolutely embarrassed. I'm too heavy for this ride?! 75 kgs is nothing! (apparently he hasn't been to the US yet). There seemed to be other people in front of us who were clearly above 75 kgs, except I was the one targeted. I think S was laughing all the way back to the hotel... she totally wanted to do the ride, but I was "too heavy"

That was definitely a first.. I'm too overweight for the ride. I explained to S, once you take out my shoes, my wallet, and the two phones I'm carrying, that's probably 1 kg already. Sure enough, 1 wk later in Singapore, I weighed myself without all that stuff. 74.5 kgs. End of story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah - 3rd world hotel. Hahahhaa. When I looked at that picture, I agree, it really looked crappy. Welcome to Malaysia !!! and yes yes, I am sure your net weight is < 75. Thank God for the lack of mamak stalls in USA (hehehehhehe).