By Sharon Ng Kooi Kin
THOUGH it's best known for its casinos and theme parks, another attraction for visitors to Genting Highlands is its fabulous shopping opportunities.
The Hokkien people call Genting Highlands Hoon Teng (meaning "above the clouds") and this is one place where you can practically shop above the clouds, at 1,770m high!
From souvenirs costing a few ringgit to up-market branded goods selling for a few thousand ringgit, there is something for everyone. Even if you don't intend to buy anything, window shopping here is a lot of fun.
At the Indoor Theme Park, just one floor above the First World Hotel lobby, you will find a cultural village featuring an Asian country. On my many visits to Genting Highlands, I have enjoyed displays from China, The Philippines, Thailand, Korea and, this time around, it's Vietnam.
For such events, the nations concerned usually send in skilled craftsmen to do demonstrations of traditional crafts. Fascinated patrons usually end up buying these beautiful works of art.
At the Vietnamese House, I am initially attracted by the red rickshaw and pretty model wearing an ao-dai, the traditional attire for Vietnamese women. Then I see a display of water puppets and posters explaining their origin.
These bring back memories of a visit to Hanoi where I watched an actual water puppet show. Now we can buy replicas of these puppets here, in Malaysia. How fabulous!
The Vietnamese Centre has wares from Ho Chih Minh City or Hanoi like beaded and embroidered sandals and bags, wood carvings, clothing, conical hats, religious pictures and figurines and other souvenirs. A young woman demonstrates how sand pictures are made and a master craftsman chisels a block of wood into the likeness of Buddha.
Genting Walk shopping
Take the escalator up one floor and you will find more shops selling everything under the sun. Sportswear and shoes are plentiful as are fashionable clothes, music and film CDs, DVDs and chocolates. A shop is devoted to chocolates and candy of every flavour - nutty or plain milk, dark or white, in bars or drops, with wafers or liquor centres.
I enjoy browsing at the small stalls along Genting Walk on the second level. I see an artist from China working on a bamboo scroll. She is painting the name of a Pakistani boy, embellishing each letter with flowers and animals.
Surrounded by an admiring family of five, including an old woman in a wheelchair, she works fast and skillfully. Finally, she stamps her signature trademark at the bottom of the scroll.
The boy's father says it makes a lovely souvenir from Malaysia and hopes the scroll will last for a long time. The artist assures him it will, "at least 20 years!". All this for only RM15 ($6.10). What a bargain!
Walk towards Snow World on the same floor where more shops and stalls offer a variety of commodities. There are portrait artists, toy and jewellery stores, electronics and souvenirs including party masks and hats.
I stop at a hand and foot casting store and watch how a customer's hand is cast. What a lovely memento of a baby's tiny hand or foot that will make. Engravings and inscriptions complete these unusual keepsakes.
Outside Snow World are stores selling winter clothing, scarves, hats, gloves and shawls. Photographs of customers playing in the snow, building a snowman or tobogganing are good souvenirs too.
Other Shopping Venues
Take the bubble lift to the third level where the permanent First World Asian Cultural Village is located. Every Asian country is represented here and you will not be disappointed as there is a vast array of goods for sale. Do spend more time at the Malaysian traditional crafts outlet. The woven bags are worth a second look.
If food is on your shopping list, you'll be spoilt for choice with such a huge variety of international and local items.
Snacks and biscuits fill a whole shop as do herbal-detoxifying teas. There are hot-dog outlets and bakeries offering pies, cakes, buns, tarts and even Hainanese dumplings.
If you have the time, there are many other shopping venues outside the hotels or apartments like Genting Resorts at the top and Gohtong Jaya, 10 minutes downhill.
You don't even have to walk. Shuttle buses leaving every 15 minutes connect First World Hotel to other hotels. And there are taxis as well as the cable car from the Skyway Station.
Car No. 9100 takes you to the Mushroom Farm, another interesting place to visit and have your meals. At Gohtong Jaya, you'll find Phalaenopsis Orchid Farm, Chin Swee Temple and the soon to open Strawberry Park. There are highland vegetables and hot chestnuts for sale. Don't miss the famous durian tarts and bombs. Just ask the friendly locals for directions.
Tip: For more shopping ideas, get a Genting Resorts layout map and a copy of the latest Berita Genting at Lim Goh Tong Museum in Highland Hotel.