We have all been to places within and outside of our country, right? We may have travelled alone or it might have been with family and friends. I had the pleasure of visiting Malaysia, a fantastic country by the way, and since it was my first major trip abroad with my buddies as part of our academic program, I feel it deserves a special mention. It was the most amazing 3 days of my life and events have transpired exactly as I have outlined them here.
Before we dive into trip details, allow me to give you some background info about our program. The MTA (Masters in Tourism Administration) batch, 2010-12 (which includes our seniors) is the very first in the history of Mar Ivanios College to go on an international tour. It took us a lot, AND I MEAN A LOT, of effort to get to this point, but hey, that’s what makes it so memorable. We (the guys at MTA) were entitled to a National or an International tour as per our syllabus. So, we thought, “WHOA!! It’s definitely going to be an international one!” It would make for a far richer experience and provide us with much needed exposure on the day to day issues that crop up in our industry.
Many people, including our own classmates who couldn't join us for the tour because of personal reasons, in fact played an invaluable part in making our dream come true and we owe them everything for the amazing time we had. Our illustrious tour guide was an MIC alumnus, Mr. Prem Bhas (MTA, 2005-07, employed with Parveen Holidays) with whom we developed a very special bond as the tour progressed. These heroes toiled for our sakes without the promise of any personal recompense. We are truly indebted to them.
Coming back to the trip, we were to leave for Malaysia on the 4th of July, 2011. Before leaving for the airport, we were surrounded by well-wishers from our college and their prayers provided for our much needed strength. Our trip also coincided with the visit of the NAAC re-accreditation team and it was a God-sent opportunity to showcase the merits of our beloved college. We reached Kochi on time to catch the Air Asia flight to Malaysia. For many the maiden experience of being on a plane while it takes off and lands, the frequent changes in air pressure were something not likely to be easily forgotten. We really enjoyed every minute of our maiden flight. We touched down at KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) by night. Our first thought on entering Malaysia was that “so this is how a foreign country looks like. It isn’t much different from ours, right?” After Immigration and Customs, en route to our hotel were sights of really quality transportation and costly cars and we were awestruck to see the petrol rate at a local petrol pump when our car stopped to get gas. The rate was half of that in India. We were really in awe of the place at that instant. Our accommodation was at the First World Hotel in Genting Highlands, the fourth largest in the world in terms of rooms. It had 28 floors and a total of 6,118 rooms. It used to be the largest hotel in the world until The Palazzo was opened in January 2008 in Paradise, Nevada. Genting Highlands is a hill resort situated at about 1 hour distance from KLIA which was developed by the private sector on 12,000 acres of land by 1970 and to date continues to be the biggest attraction Malaysia has to offer.
After check in, we were informed about the complimentary buffet breakfast from 7.30 to 10.30 am. We were too excited to sleep that night. We figured we could sleep to our heart’s content once back in India but there was ABSOLUTELY no way we were going to waste our time on sleep while we were in this stunning country. We sorely regretted that decision the next morning!! Almost everyone overslept but thankfully most of them got ready for breakfast on time, however a few unlucky ones missed it. It was THE best buffet breakfast we had ever had and there were a gazillion options to choose from. The cuisine was mouth-watering and it was refreshing to see people from various nationalities dining under the same roof. Oh, how we loved that breakfast!!!
Our second day was filled with fun and frolic!! We tried several indoor and outdoor theme park rides and a few even tried their luck at the casino. We literally threw ourselves at everything Genting Highlands could offer us. We had to head back to Kuala Lumpur the next day, so we made maximum use of our brief stay at the First World Hotel. We took loads of photos, tried conversing with foreigners from different countries and had a first-hand experience of their culture. We wanted to stay longer but were short on time. Time’s a really weird fellow, isn’t he? He always does the opposite of what you want him to do. So unfair!!!!
We headed to Kuala Lumpur the next day and checked in at the Cititel Express hotel. It was located in the city center and we could get a glimpse of city life and people going about their routine work. We splurged on shopping and indulged in a few leisurely activities. Though we had no intention of sleeping again, our plush beds overpowered and left us counting sheep. Our accommodations also offered us a great view of the Petronas Twin Towers, the pride of Malaysia. That afternoon, equipped with maps, we branched out to explore different parts of the city. Between us, I believe we were able to cover almost the entire city. It was unbelievable. We visited Kuala Lumpur Tower, Petronas Towers, Aquaria KLCC, China Town, Merdeka Square, Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Cable Car Ride and so much more.
We shopped again on the fourth day. Though we had planned on getting food products from KL (since they were relatively cheap there), we had to stay true to our masculine nature. So, with joyful spirits, we decided to raid the electronics section of the city. Imagine our excitement when we found out that we could get an iPhone for as low as 6K!! 6K!!!!!! To our detriment, we later realized that we had been taken for a ride. Ah well!!! I guess no city’s truly perfect. In the afternoon we visited Batu Caves and returned back to Cititel Express in the evening. We reserved that evening for a taste of the traditional cuisines in the region. That night, we contemplated with great heaviness of heart, our departure from this magnanimous city.
On the day of our departure, we had our complimentary breakfast at the hotel and also did some last minute shopping. We reached the airport in the afternoon. Little did we know that we were in for a drama. It began with the airline officer accidentally shuffling the tickets for our accompanying professor and a student. This meant that we would have to track down our ‘already checked in’ professor. If by any chance he had gotten into the airplane, then the student would have to stay back. A chilling prospect indeed!! We hurriedly split into groups and searched for him. Thankfully, we found him in the nick of time and all of us there were able to board without further incidents. However, a headcount revealed another problem. Two of our classmates weren’t on the plane. In fact, they were nowhere to be seen. We panicked and told the air hostesses to stall the flight until they came. They then assured us that they had informed the ground staff and would find them soon. Our flight was scheduled at 3:00 pm and at about 2:45 pm we saw them running frantically towards us and we collectively let out a sigh of relief. It was really a close shave!! But praise to God, everything worked out well and we landed in CIAL back on time with enough memories to last a lifetime. It was an exhilarating experience as well as a learning curve for all of us.
Now when I look back, I realize that I had more fun in those 4 days than I’ve ever had in my whole life. It really felt as if a whole lifetime had been compressed in that short period. I take pride in knowing the fact that despite being an avid traveller who would like nothing better than to explore the world, this trip of mine will always have a special place in my memories. Before travelling together we were just friends but after completing the trip we became a family.