One hopes to discover many things on a trip to Malaysia; the sight of the Twin Towers silhouetted against the city skyline, experiencing seasickness on expensive cruise ships whilst roaming the (let's say, fashionably) emerald waters in Langkawi, even taking a hike with the low-lying, drifting clouds in the Outdoor Theme Park in Genting Highlands, and lastly but most especially, eating a generous scoop of blue-coloured and blueberry-flavoured candy-floss in a cone in Putrajaya.
What one least expects to discover, it is needless to say, is a French-themed resort by the name Colmar Tropicale Berjaya Hills Resort (admittedly inspired by the original Colmar Village in Alsace, France), furnished with a dusting of sidewalk cafés and restaurants, gaming arcades and a popcorn stand which serves the most deliciously decadent caramel popcorn known to man.
Tucked away a decent 2700-3500 feet away from modern civilisation in Bukit Tinggi, the Resort standing proudly, but not domineeringly so, is led to by an old-fashioned cobblestone path. The gravel path spreading under it is flanked by flowers of uncommon variety, dotting twin rows of knee-length shrubbery on either side of the road.
The road in question leads to a stone stairway down to the enclosed, dirty lakes where swans, of indiscriminate blacks and whites, are swaddled. They make for delightful company, floating close to eagerly peck at offerings of cheese crisps from kind hands, bobbing down gaily to soften them in the water in a gesture strangely reminiscent of that of a mother feeding her toothless child, before swallowing them whole.
The lakes are overlooked by small, comely medieval cottages, their windows winking with the mellow glow of yellow-lit bedrooms which are available for renting in the event that one wishes to explore the village during the night, even though a handful of daylight hours can prove quite sufficient for a thorough excursion through the village.
Whilst traversing the graveled path of the village, expect a tame rain shower as the general climate is quite cool. The bakeries will tempt you with freshly-baked croissants and garlic and cheese bread, éclairs and white chocolate cupcakes, all of which can be considered to be of a reasonable price range if one takes into account that they make up for their French quintessence in appearance as opposed to taste.
The restaurants and cafés have outdoor dining spaces in conjunction to the dimly-lit indoors, but they are both very appealingly rudimentary in design with round tables in checkered tablecloths enclosed by wooden chairs on thin legs. One can have a little rest while enjoying a moderately tasteful slice of cheese pizza or a bite of pasta while still remaining privy to the ongoing bustle (and what a bustle it is!) of human chatter and feet. Interestingly enough, if an approximate ratio is to be considered, it is a more popular destination at the end of a long road trip for natives rather than tourists.
Further on, one will find a noble soul in a shockingly orange Jerry Mouse suit, posing obediently for pictures with rambunctious children and elders alike. One curious artifact is that of an equine taxidermy, dressed like something out of a psychedelic dream, peering at passers-by with an unblinking and unsmiling gaze. It, as well as the fountain near which it stands, seem both in and out of place in this teeming town of travellers. The fountain houses small schools of fish and draws the attention of children who blow bubbles into it with the gusto of eager magic-fountain-wish-makers.
The trek back to the Colmar Tropicale Resort will seem a long one for weary feet. Only lodgers, as yours truly had been informed are allowed upstairs, but the lobby is open to all visitors. It has an unkempt and bare look, rather dull and dusty carpets spread across the floor and tables with empty glasses wearing fingerprints and dirty tissue paper. The knights standing motionless in their silver armours too seem lodged in a mistaken time warp. But of course, when I remember, I do not remember any of this, not really.
How can I when the domed ceiling and long windows of the Colmar Tropicale house beautiful mosaic portraits of creatures in various degrees of poignant and cherubic glory, as in scenes from a Biblical fable or play? No, of my travel around this quaint, pseudo-French, treasure of a village, this is what I remember most.
Nuzhat Biswas is the oft-curious hypen betwixt an incurable humanist.