Monday, 19 June 2017

The NEW Awana Skyway @ Genting Highlands

In 2014, the old Awana Skyway closes after 40 years in operation. This is replaced by the new Awana Skyway which opened in December 2016. I had the privilege of experiencing this cable car just less than 1 month after it opened, and I think it a good step-up not just from the old Awana Skyway, but the existing Genting Skyway as well!

Awana Skyway Features

Awana Skyway is a mono-cable detachable gondola that stretches about 2.8km from Resorts World Genting to Awana Station, a transportation facility halfway up the mountain. The cable car ascends a 620m from 1105m to 1725m above sea level. Before the new Awana Skyway, many tour buses had to drive all the way up the summit, which puts a lot of strain on the buses and can be dizzying for some passengers. And let's not forget the nightmare called Mushroom Farm.

With the New Awana Skyway, the resort can now shut down 1 cable car system during off-peak season for maintenance. In fact, on the day I went, that was precisely what happened! Also, with a combined capacity of 6000 people per hour, the 2 cable cars can theoretically transport all hotel guests (double occupancy) in about 2.5 hours!

Here are some key changes from the old Awana Skyway

  • Station at summit moved from Genting Hotel building (beside Genting Skyway station) to Sky Avenue, the new retail and dining hub of Resorts World Genting
  • Instead of just 2 large cars (1 on each cable), there will be 99 cars with capacity up to 10 people. This increases capacity from about 500 per hour to over 3000 per hour!
  • A new Awana Station is built with more parking spaces and some retail options. Think of it like a larger version of Gohtong Jaya station
  • New Chin Swee Temple station at the halfway point

Tickets are RM8 for 1 way standard car and RM50 for glass bottom car. There is also a surcharge of RM20 for over-sized luggage. According to Resorts World Genting, is that "Passengers can take along one aircraft cabin size bag per passenger on the gondola", but at the station an exact size of 56cm x 36cm x 25cm is strictly enforced. (why can't you just put this on your website!!?)

No more driving up these steep mountain roads...or I think...

Map showing the alignment of the new Awana Skyway in relation to Genting Skyway. Photo credits to Resorts World Genting

Sky Avenue Station

Okay, you may be wondering why I start from the top instead of the bottom. That's because Awana Skyway was still in soft-opening phase and many tour agencies (including the one I traveled with) still went directly to the summit. As such, I took the New Awana Skyway only for the experience rather than for transportation.

The new station is large and spacious, with a large area set aside for queuing. The ticketing counter is surprisingly small given the high capacity of the Cable Car, so most of the queue is actually at the ticketing counter. I guess this will change once most tour agencies use the Skyway as well.

The ticketing booth only has 2 counters. 

I wonder how long the queue will be if this is all filled up... here is the baggage size regulation: 56cm x 36cm x 25cm!

Crystal Cabin experience!

One of the things that excite me is the glass bottom car. Of course, I have never taken a glass bottom cable car before, so I cannot miss it this time. Yes the ticket at RM50 is expensive, but let's compare with some other places:

  • Langkawi SkyCab (Malaysia): RM105
  • Ngong Ping 360 (Hong Kong): HKD490 (RM268, WTF!)
  • Maokong Gondola: NT100 (RM14) - this one is cheap. Blame myself for not taking it when I was in Taipei last year!

Out of the 99 cars, only 10 of them are crystal cabins. I was ushered (yes, ushered) into queue lane D, which is reserved for crystal cabin passengers only. Honestly, I was more well treated as a crystal cabin passenger than the Genting Rewards Gold Card holders in lane C. I guess you get what you payed for. You can identify the crystal cabins easily since they are darker in colour and the doors are opened and closed manually by the staff.

Once on board, I was immediately impressed by the clarity of the glass floor. I remembered the old Sentosa crystal cabins where the glass is like only 50% translucent (which I did not take FYI). This is so much better. It really feels like there is nothing below you. Of course, since no one is silly enough to pay RM50 for a single cable car ride, I get a cabin all to myself!!!

Look how clear the bottom glass is! 
Another interesting feature of the new Awana Skyway is the angle station. An angle station is basically a building that allows a cable car to turn sideways. It is NOT a passenger station. This is required so that the cable car can reach Sky Avenue around the Genting Hotel building. That's another first for me!

See how the cable car turns to the left after the angle station?

Next, we passed by Chin Swee Temple station. Although it is quite sweet for Resorts World Genting to make this attraction more accessible, I think the station will create some problems in terms of queue once the cable car is operating at full capacity.

We are now approaching Awana Station. Thankfully, there was a stoppage of the cable car, so I can spend more time in the crystal cabin. Nonetheless, I felt the journey was quite short and it was over too quickly.

Here is where my cabin stopped - right over the road

Awana Station and the Way Up

Awana Station is a transportation center. This means that passengers driving or from tour buses will disembark at Awana Station, then transfer to Awana Skyway to reach Resorts World Genting. I do find the building design a bit bland but this may be because a lot of the posters and publicity material has yet to be put up. And yes, the queue area here is even bigger than Sky Avenue!

see what I mean!?

A tour group arrived when I was going up, so no more solo cabin!

Sitting area for Genting Rewards Gold Card holders
On the way up, I took the normal cabin. That means no more VIP treatment. Actually, I was quite impressed by the size of the cabin. From the ground, the cabins look very small compared to Genting Skyway cabins. However, this is because the cabins at Awana Skyway are taller and so proportionally looks narrower. The cabin felt quite spacious even though there were 8 people on board. Some people may find the facing each other seat arrangement a bit awkward but this is the industry standard for cable cars!

But the real capacity is 10. I pity those sitting near the door (ie. myself) since the supporting bar for the door drastically reduce the legroom.

erm...guys, this is Sky Avenue station!

The Verdict

Awana Skyway is a good step-up from Genting Skyway. The ride is very stable and there is much less swinging compared to the older system. Also, the station AND the gondolas have step free access so the boarding process feels more comfortable. The price at RM8 is standard so there is nothing to complain, though I do wish Resorts World Genting dropped the crystal cabin price to so more people are willing to ride it. 

  • Comfort: ☆☆☆☆
  • Capacity: ☆☆☆☆
  • Ease of Boarding/Alighting: ☆☆☆☆☆
  • Pricing: ☆☆☆☆
  • Overall: ☆☆☆☆☆

Like Awana Skyway? Perhaps you will also like these other places with cable car:

Or you just want to visit  more attractions in Malaysia?