If an attraction is artificial, does that make the experience any less real?

Posted by - November 12, 2015 | Category: Asia, Escapes, Malaysia

Finding Beauty in a Fake Lake

Kenyir Lake, Terengganu, Malaysia

Okay purists, put down your pitchforks for a moment and listen up, because this one’s for you. Not so long ago, I was one of you — smug up there on my high horse, all judgey and eye-rolly whenever anyone said they were going to Disneyland or a water park or any manmade attraction for that matter. It’s not “authentic” enough, I cried. It’s a trap and a cop-out and a money-grab and fake, fake, FAKE!

Kenyir Lake Terengganu Malaysia

But is manufactured fun any less fun? If an attraction is artificial, does that make the experience there any less real?

I suppose the key is finding a balance. If no animals are harmed, and the surrounding environment isn’t disrupted for the worse, what’s the problem? Land was misplaced to build wherever it is you’re sleeping tonight, but you’re not on the receiving end of condescending whispers and tsk-tsks from your friends that your apartment/house/yurt isn’t authentic enough are you? And if you are, perhaps it’s time to engage in some spring cleaning on that there friend list. Yep, balance is the key — a balance between conservation and consumption.

Kenyir Lake, Terengganu, Malaysia

Kenyir Lake Terengganu Malaysia 5103

Kenyir Lake is Asia’s largest manmade lake. It was created in 1985 as the result of the damming of Kenyir River to support the Sultan Mahmoud Power Station. The thing is, it doesn’t look manmade at all. But hand to God, it is indeed. So how big are we talking here? It’s got a surface area of 250 sq km, it’s lined with a number of caves and waterfalls, and it’s framed by one of the world’s oldest rain forests.

The dam serves as a natural flood control system and contributes to the socio-economic development of the area by generating jobs for locals.

Kenyir Lake Terengganu Malaysia 197

And that’s who you find at Kenyir Lake — locals. Over 90% of the folks at Kenyir Lake the day I visited were locals. Because living like a local doesn’t always mean taking a vegan donkey through the jungle to forage for carbon-neutral bamboo, sometimes it means riding a Slip-N-Slide down a manmade hill, or giggling on a giant bouncy house in the middle of a manmade lake.

KKenyir Lake Terengganu Malaysia 220

Fake lake or not, the fun was real, even if there were some judgey, eye-rolly moments. Because you know, old habits die hard.

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Note: I was a guest of Tourism Terengganu during my time at Kenyir Lake in Malaysia. All opinions are my own (as you can probably tell.)

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7 comments - add one
  1. please.. I love city trips and lets face cities are all man-made, or in an extreme case, lots of European cities like Berlin, Dresden or Warsaw had to be rebuilt from scratch after they were bombed to smithereens. I’m not snooty about artificial attractions!

  2. Lake Kenyir & the neighboring Lake Temenggor are “lucky” considering the area that was dammed did not have any inhabitants.

    Compare that to the state of Sarawak in East Malaysia where construction of dams intrude into native customary lands of the indigenous people.

    They are forced to vacate the lands of their forefathers but thankfully more and more are fighting back for their rights.

  3. Considering 90% of the visitors at the lake were locals, I think that is the key thing here. It may be an “artificial attraction,” but it is allowing you to interact with the locals. And in the end, isn’t travel more about the people you meet along the way on the journey and less about the journey itself?

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