When I first moved to Kuala Lumpur, I immediately felt at home here. I loved never having to layer on clothing, wearing sandals EVERY day of the week, and always getting to sit on patios outside when I went out for drinks, dinner and coffee. You know how good it feels when you have that first really warm spring day, and everyone crowds the patios at restaurants and bars, reveling in the first warm breeze of the season? It felt like that when I first moved here, but then it didn’t end.
I live in a plaza a bit out of the city in Kuala Lumpur, where I have really convenient shopping (a small mall, with a grocery store), restaurants, bars, a fantastic yoga studio, several other fitness outlets, and a Starbucks, among other things. It makes life pretty easy rarely ever having to drive.
Another thing I absolutely loved about living here was the close vicinity of Bukit Kiara Park. Bukit Kiara is actually a neighborhood between Mont’Kiara and Damansara, but most people think of the park only as Bukit Kiara. There are over 15 Km of hiking, walking, and biking trails, both paved and dirt, that weave through a lush jungle park with creeks and waterfalls, mostly undeveloped. Four years ago, I was able to run or walk there from where I live. Four years ago, walkers, runners, and bikers were welcomed into the park, and access was open.
Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. The property is privately owned and maintained, and development began on the land about 3 years ago. The first sign of this development was towering chain link fences being built around the property, mostly blocking the entrance from the Bukit Kiara Equestrian Club side of the park (near Sri Hartamas). For a while, there were still ways to get through the fences and up into the park.
For an even briefer while, a public outcry led by the Friends of Bukit Kiara stalled development. Roads off the main walking trail leading to construction zones were suddenly abandoned, and the heavy machinery that had become such a nuisance was silenced. A year or two passed with all projects seemingly halted. That was, until about 6 months ago, and now construction projects are resuming.
What Role Should our Cities Play in Promoting Active Lifestyles?
If you missed “How an Obese Town Lost a Million Pounds,” a Ted Talk that I recently wrote about, consider watching it (in short, the mayor of Oklahoma City put his city on a diet– set a goal to improve health, and prioritized making his city more walkable, promoting an active lifestyle).
It made me think about how different Western and Asian cultures are. While Western cultures have, for the most part, “been there done that” when it comes to raping our environment and prioritizing health last, Asian cultures are still worshiping the holy dollar, relegating environmental and health concerns to the lowest rung of the ladder. Of course that’s a generalization.
I can’t fathom how this “aha” moment Mick Cornett had about his city, its citizen’s health, and what he could do to help turn around the fate of a million people, doesn’t cross the mind of every leader. (But then again, I also can’t fathom why some people eat at McDonalds instead of taking the time to make millet salads and green smoothies for themselves, to protect their health, feel better, and stave off diseases. Am I crazy?)
What role do you think your city should play in improving infrastructure to promote active lifestyles?
How likely are you to choose your place of residence based on access to parks and walkability?
Accessing Bukit Kiara
I’m going to jump off my soapbox now, and give you some details about visiting Bukit Kiara (before it’s too late!).
Bukit Kiara is still accessible through Bukit Kiara Equestrian Club if you’re a member.
If you’re not, you’ll have to enter through TTDI like the rest of us. Here is map to get driving directions. If you know where the TTDI wet market is, it’s a short 2 minute drive from there.
Here is a diagram of paved trails in Bukit Kiara. There are a ton of dirt trails, but tread lightly (and a big stick isn’t going to help you here). When I’ve tried to hike the dirt trails, I’ve ended up looking like I have the chicken pox. Even with layers and layers of repellent, I get covered in mosquito bites. If mosquitoes don’t like you, I say go for it. Beware: there is dengue in the area, and it’s been a particularly bad year with a very high number of reported cases throughout Malaysia.
The paved paths aren’t too long, but are a challenging walk if you’re not in shape. They go up and down hills, some of which are steep. I don’t know the distance around the park, but my best guess would be if you walked all the paved paths, it would be about 5 km.
For other hikes around KL, check out my Healthy Lifestyle Guide to KL.