Town that rose from floodwaters
Writer: Lin Zhen Yuan
Published: Fri, 25 May 2012
Somewhere north of Selangor and 5km off the old KL-Ipoh trunk road is Kuala Kubu Baru. LIN ZHEN YUAN visits and makes new discoveries.
For at least three decades I have bypassed Kuala Kubu Baru or KKB for more “civilised towns”. Towns like Serendah, Rawang or Tanjung Malim can be seen from the trunk road but KKB is a bit out of sight.
Finally, after what seemed to be a long separation from the town that is located on a hilly terrain, I got out from my house and literally headed for the hills.
According to historical records, Kuala Kubu was already in existence prior to 1883. Then on that fateful year, a dam near the town broke and practically destroyed Kuala Kubu.
Many lives were lost and property damage was severe. In the aftermath of what had been described as the “Kuala Kubu tragedy”, a new town sprung up on the soggy grounds of a disaster zone.
Red, green and yellow are now the colours of the old Coates theatre.
KKB is today the district capital of Hulu Selangor. Its notable attractions are the Chiling waterfalls, Sungai Selangor Dam and the abandoned old town called Ampang Pecah (named after the dam flood).
There is even the Ulu Kalong hot spring lodged inside an oil palm plantation. According to those who have tried to find it, it is not easily accessible.
Frankly if not for an old and dear friend who has made KKB his permanent residence, I wouldn’t have switched on my GPS and went in search of the town.
Kuala Kubu Baru has a few surprises for first time visitors. The initial surprises were the tranquil atmosphere and serene landscape. One could say that the town is pretty.
A town that perhaps could be compared to KKB is Taiping. Taiping’s most attractive feature is its Lake Garden. KKB has a genteel appearance of a pastoral sanctuary.
I now officially withdraw my preconceived notion that it is on the “ulu” side of development. Its population is probably closer to 30,000 now. The official population estimates in 2004 was 22,470.
If you feel the constant flow of wind ruffling your hair at certain times of the day, it is because KKB’s elevation is 91 metres, or 200 ft. You can breathe deeply the mountain air because it is relatively pollution-free around these parts.
About 128.7km to the northwest is Gunung Korbu and 133.5km northeast lies Gunung Tahan, the highest mountain in the peninsula. And 51.5km (32miles) southwest , as the crows fly, is the Straits of Malacca.
KKB is a hop, skip and jump away from Batang Kali and Ulu Yam Lama. The latter town is where some PJ and KL folks visit on weekends in search of “lor mee”.
According to the resident expert (my friend) who has stayed here for a better part of 15 years, the town has a good mix of races. About 57 per cent of the population is Malay, 23 per cent Chinese and 19 per cent Indians. There are also the Orang Asli who make up the remaining one per cent.
In recent years, a number of housing estates have sprung up and helped push KKB up a few notches in terms of development. The middle class families are found in Taman Ampang Pecah, Taman Ampang Indah, Taman Gamelan, Taman Seruling and Taman Tanjak.
The view is lovely from the balcony of a shophouse.
From the rooftop balcony of a town shophouse, a visitor can catch a beautiful glimpse of the nearby mountains with white clouds drifting across the clear-blue sky.
Kuala Kubu Baru town is surprising clean and there is a semblance of order uncharacteristic of towns its size. In Jalan Mat Kilau where there is an interlocking block pavement road, the trees are trimmed and pruned to reflect a “city in the garden” appearance.
Some obvious changes have taken place in the town. An old landmark built in 1953, Coates Theatre has been turned into a snooker centre. Modern times and technology have changed the face of mass entertainment with the advent of DVDs, Blu-Ray discs and home theatre systems.
But I learned in a matter of hours that the town itself has a number of Chinese eateries that are worthy of a second and third visit. There is a Hailam restaurant in the heart of town that serves fairly good chicken chop and fried rice.
There is another restaurant around the corner called Restoran 98. It is probably doing roaring business as well. What caught the attention of a wide-eyed visitor like me was a shop that advertised itself as “Café Kek & Roti”.
I thought its message was as clear and direct as any I had seen in some smaller towns. There is no mistaking as to what lie within its premises.
Since January 2008, the KTM Commuter train route has been extended to KKB. Coupled with the Metrobus service from Kuala Lumpur and the old KL-Ipoh trunk road, Kuala Kubu Baru is easily within reach.
You can take an 80-minute drive from KL which is 60km away, and if you so wish you can drive another 40km to catch some interesting views from top of Fraser’s Hill.
I was told that the best mode of transport for anyone staying in KKB is cycling. Many cyclists have scaled the moderate heights of Fraser’s Hill and found the ride to be exhilarating.
Don’t for a minute think that KKB is for old folks, retirees and those who have a disdain for the incessant city traffic. KKB is no longer the little toddler that falls asleep every now and then.
It even has a 24-hour restaurant and more than a couple of interesting shops to make you feel right at home.