Escape the urban lifestyle with a change of scenery by exploring some of Malaysia’s finest parks and gardens, writes David Bowden
MALAYSIA has numerous parks and gardens, including expansive national and state parks as well as urban parks and botanic gardens. Most of us interact with the latter while the larger parks are places for extended visits and stays. null
New York has Central Park, the Prater in Vienna, Hyde Park in London and Centennial Park in Sydney. These great cities value their parks and gardens as an asset and one that’s difficult to put an economic value on.
How do you put a value on parks for children to play in, flowers to admire, trees to seek inspiration from, expanses of grass to picnic on and open spaces as sources of fresh air and sunshine?
Interestingly, the concept of municipal parks for the public, with paths, trails, landscaping, formal gardens, recreational facilities and ponds dates back only to the mid-19th century. null
Before that, people often went for walks in graveyards as they were relatively open — citizens often visited the grave of a relative and got some recreation in the open air at the same time.
It takes vision and foresight to allocate valuable urban land for recreation — the parklands associated with KLCC right in the centre of the city are one such example that could easily have become office towers.
There is possibly no better time to escape the urban lifestyle most of us lead and explore some of the nation’s finest parks and gardens. Here are 10 of my favourites.
CITY FAN, MIRI
Sarawak’s second largest city has several recreational parks, including those located along the coast like Taman Awam, land and beaches associated with the golf club just north of the river and Miri City Fan to the northeast of the city centre. The last is an expansive urban space that includes playgrounds, botanic garden, pools, amphitheatre and public library. The park’s most photogenic section is the Chinese garden with a bridge across an expansive lake and mature plants like willows, bottlebrushes and bamboo that create a lush setting.
JAPANESE GARDEN, BERJAYA HILLS
The Japanese Garden and adjoining botanic garden are located 1,200m above sea level in Berjaya Hills above Colmar Tropicale at Bukit Tinggi, a small resort town in Bentong district, Pahang. The meticulously designed garden includes waterfalls, marble pathways, temperate plants and koi ponds. There was once quite a set-up here that was referred to as a Japanese Village and included accommodation, restaurant, Japanese tea room and spa but now it’s basically the gardens and ponds. The gardens are popular with couples taking photographs. Birdwatchers also know this as a venue for sighting the rare Mountain Peacock Pheasant as well as migratory birds like the Siberian Blue Robin. The gardens are about one hour’s drive east of Kuala Lumpur via the Karak Expressway.
LAKE GARDENS, SEREMBAN
While nowhere near the scale of its KL counterpart, Lake Gardens in the capital of Negri Sembilan serves a valuable recreational function to the residents of this city and to visitors. Well-formed trails, a lake and established geometric gardens provide a pleasant place for quiet contemplation, walking, jogging and cycling. Pedal-powered boats on the lake are available. The gardens are located about 500m to the east of the city centre and about the same distance from the railway station. Seremban can be explored by those using the train as many of the city’s attractions are close to the station. For those who choose to stay overnight in Seremban, the four-star Royale Chulan Seremban overlooks the gardens of Taman Tasik.
LAKE GARDENS, KUALA LUMPUR
The Perdana Botanical Garden (best known as Lake Gardens) really gives the city a unique green image. There are few large cities in the world with such an expanse as the 92ha that is Perdana Botanical Garden. While not as centrally located as some global urban parks, the numerous facilities here or along its fringes make it special. In addition to walking or jogging on several well-formed paths around a central lake, there are picnic areas, playgrounds, themed gardens and shelters to enhance the visitor experience. These green lungs are divided in two by Jalan Parliamen and the just-opened Taman Tugu is a world-class facility with many well-considered trails and interpretation signs. If you had to show an out-of-towner the tourism assets of Kuala Lumpur, this is the one-stop destination with its bird park, butterfly park, deer enclosure, orchid and hibiscus garden as well as cultural attractions like the Tun Abdul Razak Memorial, Carcosa Seri Negara, Royal Lake Club, National Museum, National Mosque and the historic Majestic Hotel, all within walking distance. Photographers will find many things to immortalise here with sunset and the reflections of the KL Sentral skyline across the lake, a special time to visit. All that it needs now is an iconic destination restaurant.
TROPICAL SPICE GARDEN, PENANG
This 2.5ha tropical spice garden is located along Penang’s northern beaches at Teluk Bahang. It’s a multipurpose celebration of spices and Malaysian flora. The island once played an important role in the growing and trading of spices, especially highly prized nutmeg and mace. Inspect the gardens, participate in a guided walk or join in a half-day cooking class centred on garden-grown spices and herbs. There is a well-stocked shop and cafe. The garden recently launched a campaign “Join the Family, Save the Garden” to raise funds through subscription to its Spice Fam programme. The funds are needed for it to remain operational and re-open when restrictions are lifted.
RIMBA ILMU, KUALA LUMPUR
Malaysia’s Forest of Knowledge or Rimba Ilmu is a secret place to most Malaysians despite the fact that millions of Kuala Lumpur residents live within a few kilometres of this forest garden located in the grounds of Universiti Malaya. Established in 1972, this scientific garden is invaluable for academic research. It is also open to the public and its 65,000 herbarium collection and library is also accessible for academic research. Walk the trails here to familiarise yourself with palms, ferns, tropical fruit trees, medicinal plants and orchids. There is even a bambusetum. The garden isn’t open on the weekends or public holidays so it’s best to check the website ( www.rimba.um.edu.my) before setting off for time in this botanical bazaar. The gardens are located behind the university sports arena.
TAMAN BOTANI NEGARA, SHAH ALAM
Covering 817ha, the park, which is in the capital of Selangor, is expansive and serves many purposes from recreation to education. Patches of the original lowland forest cover much of the site. Enjoy trails, lakes and a village for group camping plus a lookout on the park’s highest part of just 200m. There is a small entrance fee plus an extra charge for entrance into the Four Seasons Temperate House.
SABAH AGRICULTURAL PARK, TENOM
There are several reasons to visit this remote 200ha park in Sabah’s interior — the opportunity to see some colourful tropical plants, especially orchids, as well as the chance to ride the Tanjung Aru to Tenom train. The park includes an orchid house as well as a research centre for economic plants like cacao, coffee and fruit species. Such is the plant assemblage that celebrated naturalist Sir David Attenborough filmed here. The park is open daily except Monday from 9am to 4.30pm with an entry fee. It is located 15km southeast of Tenom in Lagud Seberang.
TAMAN BOTANI NEGARA, PUTRAJAYA
From a seed grows a forest and while Taman Botani or the Botanical Gardens in Putrajaya is still evolving, the 90ha gardens have developed into a valuable educational, scientific and recreational asset. Like most other attractions in Putrajaya, it’s been done on a grand scale with a landmark Visitors’ Centre and interactive displays. The park offers visitors an opportunity to explore the rich bounty of tropical plant life as well as over 700 species from some 90 countries. While there is an entry fee, it’s worth every sen, especially for children.
PENANG BOTANIC GARDENS, PENANG
Taman Botani Penang was originally a colonial initiative of the British and opened in 1884 as the Waterfall Gardens. Now an important green space for Penang, the gardens are open from early morning to just after sunset for recreation, exercise and education. Visitors can see unusual plants like the cannon ball tree and candle tree. There is a trail leading to the summit of Penang Hill although many prefer the easier downhill walk from the summit to the gardens. Facilities include picnic areas, refreshments and a souvenir shop. The gardens are 8km from George Town and are accessible via Bus No. 7.
By : David Bowden – NST