Jan 17 2012
Kuala Lumpur is a pleasingly green city, in terms of public open spaces and abundant foliage, if not in genuine eco-friendliness. But you are never far from the noise and air pollution that comes with modern urban life. Fortunately, KL has a great resource on its doorsteps where it is possible to immerse yourself in nature.
The Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) oversees Malaysia‘s largest secondary forest, near the township of Kepong, on the northern border of KL and Selangor. The primary purpose of the institute, ever since it was established by the British in 1929, has been to conduct research into forestry. But a happy by-product of this work is a huge publicly accessible slab of greenery.
FRIM is a living museum, with six distinct types of woodland and abundant bird, animal and insect life. It has four main walking trails running through it, as well as jogging and mountain biking tracks, wildlife watch-towers, traditional Malay wooden houses, botanical gardens, picnic areas, and even spots to go for a dip.
The biggest single attraction is the Canopy Walkway, an 150m-long series of suspended bridges, 30m above the forest floor. Unless you suffer from vertigo, then the walkway is well worth doing. Although it is not tiring in itself, the hike there from the One Stop Centre where you buy your tickets requires a decent level of fitness. An even more energetic (and rewarding) option is to do the walkway as part of a looped 2-3 hour trek (see map below).
The walkway is open 09:30 to 14:30 daily except Monday and Friday. Last tickets are sold at 13:30. Weekends can get very busy, so if you have the option, Tues-Thurs is the best time to visit. For safety reasons, it is closed during heavy rainfall (and for two hours afterwards).
For any walk in FRIM, it’s worth wearing proper shoes, and plenty of insect repellant. If you have leech socks, wear them over your trousers. Take lots of water with you, and stick to the marked trails. The earlier you can set off the better, as the steaminess builds up throughout the day.
It’s hard to believe much of FRIM was scrubland when the first trees were planted more than 80 years ago. At least, that is the official, somewhat sanitised version. In truth, the area had enough wildlife and forest produce to sustain a community of Orang Asli (the indigenous people of West Malaysia), before they were evicted to make way for the institute.
FRIM substantially increased its prices at the beginning of 2012, particularly for foreigners. While the basic entry remains five ringgit for tourists (one for locals), the adult cost of the canopy walkway has doubled, from 10 to 20 ringgit. For children under 12, it has increased even more sharply, from one to 10 ringgit. The rates for Malaysians are five and three ringgit respectively, part of the growing trend for discriminatory pricing.
Something that should not come as a surprise is that FRIM is a pain to get to by public transport. RapidKL runs a bus (U13) from Medan Pasar (in Chinatown) to Taman Ehsan, which is a short walk from the entrance, but still 10-15 minutes away from the One Stop Centre. A better option is to take a KTM Komuter train to Kepong, and a taxi from there. Another possibility is to combine FRIM with a trip to Batu Caves, as they are less than 6km apart.
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