It may seem strange to visitors from cooler climes, particularly those escaping from the bleakest months of the European or North American winter, but Malaysians spend much of their time trying to avoid the heat. Increasingly, people work, play and sleep in air-con. This is especially true of urban areas like Kuala Lumpur, where temperatures are hot and humid all year round.
No wonder then that when many KL residents, both local and foreign, go on holiday, they seek out cooler climes. In colonial times, this resulted in hill stations such as Fraser’s Hill and Cameron Highlands. More recently, huge entertainment and accommodation complexes have been built in the mountains, like Resorts World Genting and Berjaya Hills Resort.
Janda Baik is somewhat of an oddity in that it did not start its life on the planning board. A small group of villages existed in this area long before the first tourists arrived. Despite rapid development over the past decade, it has managed to retain much of its rural, Malay feel.
Quite apart from the coolish climate (about 23-27 degrees Celsius during the day), Janda Baik has a lot to recommend it as an escape from the city. It is undeniably attractive, with crystal clear streams and verdant hills.
And it’s a great spot too for outdoor pursuits, principally walking, mountain biking and bird-watching. Last but not least, it’s just 45 kilometres from central KL.
Needless to say, all these new tourism businesses popping up, most of them owned by outsiders, is not welcomed by all. Many locals feel the pace of development should be slowed down, to limit environmental damage, and that it should more directly benefit the people of Janda Baik.
The vast majority of visitors are Malaysians, whether on weekend family breaks, activity holidays with friends, or work “team-building” jaunts. This means accommodation — often fully booked at weekends — eating and available activities are primarily targeted at domestic tourists.
This is well off the beaten track for independent travellers. A final point worth bearing in mind is that it’s all so lush for a reason: it rains a lot!
Not surprisingly, given the Malaysian love affair with motor vehicles, getting to Janda Baik by public transport is not possible. The closest you can go by bus is Bentong, from where you will have to get a taxi. By far the best option is to hire a car. For detailed instructions of how to drive there, as a well as plenty of other useful info, see the Friends of Janda Baik website.
By Pat Fama
Last updated on 2nd September, 2014.