When I wrote some months ago that anyone wanting a chilled-out day trip from Kuala Lumpur could do worse than heading to Kuala Selangor, I had no idea what a throbbing, thrill-packed destination it is compared to Pulau Ketam. But even lovely Ketam gets swamped by visitors at certain times of the year. The same could not be said of Kuala Kubu Baru, one of the most laid-back towns you could hope to visit in Malaysia.
KKB, as it is generally known, was founded in 1883 after the original town of Kuala Kubu was swept away by a massive flood. Many people died in the tragedy, including the British district officer, Cecil Ranking. Local legend blamed the flood surge on Ranking’s ill-advised decision to kill a sacred white crocodile, although the official explanation was a burst dam.
Such was the scale of the devastation, that it was decided to build the new (baru in Malay) town on nearby higher ground. The old town, which was renamed Ampang Pecah (broken dam), lay abandoned for the best part of a century before houses started being built there again. Virtually the only surviving building from the original Kuala Kubu is a Buddhist temple, which was refurbished in the eighties.
It all sounds very dramatic, but KKB is anything but these days, which is not to suggest the town is deadly dull or anything. It may not have any must-see sights, but it is a perfect place to potter round, and take a welcome break from city life. This is particularly true if you like traditional shophouses and other remnants of life in colonial Malaya — you’ll get a kick out of the 193os clock tower, for instance.
Ethnic Chinese form the largest community in KKB, but the town has a good mix of Indians and Malays too, with an Orang Asli village close by. Its central grid of streets offer an eclectic mix of shops, from a traditional barber, to simple eateries. Apart from Sunday mornings, when it can appear rather comatose, KKB still holds its own against the lure of shiny new residential and commercial developments.
The town was recently linked to the KTM Komuter rail network, making it even easier to visit from KL. It’s necessary to change trains at Rawang, and get one of the hourly shuttles towards Tanjung Malim. Taxis normally cost 5 ringgit for the 3km journey from the railway station into town. Buses also link Rawang to KKB, but the train is generally the best option.
The town can easily be combined with a road trip to Fraser’s Hill, but no public transport links the two settlements any more. The drive takes in some beautiful countryside, but try to keep your eyes on the road, because it can get quite twisty.
By Pat Fama
Last updated on 2nd September, 2014.