Need a break from fast-paced Kuala Lumpur?
A taste of the great outdoors awaits just a stone's throw from Kuala Lumpur. By Marco Ferrarese.
Published on Feb 19, 2016
SAVVY KUALA LUMPUR residents know that the grass is greener in Kuala Kubu Bharu. The sleepy Malaysian colonial town set in a lush valley 70 kilometers to the north is the main access point to scenic Selangor Dam and a web of wild rivers that unfolds in the depths of ancient jungles, home to a community of modern-day Orang Asli, Malaysia's aboriginals. A refreshing swim at Lata Medang, a majestic but easy-to-access waterfall on the edge of town, is a captivating teaser into their untamed lands.
These waterways are the closest getaway for whitewater rafting from Kuala Lumpur. The Selangor River originates in Kuala Kubu Bharu and empties into the Strait of Malacca at Kuala Selangor, keeping adventurers on their knees with up to class-four rapids. Tour operators PieRose Swiftwater (+60 13 361 3991) and Oxbold (+60 19 663 8336) organize day-trips downriver. Groups of 10 or more can pump up their adrenaline levels by trying Oxbold's more challenging multiple-day expeditions along the Singoh River in nearby Perak state.
Enjoying the rapids without a raft. Marco Ferrarese.
Kuala Kubu Bharu, however, is more than just a platform for downstream thrills. The compact town center lined by rows of traditional Chinese shophouses from the 1930s has a perfect heritage atmosphere to soak in the subtle joys of small-town life, including a home-cooked taste of local delicacies. Restoran Nine-Thy Eight (33-34 Jln. Dato Balai; +60 3 6064 1198) serves an array of traditional Malay-Chinese dishes; order the chicken wings roasted in beer and served on rice for a true Selangor's treat. Kedai Makanan Lee (Jalan Dato Tabal), a tiny shop filled with chatty locals, dishes up tasty bowls of curry laksa garnished with local spices at a bargain. To amp up on caffeine and sugar, head to Teng Wun Bakery & Confectionery (15 Jln. Dato Muda Jaafar; +60 3 6064 1586; 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) for delicious kaya puffs and exotictasting durian cakes.
Prepping curry laksa at Kedai Makanan Lee. Marco Ferrarese.
There is basic lodging in town, but the best digs are 20 kilometers away at Fraser's Hill, a former British colonial hill station, easily reachable by taxi. Overlooking forested meadows, Ye Olde Smokehouse is a well-restored summer estate with colonial-style rooms where you can relax after rafting. The charming country house proves the rapids aren't the only high-class act around.
A colonial-style room at Ye Olde Smokehouse. Courtesy of Ye Olde Smokehouse.
The easiest and most comfortable way to reach Kuala Kubu Bharu is by Electric Train Service, with trains running from Kuala Lumpur's Sentral Station to Kuala Kubu Bharu three times a day.
Alternatively, Kuala Lumpur's regular KTM commuter train service links Sentral with Rawang, where you must alight and change to a train to Tanjung Malim. Kuala Kubu Bharu is the second to last stop.
By car from Kuala Lumpur, it's an easy 50-minute drive north along the E1 expressway until you reach the Kuala Kubu Bharu exit.
Lunch at a local noodle shop. Marco Ferrarese.