Growing up as an army brat, home was never constant until six years ago. My family and I have been moving between military barracks in various Malaysian states before we finally settled down in a suburban town in Kuala Selangor. But having spent much of my formative years in the presence of bright lights and big cities, calling Puncak Alam “home”, did not come easy.
An hour’s commute – without traffic, that is – separates the township from the buzz of urban life (it’s located about 45km from Petaling Jaya and 25km from the Sungai Buloh subdistrict). In other words, it takes forever to get anywhere, and that includes hip shopping malls, the occasional yum cha sessions with friends and work. Apart from that, being a relatively new township, access to and from the suburbs can be a nightmare at times. When dusk beckons, navigation is tricky with limited street lights, thick fog and roads plagued by the occasional potholes.
Thus, it was indeed a challenge when I was tasked to write something interesting and unique about the town I live in for the Star2 Monthly Challenge. Credit where it’s due, Puncak Alam is one of those rare townships that is surrounded by lush greenery. Driving along Persiaran Mokhtar Dahari (better known as the Shah Alam-Batu Arang Highway) when you exit Guthrie Highway to get here, you’ll find yourself surrounded by rolling mountains.
With wide open roads lined with trees and peaceful waters at the many lakes, Puncak Alam is a paradise away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The air feels much fresher too. But of course, that’s practically a given when it’s situated in such a remote place!
Walking along the pedestrian track here, you’ll sometimes see bicycles wheezing past. A quick chat with a cycling enthusiast reveals Puncak Alam to be a popular route for cycling expeditions. According to gym trainer Ivan Wong who has been joining cycling expeditions for the past three years, his route starts at Hartamas before heading towards Puncak Alam through the Shah Alam-Batu Arang Highway. The latter has garnered the name “Dragon’s Back” due to its undulating 17km stretch.
Besides cyclists, another usual sight at this highway is cars parked at a particular site by the side of the road before the U10 Shah Alam traffic intersection (about 5km drive from Puncak Alam). Curious, I headed down to check out the commotion. Turns out people were getting spring water from foothills. Despite a sign warning against the potential hazards of bacteria in the water, there are still many who filled up heaps of large bottles.
“We have been drinking this water for many years and haven’t encountered any problems,” a friendly woman in the crowd told me when I asked if the water is safe for consumption. If anything, the water collected was crystal clear without any traces of sediments or visible impurities. Prompted by the lady who said that the spring water is exceptionally refreshing, I took a gulp. Want my honest opinion? It tastes just like err…water. But then No travel piece would be complete without the mention of food. Puncak Alam has some decent mamak restaurants and nasi lemak stalls, but there’s nothing earth-shattering to write home about. For a truly unique delicacy, Ijok is the place to be. The estate town – a 20km drive away – is where you’ll find a sumptuous meal of beggar’s chicken at a humble establishment called New Beggar’s Delicious Restaurant.
While its name is far from gourmet, the taste of this wholesome meal certainly does the restaurant’s name justice. After unwrapping some aluminium foil, I was presented with a whole chicken that was absolutely delicious. Seasoned with an assortment of herbs, the flavourful beggar’s chicken is testament that healthy food doesn’t always equal bland food.
However, one has to place an order a day in advance by calling 03-3279 1936. This is due to the long time (about 7 hours) required to cook the dish, said the middle-aged female employee who took our order. The method of cooking is rather taxing. After wrapped with aluminium foil, a layer of mud is coated before baked on an open brick oven using charcoal fire. The restaurant only opens from 1pm to 3pm.
“We prepare about 20 chickens on a normal day. However, the number varies and we do get more orders during the weekends or school holidays,” the employee explained. While the chicken tasted just fine on its own, my family and I took the liberty to add a spoonful of brandy at the advice of a family friend. When paired with the bittersweet taste of the liquor, our beggar’s chicken was absolutely heavenly. Apart from that, the pork stomach that we had at this non-halal restaurant was also good.
Pantai Remis in Jeram definitely gave this assignment a whole new perspective when I found out that I live a mere 30 minutes away from the beach! Located about 17km away, the recreational spot by the sea can be accessed from Puncak Alam through a trunk road that cuts through Kapar. Despite it being a very gloomy Sunday evening, there were still many visitors when we arrived. Some were flying kites, while others were just having picnic by the sea.
Granted, Pantai Remis isn’t your posh resort beach. The shores are lined with cockles shells, making it impossible to walk barefoot. Still it’s a lively venue for an exciting weekend with the family.
Over at the nearby playground, street performers entertained the evening crowd with a selection of nostalgic Malay songs. And if you walk across from the playground, you’ll be greeted by a bazaar. Opened daily from 8am to 6pm, there are a mix of fresh produce and seafood at this venue. Prices are also fairly reasonable (according to my mother, that is) with a kilo of cockles costing RM4 and horseshoe crabs going for RM8 a piece.
On our way home, we stopped by Aroma Ikan Bakar in Jeram, a restaurant with kampung architecture that specialises in grilled seafood. Diners are given the option to choose their own seafood. After selecting some stingray, squid and crab, I head over to my table which overlooks the beach. For an additional RM10, you can seat at one of the many private huts.
While the place did not exactly serve the best seafood in town, its venue by the beach coupled with reasonable prices, make this eatery a worthy stop. And as my family and I enjoyed our dinner in the company of the breathtaking crimson sunset in the horizon, one thing became apparent. Sure, living in the city might give you easy access to a host of amenities. But the suburbs has its own charms as well if you take the time to explore.
After all, how many people can say that they live a stone’s throw away from rolling hills and the beach? If anything, Puncak Alam is more than a home. It’s also a relaxing destination with a host of treasures waiting to be uncovered. Besides, being a city boy is so overrated.
If for some reason Puncak Alam rings a bell, it might be for “explosive” reasons. That should be enough of a clue.
Ready for a new challenge from Star2? This time around, it’s coming from the Travel desk.
What we need you to do is write a travel-related story about your hometown or the place where you presently live. Give us an insight into the place that only a local or resident can. Something unusual, off the beaten path, insider tips about places to visit, restaurants and stalls to eat at. Interesting anecdotes about the place, local folklore or noteworthy incidents or prominent people who lived there or still live there.
Not the usual tourist spots and anecdotes that almost everyone knows. For example, if you’re writing about Ipoh, there’s no need to spell out the usual eating spots to head to in Old Town, or about the Sam Poh Tong Temple, which are already quite well-known to most travellers. Tell us something most outsiders don’t already know.
Or if you’re from Kuching, it would be pointless to mention the roundabout with the cat figurines, or the Cat Museum – these have already been well-publicised. Instead, draw us into your world, and not the path tourists normally take.
Contributors whose works are published will be paid for their own original stories and pictures.
Your story should be about 700-900 words long, with seven to 10 photos (at least 1MB each).
Please provide your full name, IC number, mailing address and mobile phone number.
Send your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org under “Star2 Monthly Challenge”.