KAMPUNG Baru Sungai Buloh has come a long way from its agricultural days.
In fact, with 1,500 factories in the new village, it ranks second after Muar, Johor, for having the most furniture factories.
Farming was the main source of income for villagers up till the 1970s.
Then the economic downturn struck and villagers rented or sold their land to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Now, only a handful are still farming.
The emergence of factories and the transition from agriculture to industrial have brought development, prosperity and job opportunities.
Unlike other villages where most of the younger generation have left for cities in search of jobs, there are ample job opportunities in Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh.
According to former village head Poon Hon, 63, there are more than 3,000 people living in Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh, which was established in the 1950s.
“Our children work in the factories, taking up clerical jobs. The unemployment rate here is zero,” he said.
But prosperity comes at a price.
The increase of factories has lead to an influx of legal and illegal foreign workers, air and river pollution, indiscriminate dumping, hygiene problems and increased crime rate.
It was a bumpy ride around the village as heavy vehicles have caused the roads to be riddled with potholes.
Soo Yong Koon, a 74-year-old farmer, recalls he used to swim in the river as a child.
“There is no way anyone can swim in the polluted river now,” he said.
Community policing team leader Yip Chee Ping, 45, said crime was on the rise.
“In three months, there were six cases where car windows were smashed by thieves. There are pickpockets at the night market,” he said.
The community policing programme was introduced more than two years ago.
When asked what the new village was known for, current village head Hoo Sook Wan’s answer was simple: “Food.”
During weekends, people flock to Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh in search of good food.
My 65-year-old guide Lin Ah Ling showed me around the village and took me to the popular eateries.
He also showed me the 40-year-old Guan Yin (goddess of mercy) temple and the 60-year-old Wu Fu Gong temple.
“During Chinese New Year, we eat poon choi (treasure pot) at the restaurants.
“The roast duck and goose here are also famous,” he said.
According to the restaurant owner, the goose is roasted using rambutan tree branches, which lends its aroma.
“We have customers from other states and as far as Singapore who order for takeaway.”
The restaurant has been featured in newspapers and on TV.
Lin also showed me a stall famous for its hot-plate pancakes.
“It sells like hotcakes, people come from far to buy this,” he said.
Customers can choose from a variety of filling such as red bean, peanut and coconut.
The owner also recommended the ham chim peng (five-spice doughnut).
I was hesitant at first as the dark-coloured fried bread looked like it had been over-fried, but just one bite and I became a fan.
The new village made headlines nationwide more than 20 years ago because of a tragedy in which more than 20 people perished.
Villagers recalled the fireworks explosion on May 7, 1991, also known as the Bright Sparklers fireworks factory explosion.
The blast from the factory ripped roofs off houses and over 200 houses were damaged.
As I was chatting with some of the villagers, I was approached by none other than Malaysia’s strongman Sando G. Dheva.
Turns out he lives in Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh too.
The 57-year-old holds six records in the Malaysia Book of Records for his numerous feats, which includes pulling an 110 tonne ship with his hair.
“Life is good here, there are many job opportunities and facilities such as hospital and schools,” he said.
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