NESTLED in a former rubber estate along Jalan Changkat Abang Haii Openg in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, is a green lung that is a magnet for joggers, walkers, hikers and bikers.
For exercise enthusiasts and those yearning for some tranquillity, it provides an ideal respite from daily traffic snarls in the city.
Kiara Hill Walk is a challenging exercise park in Bukit Kiara, an affluent suburb of Kuala Lumpur.
This area is one of the larger green spaces in the city, a rarity these days in Kuala Lumpur.
There are some roads and trails popular with mountain bikers as well as walking and hiking trails.
Despite the fairly hilly terrain, groups from nearby clubs have their hash runs here regularly.
Start at Taman Rimba Kiara then run up Changkat Abang Haji Openg and do a loop at the top, it is about 5.2km there and back, with the steepest part being the first 1.4km.
The labelled trail is nearly 2km each way, with the first 0.5km being steep, then it levels out.
Designed for bicycles in the middle are trails made from concrete walking paths with exercise work stations and rest areas.
Generally, the place is safe and the facilities are well maintained with a dedicated team of workers from the National Landscape Department and Kuala Lumpur City Hall.
The guardhouse at the entrance is open from 6.45am to 7pm daily.
Due to the popularity of this place, parking is limited and it is crowded on weekends and public holidays.
It is therefore important to be early to secure a space.
The ideal time to start walking is by 6.45am, and to see the sunrise.
Some of the regulars like my friend Pathma Naban have walked here for the last 15 years and it is his favourite area not only to sweat it out but also to find peace, tranquillity and solace, and in his words “a form of therapy providing joy, happiness and a time to ponder and reflect on many things.”
Complementing the quietude of the ambience is the flora and fauna in the vicinity.
A variety of trees in various heights, sizes and shapes, besides flowering plants, ferns and creepers are found in this park.
Supplementing the beauty are streams, a waterfall and birds chirping along the pathway.
Macaques, and occasionally dusky leaf monkeys, inhabit this place.
Birds, butterflies, squirrels, tortoises as well as centipedes, snakes and scorpions are also found here but they won’t harm you unless provoked.
Cool fresh air pervades the environment with the absence of vehicles emitting greenhouse gases and this pollution-free atmosphere is immediately felt as you commence the walk from the guardhouse.
How I wish many parts of Kuala Lumpur can be like Bukit Kiara –- in harmony with nature.
Benefits derived from a workout include a “feel good” sensation while innovative and creative ideas set in as you immerse in nature.
Stress levels are reduced.
In several studies, scientists have found that spending time in natural surroundings with plenty of flora and fauna can result in improvements in immune functions.
The concept of ‘shinrin-yoku’ (to connect with nature) which was first developed and practised in Japan has shown excellent results.
Researchers at the University of Essex conducted a survey and found 94% of individuals believe that spending time in nature and connecting with it helped them to have a positive mood.
So, if you are living near a park or spending time in greenery, you will experience less anxiety and depression.
Also, in a place like Bukit Kiara, you are bound to meet old friends, and make new ones.
Note: In light of the movement control order from Jan 13 to 26, all public parks in Kuala Lumpur are closed.