PETALING Jaya was once the satellite town for Kuala Lumpur and in the 1950s, it was mostly made up of rubber estates.
Today, the city is home to some of the more expensive townships in the country with popular business hubs in various areas.
Although many high-rise developments dot the city’s skyline, there are few precious green patches left that offer respite for nature lovers.
Among them are Bukit Gasing and Kota Damansara Community Forest Reserve.
These two locations are now popular recreational areas among hikers, especially during the weekends and public holidays.
They provide hikers a quick gateway from the hustle and bustle of city life while affording them the chance to enjoy nature during short hiking trips.
While most hikers head to these places for leisure, some hike to enjoy nature’s offering.
Bukit Gasing was once a rubber plantation but it was left abandoned for at least 50 years.
During that five-decade period, it blossomed into a sanctuary for flora and fauna.
Tan S.H., 49, who had sleeping difficulties because of menopause, decided to hike up Bukit Gasing to stay active.
“For the past one-and-a-half years, I have been walking barefoot in Bukit Gasing.
“Since then I am able to sleep longer, for at least five hours, at night,” said Tan, who visits the hill at least twice a week.
She said the hill and its surroundings, provided calmness to her mind.
Friends of Bukit Gasing (FOBG) president Dr Lim Thuang Seng said the group was working to establish proper hiking trails with better signboards for visitors.
He personally loves going to the hill for its greenery and fresh air.
“This patch of green is so valuable, especially for those who live in the city,” he said.
Lim said although there was no official hiking route, most hikers used common trails.
Deva Kunjari Sambanthan, 44, has been an avid hiker for more than a decade.
She enjoys hiking because she loves nature.
“During different times of the year, I get to see different types of plants at the hill. This excites me.
“Based on my observation, hiking better stimulates our senses and keeps us alert compared to exercising in the gym,” she said.
Deva said hiking helped her to stay more alert with her daily routine.
She also likes the community that visits the hill.
“We look out for each other and many friendships have been fostered here,” she said.
The Kota Damansara Community Forest Reserve is a secondary forest which is part of the oldest forest reserve in peninsular Malaysia.
According to the Voices of the Green Petaling Jaya coffee table book published by Petaling Jaya City Council in 2010, the forest was gazetted in 1898,
It is mentioned that subsequent degazetting and development, whittled the forest reserve to an area of 346.8ha.
This forest is abundant with some pioneer such as the pokok petaling and exotic plant species such as the keladi murai.
Malaysia Ice Hockey Federation president Datuk Lee Hwa Beng still enjoys hiking in the Kota Damansara forest despite the existence of more challenging trails around the world.
He said the forest was among the last forest land in Petaling Jaya, abundant with flora and fauna.
“I recently saw a tortoise in the forest and it was an interesting moment.
“I have hiked here with my wife and friends and we see some interesting-shaped leaves and gigantic-sized seeds,” he said.
He hopes the authorities would continue its efforts to monitor and preserve the forest.
Lee said special trails should be identified for mountain bikers, as well as, hikers on foot.
“At the moment, both hikers and mountain bikers use the same trail and this can be dangerous.
“Nevertheless, I hope the authorities will consider identifying a dedicated trail in the forest for the mountain bikers,” he said.