It has been a recurring theme in Malaysia lately where once-forgotten towns are slowly being “rediscovered” by urbanites wanting to get away from the crowded city. One of the first few places to have experienced this renaissance is Kuala Selangor, the former royal seat of the Selangor Sultanate northwest of Kuala Lumpur. Having bear witness to many wars and invasions dating from the 1800s, Kuala Selangor nowadays is a quaint coastal town adored by nature lovers who can experience close-up encounters with monkeys, fireflies and eagles. Have a day to spare? Here are five things you wouldn’t want to miss at Kuala Selangor.

ENJOY THE VIEW AND HISTORY OF BUKIT MALAWATI

The perfect time to start your day trip to Kuala Selangor is after lunch, which I did. After a bowl of the famous Cendol Bakar at Assam Jawa, I started my trip at Bukit Malawati, a hill by the mouth of the Selangor River overlooking the Straits of Melaka. The former fortress was an important vantage point to monitor ships along the straits and was prized by invaders, local and foreign alike, due to its natural fortification. Remnants of the fort are still visible while cannons steadfastly continue to point outwards in all directions. Bukit Malawati’s bloody past is further encapsulated by two chilling structures – a poison well and a large stone slab – used to execute traitors and enemies who dared to defy the rulers of that time.

Cannons in position at Bukit Malawati which once a key fortress.
Cannons in position at Bukit Malawati which was once a key fortress and vantage point.

MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SILVER-LEAF MONKEYS

On the bright side the coastline is home to the affable silver leaf monkeys, the unofficial “guardians” of Bukit Malawati. Commonly known as lotong by the locals, these monkeys are indigenous to Malaysia and Indonesia where they inhabit mangrove swamps and riverine forests. The silver leaf monkeys roaming around Bukit Malawati are very tame and friendly so do not be afraid to be in close contact with them. You can find petty traders on the hill selling shoots and vegetables for you to feed these primates. However, be careful of their cousins the macaques (beruk) who tend to be aggressive in packs and have the tendency to steal your food and other items if left unguarded.

The friendly silver leaf monkeys "guards" Bukit Malawati during the day.
“These humans better start buying those snacks & feed us.”

MUDDLE AROUND AT KUALA SELANGOR NATURE PARK

After hanging around with the monkeys, I descended to Kuala Selangor Nature Park by the foot of the hill. The mudflats have become an important breeding ground for storks and heron and also a suitable residence for the silver leaf monkeys and macaques. The marked trails led me to an interesting mangrove forest walkway where colorful crabs and mudskippers would scurry around and the observation tower placed near the man-made lake are perfect for bird-watching. It’s a pity that the accommodation and facilities at the park headquarters look run-down because I feel that many people would actually be interested in spending the night here and be surrounded by the sound of nature.

Blue-colored crabs & nasty-looking mudskippers await at the end of the trail.
Blue-colored crabs & nasty-looking mudskippers await at the end of the trail.

SUCCUMB TO THE FRESH SEAFOOD

After spending half a day walking around a hill and a swamp, it’s time to unwind by the riverbank and the best way to do it is by indulging on the  seafood. One of the main seafood spots is at the fishing village of Pasir Penambang, directly facing Bukit Malawati. There are up to seven restaurants along the river but they all have one thing in common: fresh, succulent catch from the sea. I did find my moment zen while having early dinner here as I get to enjoy great food while watching fishing vessels lazily pass by the Selangor River during sunset. Besides Pasir Penambang, another famous seafood row is at the beachfront Jeram, about 20 minutes south of Kuala Selangor.

Sunset seafood dinner at Pasir Penambang (Photo courtesy of Backpacking Malaysia).

FINISH THE DAY OFF WITH THE DAZZLING FIREFLIES

Now we come to the tiny insects that made Kuala Selangor’s famous. There are two locations to watch fireflies – Bukit Belimbing and Kampung Kuantan – but I chose the latter because the operator here uses rowboats instead of motorized boats, thus providing quiet and intimate moments with our blinking buddies. I arrived at the stroke of dusk and was one of the first few to hop on board. The local boatman acted like a tour guide as he was explaining that the fireflies only live on the berembang tree indigenous to this tropical climate. As far as the fireflies go, it was like watching a Christmas tree lit-up where up to a hundred of these critters have the uncanny ability to synchronize their blinking. Imagine cruising the river in total tranquility while being flanked by rows of flickering fireflies – it just makes you cherish the priceless value of nature.

Just like a lit-up Christmas tree…except it’s in a swampy river (Photo courtesy of Wayne Image).

The rejuvenation of Kuala Selangor as a tourism destination has opened Selangor’s northern rural belt waiting to be explored and its potential to be fully realized.The green paddy fields of Sekinchan has attracted many outdoor and wedding photographers while Bagan Nakhoda Omar is gaining a reputation with anglers for its kelong-style fishing. Acting as the gateway to the north, Kuala Selangor is the perfect one-day escapade for nature lovers and city dwellers alike and to paraphrase Horace Greeley, I urge you to go west, young ones.


Travel Tips:

  • Visitors can drive up Bukit Malawati on weekdays while the hill is closed to private vehicles on weekends and public holidays. You can opt to walk or take the tram which costs RM5.00 for adults and RM2.50 for children.
  • The firefly sancutary at Kampung Kuantan runs daily from 7:30 pm – 11:30 pm. A boat of four costs RM50 and you will be charged the same amount even if the boat is not full.
  • These places deals with you being outdoor so do bring water, sunscreen and most importantly insect repellant. You wouldn’t need them for the seafood fiesta though.
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