Morrissey’s lyrics “This is the costal town that they forgot to close down" flash through my head, as we enter Kuala Selangor. Like so many places in Malaysia, the town itself is rather banal. A series of townships along a speedway. Shopping centers without shoppers. Concrete without soul. Modernism without life. But it’s a nice, sunny Sunday – anything but “Silent and grey.”
Our first stop is the Kuala Selangor State Park. In 1987 this little mangrove forest was supposed to be turned into a golf course. But the Malaysian Nature Society stepped in and saved this little haven from bulldozers and posers in silly pants. Instead, a paradise for birders was established.
The untrained eye might not be able to spot every bird. But the music in the trees is all around us. The trail first takes us to a concrete watchtower. From here we overlook the man-made, brackish water lake. We see an explosion of blue as a kingfisher flies up. White herons sit in the mud. Swallows are in Top Gun mood.
The path continues through some secondary forest. Silver leaf monkeys watch our every move. Near the lake, a giant monitor lizard rushes for shelter. His lazy sidekick wades through the mud, his tail leaving a long mark. It’s low tide so mudskippers are having a blast.
An extra walkway leads us through the actual mangrove forest. The wooden railings are mostly gone and lying in the mud. A little cleanup wouldn’t harm, although it’s a lost battle. Each tide brings another load of plastic junk. Brave students from the nearby Unisel University fight back. Dressed in rubber boots and gloves, we see them picking up 550 kg of garbage. Some are rolling an entire collection of tires to the collection point.
The nature park opens daily, 9 am to 6 pm, entrance fees: 4 RM, senior citizen 2 RM, children 1 RM
The aquarium next door is a total joke. Half of the tanks are empty, broken or filled with dead fish - the other half with fish wishing they were dead. "How I Dearly Wish I Was Not Here" they lipsync in the water.
We make the mistake of eating something closeby, in a little ice cream parlor slash restaurant, right next to the tourist train station. The bar features a remarkable collection of artificially colored candies and flavors. Our ABC (crushed ice mixed with syrups and fruits) looks like an igloo from Tchernobyl. Coulda-woulda-shoulda driven to the seafood restaurants near the river.
Fully refreshed and fueled by sugar, we ignore the kitschy tourist train and walk up the gentle slope of Bukit Melawati. The hill, where Malay sultans once had to fight off Dutch invaders, is now conquered by armies of silver leaf monkeys. In most countries feeding wild animals is considered a crime, over here it’s a business. Different stalls are selling fruits and veggies for the waiting monkeys. It all feels a little bit wrong. Bad conscience aside - it’s truly amazing to get up close with these gentle monkeys and their extra cute golden babies. A nice change from the aggressive macaques. The hill also features a museum, a lighthouse, plenty of bronze canons as vague reminders of a troubled past.
We didn’t stay till dark, so we missed what’s described as one of Malaysia’s natural wonders: the fireflies of Kampung Kuantan. Next time!
Kuala Selangor is 60 km north of KL. Organized tours are a bit of a rip-off. For a few Ringgit, take the bus next to Pasar Seni LRT station. The journey takes around 2 hours. The Kuala Selangor busstop is only a short taxi ride away from the Park and Monkey Hill.