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Selangor is one of the thirteen states that make up the Federation of Malaysia. It is not the largest state, but it is certainly the most developed, the richest and the most populous.
Selangor's history dates back to the 16th century. Rich tin deposits were abundant within its territories and its relative wealth attracted miners and other immigrants. One especially large group of colonisers were the Bugis, a Malay people from Sulawesi (Celebes); now a part of Indonesia. Reknowned seafarers and warriors, the Bugis quickly rose to prominence in Selangor. By the 1700s, they dominated the state economically and politically, and established the Sultanate of Selangor.
The royal town of the Sultanate is in Kelang (Klang), and the capital of the state is the sleepy town of Shah Alam. Petaling Jaya, adjacent to the city of Kuala Lumpur is the largest city in Selangor.
The capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, and the administrative capital Putrajaya, were both originally part of Selangor before agreements between the ruler, the Sultan of Selangor and the Federal Government caused the two areas to become Federal Territories. As a result, although both areas are no longer in Selangor, they are both completely surrounded by the state of Selangor.
For the tourist, it is hard to discern where Kuala Lumpur ends and where Selangor begins. The two merge almost seamlessly into each other, that many of Selangor's attractions are wrongly identified as being Kuala Lumpur attractions.
For many, the top attraction in Selangor is the Batu Caves in the municipality of Selayang. The caves are sacred to those of the Hindu faith; for many tourists though the attraction is not within the caves itself but the journey to get there. To get to the caves, 272 steps need to be climbed up and along the way mischievous monkeys clamber about seeking any opportunity to steal food off the unsuspecting tourist. Best time to visit would be during the Thaipusam festival, whereby huge throngs of devotees do ritual acts of penance involving the skewering of their flesh with hooks or skewers, carrying heavy burdens or pulling chariots.
The Forest Research Institute of Malaysia ("FRIM") is the nearest genuine rainforest to Kuala Lumpur. Located in Kepong, amongst its attractions are a canopy walkway, several nature trails, picnic spots and even a Malay Tea House. For those unable to go to the more prominent nature reserves elsewhere in the country, FRIM makes a convenient spot for the visitor short of time in the country.
Kuala Selangor, located by the coast, has several attractions. Foremost amongst them are the Fireflies which can be found at Kampung Kuantan and Bukit Belimbing. Best viewed on moonless nights, this entails a boat ride on the river to witness the twinkling of millions of these amazing insects flashing in synchronicity on the branches of the "berembang" trees on the riverbanks. Another attraction in Kuala Selangor is the Taman Alam Nature Reserve. The reserve consists of a mangrove forest and is arguably the best place to see animals in the wild in Selangor. You are almost guaranteed sightings of mudskippers, fiddler crabs, silver langur monkeys, and macaques. If you are lucky maybe even monitor lizards or even otters. It is also a bird-watchers paradise, sea eagles, brahminy kites, milky storks and egrets are amongst 150 species of birds found here. Bukit Melawati, a hill with the remains of the foundation of an ancient fort, stands out amongst the flat lands overlooking the Nature Reserve. A natural viewing post even in historical times, today it is still a fantastic place to view the sunset. especially as the silver langur and macaque monkeys tend to come up from the mangroves and congregate here as well in the evenings. Seafood is also an attraction of Kuala Selangor, several chinese restaurants line up along the river and make a good stopover for the hungry traveller.
Shopping is also one of the top attractions in Selangor as there are several good shopping malls in the City of Petaling Jaya and the adjacent municipality of Subang Jaya. Sunway Pyramid in the municipality of Subang Jaya is done in the style of the ancient Egyptians, with an actual pyramid and sphinx no less! Complete with an indoor ice-skating rink, bowling alley, karaoke, cinema , it has everything you would want in a shopping mall. In Petaling Jaya, the premier shopping centre is the impressive One Utama mall in Bandar Utama. With 6 retail floors and 5 million square feet of shopping space, if you can't find it here, it doesn't exist! A short hop away is Mutiara Damansara with the 5 (!) adjacent malls of Tesco, e@curve, IKEA, IPC Shopping and the Curve. IKEA and IPC are the places to go if you are after home furnishing stuff. The Curve's main attraction is the Street Mall with its many varied restaurants and food outlets. It has a nice and lively ambiance at night, a good place to find dinner. KidZania, a theme park especially for kids to try out adult careers, is adjacent to The Curve.
Sunway Lagoon, adjacent to the Sunway Pyramid, is one of Malaysia's earliest theme parks. While nowhere in the class of theme parks elsewhere in the world such as the Gold Coast or the West, it nevertheless may be a welcome day out or excursion for the kids tired of shopping. The Water Park is probably the pick of the attractions with its surfing beach.
If this theme park doesn't get your fancy, the Mines Wonderland is Seri Kembangan is another alternative. Situated aroung an ex-tin mining lake and catering more for the domestic tourist, the park has simple rides for the younger kids. There is even a water taxi and the main attraction is the Winter House. Adjacent to the Wonderland is the Mines Shopping Fair if you still haven't sated your shopping mania.
Shah Alam, the sleepy capital has few attractions for the tourist. Its most visible attraction is the Blue Mosque, or to give its official name the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz mosque. It claims to be the largest mosque in Malaysia, and certainly its blue dome and four minarets are impressive especially for that Kodak moment. There are large public gardens in the vicinity of the mosque, which add to the serene environment. The other attraction in Shah Alam is the Malaysian Agricultural Park (Taman Pertanian Malaysia). Located at Bukit Cahaya Alam (formerly Bukit Cherakah), you can get to experience paddy fields, tropical fruit trees and other agricultural products of Malaysia without having to venture further afield. Cycling is also popular here and there are bicycles for rent. For those into adventure sports, there is the Skytrex, where you can clamber amongst the tree tops in canopy walkways designed to challenge as well as zip down flying fox lines.
Pulau Ketam, or Crab Island, is a small island off the coast of Klang. Pulau Ketam is the best place to view the lifestyle of local chinese fishermen. Living on "floating houses", in reality houses on long wooden stilts perched over the water, Pulau Ketam is not a touristy destination, but an actual workman-like fishing village. The island is only accessible by boat from the Port Klang jetty. Seafood is of course one of the attractions of this fishing village.
In Gombak district, there is a small lesser known attraction called the Muzium Orang Asli. Hardly visited, it is a museum dedicated to the arts and crafts of Malaysia's indigeneous people, the Orang Asli ("the original people"). Admission is free, and there is a handicraft section where the crafts such as masks or wooden sculptures can actually be bought.
For more of the Orang Asli, head over to Carey Island, near the Selangor coast. Set amongst palm oil plantation land, this is the home of the Mah Meri tribe, who are famed for their wood-carving of masks and sculptures. It is apparently a huge island, but is actually only separated from the mainland by a river. Before crossing the bridge over to the island, there are several chinese restaurants serving seafood, Carey Islands other claim to fame.
Zoo Negara, or the National Zoo is located in Ampang Jaya municipality. Malaysia's first zoo covers over more than 110 acres of land. Over the years it has been transforming itself into an open concept zoo and is popular amongst locals especially at the weekends. One of its attractions are the free-flying lake birds which consist of more than 300 free-ranging birds which make the lake its home. The milky stork is the star of the lake birds.
Selangor is not famed for its beaches, but there are a few beaches popular with the domestic tourist. Morib in its heyday in the seventies, was the closest beach to Kuala Lumpur, but with all the modern highways, most KL-ites now head over to neighbouring Negeri Sembilan state for Port Dickson beach for their weekend breaks. Morib is not at all a spectacular beach, and the building of an embankment wall has not at all helped matters. Still, during low tides, it is possible to walk down and explore the beach and watch the small crabs scuttling away and burying themselves in the mudflats.
Bagan Lalang in Sepang district is another beach. Not very well known even to the local tourist, ever since the opening of the KL International Airport, Bagan Lalang has opened up and become easier to reach with all the new highways. It has even been re-badged with the new name Sepang Gold Coast, with the opening of a new stilted resort over the sea, in the shape of a palm tree. Bagan Lalang is the place to go for seafood done malay-style as opposed to the chinese-style seafood found elsewhere. Many a KL-ite would not think twice and head to Bagan Lalang to get their "ikan bakar" (grilled fish) fix at the weekends.
Selangor is also home to numerous waterfalls. Popular with domestic tourists, who bring their families for picnics or weekend outings, there are several of these hidden gems across the state. Unfortunately, cleanliness tends to be an issue, as perhaps a lack of civic consciousness and lack of maintenance by the local councils means that rubbish tends to accumulate. Some of the falls include the Serendah Falls, Gabai Falls, Sendat falls and Sungai Tua. Others which are pretty close to Kuala Lumpur include the Templer Park and Kanching Falls. For the adventurous, the Chiling Falls is probably the pick of the bunch. Located off the road to the Frasers Hill in Pahang State, the only way to the falls is to trek one kilometre up-river, at times needing to cross the waist-high river several times!
For the best view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline, surprisingly it is in Selangor and not from the Petronas Twin Towers or the Kuala Lumpur Tower in the city centre. Journey to the foothills in Ampang, 280m above sea-level and 30-minutes from the city centre where you will find the Look-Out Point. The restaurants and food here are not flash or spectacular, but the view of the city skyline is! The restaurants open from 7pm until 2am at night, but find a taxi driver who knows the way, as not many do! [NOTE: The Look-Out Point is currently closed due to some licensing issues with the Local Municipal Council]
In short, while Selangor is probably not as well known internationally as other states in Malaysia such as Penang, Malacca or Sabah, it is a state that has many things to offer both the international and the domestic tourist. Certainly, the Batu Caves (which are always wrongly identified as being part of Kuala Lumpur) are well-known; as are the Fireflies of Kuala Selangor. But look beyond these, and Selangor still has much to offer!