Ketumbar Hill: Discover the Beauty of Kuala Lumpur from Above
Ever had a wild boar sniff your shoes? Well, I have thanks to Ketumbar Hill. Another of Kuala Lumpur’s fabulous mini jungle hikes.
300 metres of steep(ish) jungle climb to reach the peak and if that’s not enough of a workout there’s a jungle gym waiting for you at the top. Oh, and a cafe.
Don’t expect the most adventurous day of your life but if you want a short sharp dose of jungle action, then Ketumbar Hill could be ideal.
Are there monkeys I hear you cry. Yep, damn right there are monkeys.
Planning Your Own Walk – A Ketumbar Hill Itinerary
Ketumbar Hill (Bukit Ketumbar) is a modest-sized hill of 300 metres above sea level found in the Cheras area of Kuala Lumpur.
Ketumbar is part of a forest reserve that includes neighbouring Bukit Apek and Bukit Saga. Or it used to be until someone started building a great big road between the two. So now it’s a jungle island on its own.
In terms of route planning, there isn’t much to it. It’s a lopsided loop. You go up one way and come back down the other. One is short and steep, the other is longer and less steep. The only choice is which way you go up and which you come down.
I did what I consider the logical thing and went up the long way (right at the fork) and came back down the shorter but steeper way on the descent.
There are some side trails but it’s pretty obvious which is the main path most of the way around.
Getting there and away
In Kuala Lumpur Grab is your best friend. Getting to Ketumbar Hill from downtown took only 15 minutes. I calculated public transport would take 1 hour 20 mins, which seemed excessive for a 90 min hike.
Taman Mutiara or Taman Midah stations on the MRT KG Line seem to be your closed stops but both are still a trek to the trailhead at Jalan 6/95b, 40 mins or so of city walking just to get to the start of your hike. No thanks.
There is free parking at the trailhead but by the looks of it, it fills up fast. So either get in early or come mid-day when all the sensible people are back inside in the AC. Alternatively, be prepared to cruise around a little and find some paid parking further out. I can’t imagine you will have to go far.
Oh hello KL, looking very sexy under that blue sky there. Well done you!
A Wonderful Weekend Walk in the Woods
It’s the freakin’ weekend. I’m in the metropolis of Kuala Lumpur, what is a man to do?!
Go on a jungle hike of course. What did you expect? This is a hiking blog. Hiking is my jam. I hike during the week, I hike on weekends, I hike during the day and I even hike at night while I sleep. It’s just what I do.
Actually, that’s not true. I mainly just do it during the day. But you get the idea.
This is my fourth KL jungle hike this week and I’m getting into the flow of things now. I’m beginning to know what to look out for. As I cruise through the Saturday morning traffic in my very comfortable Grab taxi I start to make a mental checklist in my head.
Monkeys. Swings. Random “funny” names for points of interest. Hikers wearing bum bags with towels on their heads.
You know, the classic KL hike things. And spoiler alert. Ketumbar Hill did not disappoint on any of these. It also added an exciting new twist. Jungle pigs! Big hairy jungle pigs! Woop woop!
Pretty housing estate at the trailhead.
Ketumbar Hill – A Friendly Welcome
I hopped out of my very air-conditioned Grab and into the always discombobulating warm wet slap of Kuala Lumpur’s air.
Immediately drenched in sweat I wandered through a housing estate to find the entrance. I was sauntering along minding my own business when a bunch of builders started heckling me. “Oh, here we go, a bit of agro!”
Forgetting I wasn’t in the UK and that in Malaysia most people are, on the whole, super friendly. It was just a lovely bunch of Indian workmen wanting to know where I was from.
When I said England, I got a huge roar of approval, which was admittedly a bit weird. But hey, I’ll take it. It’s better than being booed.
What a lovely way to start a day.
Finding the entrance I treated myself to a tasty fresh fruit juice to fuel me for the climb ahead. Fresh tropical fruits squeezed in front of you is something that never gets old.
I walked on singing merrily to myself, “mango, mango, king of fruits” a little jingle I always sing whenever I see a mango.
“Hey Shrine Man, cracking beard you got there.”
All in Good Shrine
Full of mango goodness the hike started and I was immediately met with some stairs and a smart red Na Tuk Gong shrine.
I have no real idea about worshipping practices here but sitting patiently inside the shrine was a little statue of a smiling bearded man surrounded by joss sticks. If anyone knows who this is or what this is about please educate this ignorant foreigner in the comments below.
Whatever the significance it was lovely to start a hike with the smell of incense wafting around my delighted nose holes.
Off I went. The trail was easy to follow but deceptively steep in places. Along the way it was well signposted with hand-painted markers to the next point of interest “Ingot Stone”, “Yellow Stone” “SUKE View”.
I’ve got used to this level of homemade DIY signposting now on KL hikes. I like it. It shows the community cares for and cherishes its green spaces.
I was a little disappointed by the lack of imagination on Ketumbar Hill. Where are the “Killer Stairs” in Bukit Gasing or “Angkor Wat Rock” in Bukit Kiara? Come on Friends of Ketumbar Hill, get more creative please!
Up to the KL Viewpoint
The climb to the peak takes about 40 mins and involves the usual selection of jungle plants and noises I’ve become familiar with over the last week.
Not familiar enough to be able to identify any of them for you here of course. Just imagine jungle plants, lots of different hues of green and differently shaped leaves. Oh and vines. Lots and lots of vines. You get the idea!
Oh hello Tim Vine, fancy meeting you here
It’s hella jungly and it’s very pretty.
I’d done my research and read that Ketumbar translates as coriander. So I was keeping my eyes peeled but I saw none on the hike. Personally I hate coriander so I was ok with that.
Thankfully at around the middle distance into the ascent, just when sweat levels are reaching dangerous levels there’s a handy viewpoint with a lovely panorama of Kuala Lumpur ahead.
It’s a great place for a rest and to get out your 100Plus and rehydrate. If you squint hard enough you can see the Petronas Towers in the distance.
Kinda pretty right?!
Where Ketumbar Hill differed from my other Kuala Lumpur hikes so far was the joy of reaching the top. It was decorated with lanterns and umbrellas hanging from the trees. There were pink flowers everywhere and chilled-out music playing. It was like being at a festival at home.
There’s also a legit little cafe banging out tasty Malaysian classics and flogging a wide variety of coffee-based beverages. Tiramisu Latte anyone?
Who needs Starbucks? Not me.
There was also a tuckshop with enough sugary snacks to give an entire bus full of school kids Type 2 diabetes.
Classic school tuckshop. Chupa Chup anyone?
Now don’t get me wrong I traditionally love my hikes to be as wild as possible with as little presence of people as possible but the rules are different for city hikes. And I’m nothing if not flexible so I was very on board with the cafe on the hill set up.
It was the weekend and I was expecting it to be super busy but it was very quiet. Suspiciously quiet even.
Maybe I just got lucky or maybe I got my timings wrong and was out a little bit late in the day for most locals who do their hiking in the early mornings or late afternoons.
Quite a set-up, and no annoying monthly gym fees to worry about.
Next to the cafe some community-spirited hikers or presumably nearby residents have also built a nifty jungle gym. It would’ve been rude to come all this way and not to test it out. So I knocked out a few reps with the improvised exercise equipment.
As a giant westerner, I’m always a little worried this stuff isn’t designed to hold my heft and I’ll end up breaking something and having to flee with a gang of locals flinging insults at me.
But I’d needn’t have worried. It was solid enough. I particularly liked the concrete dumbbells.
Soak in that nature. You’ll be back in a shopping mall very soon.
I’d taken the long way up so I could descend Ketumbar Hill by the short way. And it was really only 15 to 20 minutes of downness to get back to the start.
The track was in good condition but I imagine it could get hella slippy if there was a bit of rain. If you’ve got flimsy knees, be wary you, just take it steady. No rushing. It’s not a competition.
If it had been a competition I would’ve won. I overtook a few families on the way down and didn’t see anyone coming up the opposite way.
In terms of footwear, a good pair of trainers or hiking shoes is ideal. Now you probably could get away with a flip-flop but why would you bother? You’d just spend the worrying about your feet or end up kicking a root and getting that manky black toenail thing that nobody likes.
This monkey gang were some cool cats.
Now, so far you will have noticed I haven’t mentioned the one thing that Ketumbar Hill is kinda locally famous for. The wild boars!
Well, I haven’t mentioned them yet because I didn’t see a single one the entire hike. Nope. No huge herd of them roaming around the peak as I enjoyed my coffee at the little cafe. No snaffling pig noises in the bushes around as I hiked around. Nope. Nothing.
This was disappointing as I’d read wild boars even turn up in shopping malls in Malaysia.
It wasn’t until I was back down at the entrance getting changed out of my sweaty clothes that a hairy snuffler came jogging hairily past me. Not sure where it was going in such a rush but it stopped to give me a bit of a sniff and then carried straight on.
Sorry, I didn’t get any photos of the encounter but I was in a state of semi-nakedness at the time.
And now I’m sorry for making you think of me semi-naked. 😉
It was also at the entrance/exit that I finally came across a bit of monkey action. There was a whole troop of the furry legends on the path ahead.
These cool cats were so used to humans that they didn’t move a muscle as I came along. I had to pick my way around them as they carried on picking nits out of each other’s fur.
Green glory, good for the soul.
Final Thoughts: Ketumbar Hill, a Fun Hike or Boar-ing Day Out?
I really enjoyed my two hours on Ketumbar Hill. I can see why it’s a popular hiking spot. It’s got a bit of everything for everyone.
Now, it’s not the most exciting hike in the world but if you’ve got a half day to kill and want to get super sweaty walking up and down a hill then I fully recommend it. I especially liked the cafe/gym set up on the peak.
My one disappointment was probably the wild boar. Don’t get me wrong I was delighted I saw one but it was more like a mild boar than a wild one. I was hoping to see loads. Maybe even hundreds.
My imagination probably got a bit carried away. They are fascinating creatures though, and they look like we will all be seeing more of them soon. Eek!
I’ve since read that maybe the hill is less full of boars than it was once. There’s a theory the boars were trapped on Ketumbar Hill by the big SUKE highway construction job but now most have found a way to sneak back across to the larger forest of Apek Hill and Bukit Saga.
I couldn’t tell you. I’m not a boar expert. But Bukit Saga is where I’m heading on my next Kuala Lumpur jungle adventure so I will let you know what the boar action is there soon.
So until then beautiful people, keep smiling and keep snuffling for truffles!