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Taman Tugu: An Urban Forest in Kuala Lumpur

Who fancies a hike through a former landfill site in the middle of the city?

Well, if it’s Taman Tugu, then me, please. This 66-acre site in the heart of Kuala Lumpur is a mini paradise. A pristine environment full of tracks and trails. Get lost amongst indigenous species and forget for a (very) hot minute you are in the middle of a metropolis.

I loved everything about my Taman Tugu experience, from the views, and the fauna to the well-maintained rest areas and toilet facilities. Oh, and the merch. From start to finish my Taman Tugu adventure filled my soul with happy hiking joy.

Apart from the helicopter-sized mosquitoes that is! They can do a fat one!

Planning Your Own Walk – A Taman Tugu Itinerary

Taman Tugu is a mass of secondary forest located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, it’s a tangle of various trails through beautiful indigenous fauna. There are a variety of options from 1km walks to 5km hikes. Being absolute canons we opted for the 5km option and were very happy we did.

Don’t overthink Taman Tugu, it’s nature yes, but you are still only 10 mins from a 7-Eleven so no need to pack a week’s worth of supplies. There is a very nice visitors area at the entrance with a drinks kiosk and even t-shirts for sale.

The trails are well-maintained but I imagine they would get very slippy after a good rain storm so be wary if the sky is crying. I read somewhere the security guard will shut the doors when a real big storm comes in.

Also, if you like your hikes without crowds then avoid weekends and holidays. It can get busy. My suggestion, come midweek. 

Although I’d also keep a beady eye out for scheduled weekend activities and events. Because they could be something fun while you’re in town like guided hikes. Exploring the park’s ecosystem with a trained plant nerd could be fun.

One of the cool flowers found while on the trail

Getting There and Away

  • Taxi/Grab

Make it easy on yourself and get a Grab near the exit. We did exactly this after our hike and it was easy. As in, waiting less than five minutes easy.

  • Car

If you are coming by car then you are in luck as there is free parking at the Taman Tugu Nursery parking lot. Just be wary if you stay past 6.30 pm you might get charged RM50. Don’t worry they ring a bell at 6 pm to let you know the park is about to close. If this is full you can park at Padang Merbork (5 min walk) or Lake Gardens (15 min walk).

  • Train

Your nearest metro stations are Bank Negara and Masjid Jamek but they ain’t that near. Both would involve a 20-30 minute trek along Sultan Salahuddin road which is busy so my advice is to do what we did and get off at Muzium Negara station and walk through the beautiful Perdana Botanical Garden.

Opening Hours

Taman Tugu’s scheduled opening hours are 7.30 am- 6.30 pm with the last entry at 5.45 pm. A bell will ring at 6 pm to let you know kicking out time is approaching.

Taman Tugu Origin Story: Quite the Facelift

The 66-acre preservation was formerly home to British Officers, then after independence for Malaysian government officers, then a makeshift illegal rubbish dump for the city.

Hungry developers – you know the type – were eyeing the site for their next set of towering tower blocks and malls before Khazanah – which is kinda a government-backed investment fund – swooped in and claimed the site.

Partnering with the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) the dumping ground was turned into what it is today. Awesome.

100 truckloads of trash were removed from the site (I read 300 hundred elsewhere) a host of indigenous trees they found there were preserved, and 4,000 more were planted. There is a nursery on site tasked with growing exciting trees, plants and green things for future Malaysians to enjoy.

The place is pristine. And I wouldn’t have known any of the above if I hadn’t read it on a sign on the walk. I love a good sign I do.

The mantra of one of my favourite podcasts 99% Invisible is “Always read the plaque.” Because you never know what interesting stories are hidden away behind a layer of history.

I love this kinda thing. It gives me hope in humanity. Well done Kuala Lumpur. Just another reason to love this great city.

The Taman Tugu Hike: Monkey Viewing Club

Let’s crack on. After enjoying some very pleasant rest area facilities, something I shall come back to later, we joined the trail and my oh my were we in for a treat.

I was honestly blown away by how jungly it all was.

Very jungly

We were in the heart of a very modern city, I’d just read that sign about it being a former dump so my expectations were lowered. But now we were hiking through a very jungly jungle with monkeys frolicking in the canopy above us.

Yeah, freaking monkeys. I was not expecting any of this. And being the hardcore hiker blogger that I am my first instinct was to whip the phone out, get close and take some happy snaps to share with you dear readers.

Then I remembered the first rule of Monkey Viewing Club. Don’t mention Monkey Viewi…eh, oh no!

Ok, the second rule of Monkey Viewing Club is don’t look them in the eye. Now, I’m not sure if this is actually a thing but somewhere at the back of my mind was a voice saying “don’t look them in the eye”. 

It was either the voice of my Dad or David Attenborough. Either way, I listened. I like my face intact and unmolested by monkey claws.

So I backed off a bit and took some distant snaps instead.

What I loved about the hike, apart from the monkeys, was the canopy of foliage above our heads at all times. It was hot out but we didn’t have to worry about sunburn as we were nicely shaded almost the entire way around.

A Monkey!

Dress for Sweat Success: Keep Hydrated

Despite the shade, our stroll through the Taman Tugu was sticky. I can’t overstate this enough. Malaysia is sweaty. If you go out of the house and plan to do anything as energetic as breathing and existing, then wearing anything other than sports gear is a serious mistake.

My Kuala Lumpur uniform is strictly quick dry attire. Sweatbands for both wrists and a headband are a must. The more neon the better. I often leave the house looking like I’m about to get physicalllll!

To be honest, after our pre-hike stroll through the nearby botanical gardens (see below for more on this) I was pretty much beaten by the heat. This was before we even reached the Taman Tugu trails.

But then I was saved by a bottle of 100plus I picked up at the rest area. After that boost of artificial energy, I was raring to go. Like Pop-eye after he drops a tin of spinach.

If you don’t know what 100plus is, then it’s a sports energy drink but one you only find in Malaysia. Or at least I can only find it in Malaysia. It probably exists elsewhere. Anyway, it’s my favourite drink ever.

I’m not sure what’s in 100plus. Liquid awesomeness maybe. The distilled sweat of Olympic athletes possibly. No idea. But I love it.

I tried to find it in Thailand but failed. If anyone knows the 100plus story let me know below.

Anyway, I digress.

Sweet. Sweet 100 plus

Taman Tugu: A Swingers Paradise

After I didn’t lose my face to the monkeys we carried on. Along the route, we came across multiple swings set up for walkers. A nice little upgrade to the normal park bench you get at home in Blighty.

They were a pleasant way to rest your weary legs. Plus they of course have IG shot potential too. If you’re into that sort of thing.

The only issue with these swing spots was the humongous mosquitos that find their way onto your skin if you pause for a moment. I’m talking about Big Bird-sized squitos here.

I’m not sure if it was the time of year (February) or an all-year issue but we were plagued all the way around the loop. It was all kinda a slow-motion version of the film Speed. Me being Keanu and my missus Sandra B. If we slowed our pace the squitos would land and start feasting.

So when we stopped for the swings we either had to swing at a super high intensity or become lunch.

At one point a giant mossie landed on my face but before I even noticed my girlfriend smashed it with her empty 100plus bottle. At least that’s her story and she’s sticking to it!

Taman Tugu Trails: Full Loop

When we visited the park was operating a one-way system. Now, I’m not sure if this was due to Covid or a permanent thing. But due to the one-way nature of the main loop, you can’t go too wrong.

There are signs on the path the entire way, numbered from 1-30 indicating each turn. At certain points, the main trails overlap meaning you could cheat and jump a few numbers to make the hike shorter.

As we wandered, sweat dripping, we spotted a few other creatures apart from monkeys. There was a giant black frog. A few lizardy fellas and a host of spiders and even a massive cockerel.

You also get some cracking shrubbery. There are leaves almost as big as my body. I could’ve worn them as a toga should I have befallen a clothes-based mishap on the hike that left me naked.

Mighty mushrooms were growing out of the stairs. Exotic foliage galore in every direction. So much nature and all with the Petronas Towers shimmering in the distance is a very cool experience.

Mr froggo blending in nicely with the tree bark

My potential leaf toga

Signs helping everyone not get lost

Taman Tugu Main Entrance: A Facility Paradise

In addition to being a haven for biodiversity, Taman Tugu is also a haven for facilities and merchandise. At the beginning/end of your hike, there is a kiosk selling a small selection of t-shirts and other such merch.

I’m not usually into being upsold anything but we had such a lovely time my missus leapt at the chance of buying a t-shirt. Now, if that isn’t a good review for a place I don’t know what is!

Nobody wears a shirt advertising somewhere they had a rubbish time, do they?!

You can also stock up on drinking water and other superior beverages (have I mentioned 100plus) to replace the gallons you’ve sweated out on the journey around the preserve.

And get this hikers. There’s not just a well looked after toilet block but there are also showers. Like you’d get a gym. In a park. Mind-blown!

Showing off the latest Merch from the Taman Tugu range

Final Thoughts: A Hiking Paradise or Taman Tugu to be True?

To go from a trash pit to a giant green space teeming with flora and fauna, open daily for the public to explore at will, is quite a transformation. And an inspiration to other trash dumps everywhere.

That’s a rare example of a facelift going well.

Kuala Lumpur is a big ol’ place full of shiny tower blocks and big busy roads so finding pockets of green paradise like the Botanic Gardens and Taman Tugu is refreshing.

This is my first hike in and around Kuala Lumpur but I’ve been so impressed that I am going to stick around and find some more mini adventures.

If you know of any good hikes in KL please let me know below.

Until next time Hiker Heroes remember, always keep hydrated and always read the plaque.

Bonus Wander: Mike’s Free Hike Extension Pack

The Stroll Before the Hike: Perdana Botanical Garden

I jumped straight into my Taman Tugu hike experience above as I know you’re a busy and important person but if you’ve a spare moment I’d like to take you on a little time warp now.

Put on a coat as I’m about to gush like a fountain about the gorgeous Perdana Botanical Gardens (which also has gushing fountains).

We spent a lovely hour wandering here before starting our Taman Tugu hike and I fully recommend you do the same either before or after your visit.

Perdana is also known as Lake Gardens and is part of the larger Tun Abdul Razak Heritage Park area.

To get there we got off a the Muzium Negara (National Museum) station. Because being a man of the people I like to start my hikes with public transport. Especially when I’m in foreign lands. Trains and buses are the best way to get a real feel for a city.

Park Life: Kuala Lumpur Style

As we strolled through the gardens we saw the following. University kids in graduation gowns throwing their caps in the air. Children on their dad’s shoulders. Mums rolling skating with their daughters.

I particularly liked the group of schoolgirls feeding the ducks next to the “do not feed the ducks” sign.

Something I’ve always loved about Malaysia is the mix of people. And this park was like an advert for cultural diversity. 

There’s a big lake in the middle of the park with water fountains in the middle, and as a backdrop, you have all the well-known skyscrapers of downtown Kuala Lumpur. It’s a great visual and reminded me of Benjakitti park in Bangkok.

Plaza Tugu Negara: A Moment of Contemplation

Just across the road from the main Botanical Garden and just before the Taman Tugu hike kicks off properly we stumbled across the Plaza Tugu Negara which houses the Tugu Negara Monument.

If you can stumble across something 15 meters high that is. This monument is monumental!

The internet tells me Tugu Negara is the world’s tallest bronze freestanding sculpture group. I’m not entirely sure what that means. But it’s definitely tall and definitely bronze.

But it’s not the height and metal that’s important, it’s the meaning.

The Tugu Negara is a memorial to those who fell in the struggle for Malaysian freedom, first against the Japanese Occupation during the Second World War and then against the British colonists in the National Liberation War.

As a Brit, I’m always a little bit ashamed about how little I know about our own less-than-glamorous history. We got up to a lot of terrible things that they don’t tell us about in school.

That’s why I love travel so much. I set out for a simple hike and came back with some education and humility.

Anyway, that’s it. Thanks for sticking with me for that post-conclusion epilogue. You’re great! Byeee!

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