With clusters of reviews and much of the spotlight on places like TTDI and Bangsar, the beauty of Cheras is often overlooked. An upcoming production by Five Arts Centre – Cheras, The Musical! – has its characters working hard to escape Cheras in pursuit of a better and more affluent life elsewhere. This makes one wonder what compels them to flee Cheras. Is the old and laidback township so undesirable to live in?
Perhaps not. From the variety of delicious food to the numerous things to do besides visiting malls and cafes, Cheras definitely has a lot to offer.
A morning in Taman Yulek – one of the oldest neighbourhoods here – brings you into the hustle and bustle of the daily wet market and people going about their errands. A walk around the corner leads to Meng Shiang coffee shop’s excellent wantan mee, sold by the stall facing the front of the shop. Every plate of springy noodles and succulent char siew is worth the long wait. In the evening, down this same road is a wai sek kai (glutton street), where hawkers sell many types of food.
Take a 10 minute drive to Bandar Tun Razak and enjoy the scenery at Taman Tasik Permaisuri, a public recreational park with running tracks and steep ground to make you huff and puff at certain areas. Tall shady trees line the park; visitors can sit back and relax on the many benches and pondok structures overlooking the lake in the middle.
Another accessible and more jungle-like walking trail worth noting is Apek Hill, which has a few entrances at Cheras Awana and Wangsa Cheras. It spans several neighbourhoods and is very much preserved in its natural state, except for ropes to grab onto for support on slopes and uneven ground. The waterfall midway through is a refreshing spot, a fitting reward after a long hike.
Stop by the famous Pudu market, one of the largest wet markets in KL. From fresh fruits to vegetables and poultry, it’s a place where you can have your week’s grocery shopping sorted.
We spoke to a few people living in Cheras to find out what they like about it.
Dr Kua Kia Soong, director of SUARAM (Suara Rakyat Malaysia), has lived in Cheras since the 1980s and is happy with the abundance of trees around his neighbourhood. He also notes how close by it is to the city centre, especially on good traffic days. “Although the city centre is just nearby, it is good to get away from the urban feel of KL/PJ to be back in a small community.”
Pik-Svonn Lew, who does lots of work in community education and civil society initiatives, appreciates the laidback vibe in Cheras and how it still houses old sundry and medicinal shops. However, she laments its gentrification as developers are slowly creeping in to build luxury residences and shopping malls.
“Developers are coming in to build posh condominiums, bungalows and shopping malls, and my favourite mom and pop shops are closing down,” says Pik-Svonn. “Unsurprisingly, property prices have also skyrocketed.”
Having lived in Cheras for about two decades, I share their sentiments. It is close enough to the city and major highways to be convenient, yet distant enough to feel defined as a single multicultural township with almost everything we need.
“Unsurprisingly, property prices have also skyrocketed.”
With the new IKEA (Malaysia’s biggest) scheduled to open in a month, the neighbourhood will soon see an influx of shoppers and further developments. Global internet venture Rocket Internet (which owns Zalora and Food Panda) has also set up its offices in the neighbourhood.
Cheras is still a wonderful place to be in, for now. While its commercial scene is evolving and highlighting Cheras on the proverbial playing field, let’s hope that it retains its ‘chill’ suburb identity to balance out the rapid spurt of new developments.
FIVE SPOTS TO FIND IN CHERAS
Meng Shiang Wantan Mee
A highly popular stall in the coffeeshop serving wantan mee and roasted chicken / pork rice, expect to wait up to 45 minutes for your food to arrive. It’ll be worth it.
Yulek Wai Sek Kai
With hawker stalls open from approximately 6pm till 10pm, look out for char kuey teow, yu tiao, chee cheong fun, prawn noodles, chili pan mee and more.
Taman Tasik Permaisuri
Located next to the Bandar Tun Razak Swimming Complex and opposite Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM), the park has a few entrances with ample parking spots.
Entrances to the reserve are largely within neighbourhood areas. As the trail stretches a long way and tends to look similar after awhile, be sure to take note of marked trees and know where you’re going.
This market has probably been around for as long as Malaysia itself. Its selections are comprehensive, selling pastries and clothing aside from a great variety of standard wet market fare. Foodies can also look forward to assam laksa, putu mayam and more.
Are any of you from Cheras? What do you think makes it stand out?
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