Residential Areas1 Jan 2011
Bordering the very centre of Kuala Lumpur is the area fondly referred to as the Golden Triangle. The centre for all things commerce and activity, this area also hosts residential developments mainly in the form of tall, luxury condominium blocks.
Many expatriates find city living an exciting and cosmopolitan life, enjoying the close proximity to KLCC and the world class Twin Towers Medical Centre, a nearby Cold Storage supermarket for all grocery needs and plenty of nearby bars and restaurants. Bukit Ceylon/Changkat Bukit Bintang is popular for its large selection of condos and serviced apartments and for its situation close to the Ampang area for international schools, other expat communities and popular markets.
However, as with any city, rental tends to be comparatively high (though still great value for money compared to similar accommodation in most western countries). For example, a 3+1 bedroom apartment in a relatively new condominium full of facilities should cost you no more than RM 6,000 per month.
If you’re looking to live close to, but preferably just outside the main city then Ampang may well be the place for you. Popular with both foreign expatriates and affluent locals, it boasts proximity both to the city and to shopping malls, a golf course, a number of international schools, restaurants and markets.
Furthering its appeal, the area is also known for its healthcare facilities which rank among the best in Malaysia such as the Ampang Puteri Specialist Centre, Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre, Pantai Indah Hospital and others.
Convenience and access are the premise on which the development around KL’s primary land transport terminal KL Sentral was planned. The rapidly developing area houses a number of new and modern condos that boast views over the Lake Gardens from one side and KLCC from the other.
With the ability to catch the KLIA express train to the airport, taxis, the LRT or Monorail into the city centre, or the highways to almost anywhere you require, the Brickfields or KL Sentral area is an enticing prospect despite its small and somewhat cramped boundaries.
Mont Kiara/Sri Hartamas
Growth in the Mont Kiara/Sri Hartamas area over the last ten years has been extraordinary. What was
once an area infiltrated and back-dropped by lush forest greenery can now best be described as a concrete metropolis.
Nevertheless, the standard of accommodation is high across the board and the largely condo-based lifestyle here is all about convenience and luxury. The area is constantly buzzing with coffee shops, restaurants, bistros and bars and is a happening location, frequented by locals and expatriates from across the city.
Residents enjoy such facilities literally on their doorstep as well as two international schools: the British, Garden International School and the American, Mont Kiara International School. Both are within walking distance from most of the popular condominiums whilst the French school, Lycée Francais de Kuala Lumpur is also close by.
Access is perhaps the area’s strongest selling point, as major highways connect residents to all parts of KL, golf courses, trekking areas, cycling trails and an equestrian centre are all located in the “green lung” Bukit Kiara just next to Sri Hartamas.
Unfortunately, such drastic development has created an incredibly cramped environment and though a few gated community developments have opened the area up slightly, it has been at the expense of the Bukit Kiara hillside. Getting into and out of the area at peak times can also be difficult.
Mutiara Damansara/Damansara Perdana
Mutiara Damansara and Damansara Perdana are new areas that surround the popular and ever useful Ikano Power Centre, Ikea and the Curve shopping complexes. They offer easy access to other areas of KL via the adjacent LDP highway and the Penchala Link which feeds into the two areas from Mont Kiara.
Condos feature mainly here, particularly in Damansara Perdana, though a range of housing options can also be found. Just next to Mutiara Damansara is the large shopping mall 1 Utama which, accompanying a great directory of stores, also hosts Giant and Jusco supermarkets.
The expatriate-adored Cold Storage supermarket in Ikano Power Centre is also very convenient. Meanwhile, nearby Bandar Utama boasts 1Utama, Centrepoint Shopping Centre, Bukit Utama Golf Club and the British International School.
However, as with all developing sectors in KL, construction work in and around the already established residential areas can be a pain and will eventually create an area not too dissimilar to Mont Kiara today.
This exclusive and well-established residential area set in the quiet hills between Bangsar and Mont Kiara is the perfect place for those who love fresh air and natural surroundings.
However, despite its tranquil and isolated feel, residents can easily enjoy the entertainment, shopping, dining and nightlife of its neighbouring districts only a short drive away.
With everything from low-density condominiums and impressive villas to semi-detached houses and spacious bungalows, there is a huge range of property from which expatriates can choose. Widely considered one of the most affluent areas of KL, it is a much sought after residential and commercial address for locals and expatriates alike.
However, Damansara Heights’ prestigious reputation has been built over many years and properties here, unless recently renovated, can look tired and lack modern utilities and amenities. The open street format of much of the area also means that expatriates looking for stringent security measures (such as those found in condos and gated communities) may be left wanting.
Bangsar is one of KL’s most famous and talked about suburbs, particularlyamong expatriates. Only 20 minutes from the city and easily accessible via several major roads, it is both a popular place to live and a great place for dining and shopping. With beautiful and community-driven residential areas, it’s easy to see why expatriates, CEOs, high-ranking government officials and many of the local elite have made this prestigious area their home.
Perhaps one of the most cosmopolitan areas in KL, its streets are lined with bars, cafes, restaurants, shops, medical centres, banks and hair salons. With three major malls: Bangsar Shopping Centre (known universally as BSC), Bangsar Village I and II all in the neighbourhood and the popular Midvalley Megamall and The Gardens just nearby, there’s no shortage of retail therapy and amenities here.
If you’re looking to move into a house then Bangsar, with its myriad properties ranging from semi-detached to sprawling detached bungalows, has plenty to choose from. However, there are also plenty of excellent condos, both in terms of location and facilities.
Petaling Jaya (more commonly referred to as PJ) is spread out over a large area in the Klang Valley. Comprising separate districts, PJ is navigated via its section names and numbers. What was originally established to solve the over-population problem in downtown KL is now a busy, bustling metropolis in its own right.
The area actually encompasses many smaller developments and residential communities such as Kelana Jaya, Bandar Sunway and Bandar Utama, all of which provide ample housing and are popular residential areas for many locals.
Those looking for a condo will struggle for choice, though bungalows and link houses aplenty and, with careful planning, one can find a home in an ideal location, close to major highways, public transport stations and business districts.
Hosting fewer expatriates than many of the other notable areas, Petaling Jaya and its plentiful sections could be just what some new arrivals are looking for.
Sungai Buloh itself isn’t exactly an expatriate hotspot, except for its abundance of famed garden nurseries. However, its gated communities—Sierramas, Sierramas West, Villamas and Valencia—are increasingly becoming the residential destination of choice for many expats.
These communities potentially offer all the positives of the other residential areas with less of the drawbacks; they combine the space, greenery and property sizes of Damansara Heights and Bangsar with the security and facilities to top those of the luxury condos in Mont Kiara.
Sierramas and Valencia both boast a 50-metre swimming pool, tennis courts and an eatery and the latter even hosts a nine-hole golf course amid the sprawling residential lots and community park spaces.
However, these areas are not without their negatives as Sierramas is beginning to look and feel slightly dated, Sierramas West is newer but much more cramped and Valencia has perhaps been too heavily expatriated.
For those with young children, the community spirit and international school bus service on Valencia could be ideal but many expatriates dislike the holiday camp feel to the complex.
And those looking to forgo an extra car should also beware that many taxi drivers and companies are reluctant to travel out to this area though the situation has gradually been changing for the better over the past couple of years. Despite these few pitfalls, for many, living in a gated community is the perfect way and ideal balance in which to enjoy expatriate living.
The administrative capital of Malaysia is understandably becoming a popular residential area, particularly amongst those who work in the nearby area. Roughly 40km south of Kuala Lumpur, it may feel too far for expatriates with jobs, friends and other interests in the city.
But nevertheless, the modern housing, spacious surroundings and proximity to other popular areas among expatriates such as Country Heights and the IOI Resort as well as the Alice Smith International School secondary campus at Equine Park are all enticing prospects.
As are the high-tech principles and facilities around which Putrajaya was constructed. Handily, KLIA is also only 20km away, making the area an increasingly popular choice for frequent flyers.
OUTSIDE THE KLANG VALLEY
Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi
Located in the North-East portion of the island, Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi are the most popular residential areas of Penang for expatriates. Just about every kind of accommodation is available here, including an abundance of resort-style condominiums, spacious hilltop bungalows and beachfront properties.
Hillside is a particularly popular area for expatriates looking to rent a house in Tanjung Bungah and there are several high-rise luxury condos holding particular appeal to foreigners and affluent locals such as Alila, Sri Golden Bay, Diamond Villa and Pearl View. Batu Ferringhi is also home to luxurious condos and ongoing projects are bolstering its residential capacity.
The area, also hosting Penang’s most famous beaches, provides an interesting lifestyle by fusing holiday views, activities and lifestyle with that of the real world.
While some expatriates will love it, others may not enjoy the close proximity to such a tourist hotspot. However, conveniently for residents, the Uplands International School has recently relocated to Batu Ferringhi and the Dalat International School is located in Tanjung Bungah, increasing the area’s overall appeal.
Just a few minutes-drive south of Tanjung Bungah, and towards the centre of Georgetown, Gurney Drive houses a stretch of high-rise condominiums, most with beautiful sea views. Particularly popular properties include Sri Pangkor, The Regency, Silverton Condominium, Millennium Tower, Gurney Palace, Gurney Beach Resort and the recently completed Mayfair to name but a few.
Residents here find themselves incredibly close to perhaps Penang’s favourite shopping mall, Gurney Plaza, currently undergoing a huge expansion to add a seven-floor new wing by November 2008.
However, for expatriates intending to stay long-term, it may be wise to consider the Malaysian government’s decision to build a new dual carriageway—the Penang Outer Ring Road—that is set to change the landscape of Gurney Drive via a land reclamation project.
So if being by the seafront is of great importance and you are planning a long-term stay, Tanjung Bungah or Batu Ferringhi may be your preferred option.
Otherwise, Gurney Drive, and its popular “Millionaire’s Row”, is within easy reach of all amenities and offers a great standard of living.
Home to Tun Dr Ismail International School, Johor Bahru offers a pleasant standard of living for the newly-arrived expatriate. JB (as it’s known across Malaysia) is distinct in that its retail scene is highly developed for a city of this size, mainly due to the high influx of tourists from Singapore and overseas.
Within the city centre there are several condominiums which are particularly popular with expatriates, allowing residents the chance to meet others and share their experiences. Also welcoming are JB’s numerous outlaying golf and country clubs and, of course, the close proximity to Singapore, just over the causeway.
Further outside the city are various developments designed to cater to expatriates, Singaporeans and affluent locals.
Sarawak’s largest city is home to both Lodge International School and the Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak Campus. English is widely spoken and the majority of local residents are multi-lingual. The Malay language spoken in Kuching is often known as Bahasa Sarawak (because it sounds so different to the standard Bahasa Melayu), so if you attempt to learn Malay but find yourself unable to understand the language spoken here, not to worry.
Additionally, Kuching is known for its abundance of museums, among them the Cat Museum (“Kuching” means “cat” in Malay), but the most famous is probably the Sarawak Cultural Village—an award-winning living museum that depicts the lifestyles of Sarawak’s various indigenous tribes.
The second largest city in Sarawak also houses a number of expatriates, interested mainly in the oil that was discovered here in the early 1990s. However, it has recently undergone a transformation into a brand new resort city with yet more changes anticipated as a result of future developments.
Mostly home to Malaysia’s various indigenous groups, Miri has a relaxed atmosphere, surprisingly good nightlife, is surrounded by four world-class national parks, and has excellent restaurants, beaches and markets. Most of the bars and pubs are located in the Boulevard Commercial Centre and the Pelita Commercial Centre and are frequented by locals and foreigners alike.
It also has a reputation (like much of Malaysia) as a shopping paradise and is well known for its native handicrafts, particularly beaded products.
The great number of expatriates can enjoy Miri’s lively sports scene which includes paragliding, swimming, tennis and motocross-, go-kart- and car-racing among others. It also hosts the impressive Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Campus—the first foreign University campus in East Malaysia.
Located on the Western coast of Sabah, East Malaysia and in the shadows of South East Asia’s highest peak—Mount Kinabalu—Kota Kinabalu (or simply KK) could be the ideal location for expatriates wanting a relaxed way of life, culture aplenty and access to some of Malaysia’s most fascinating attractions.
Kinabalu International School, located in Bukit Padang, makes this capital city of Sabah a viable option for families whilst a number of notable shopping complexes, cinemas and markets provide ample entertainment. The Sabah Zoological and Botanical Park, just 20km south of the city are also worth a look, especially if (or when) you have visitors in tow.
However, residents pay for such sea views and nearby activities and prices in KK can seem high in comparison to other East Malaysia locations. Nevertheless, properties to consider include Graceville and Grace Garden condos opposite Sutera Harbour, Waikiki condo and, slightly further out, The Peak condominium.