Malaysian city life and what it means

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I love my country Malaysia very much. There is a deep sense of pride and joy to be a citizen of this country and having lived in the city of Petaling Jaya, in particular, all my life.

I am sure many Malaysians feel the same. Even if you have travelled to many different countries, there is no place you would rather call home. We speak to three prominent Malaysians to find out what they love about living in Malaysia and what they hope the cities they live in will evolve into in the future.

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Datin Dian Lee

Founder and managing director of boutique property development company The Clearwater Group, Lee is a mum of three young children and also teaches yoga. She loves food, nature and visiting new places. Lee is a city girl, having lived in Kuala Lumpur all her life. Her one wish is for the city to have more free and safe places for children to play.

Beauty in diversity

“KL is a city that is incomparable to other places because we are so unique. I see KL as a very beautiful city. We have really urban city areas such as KLCC where there are glamorous high-end skyscrapers, but we also have streets in KL where you can sit down to enjoy a cup of teh tarik and a RM1.50 nasi lemak. You can share a table with fellow countrymen from different walks of life and appreciate each other’s culture and diversity. I feel quite happy living in the city. I think what is important is to find our own rhythm. There is this hustle and bustle about living in the city and it is perceived to be all just ‘go, go, go’, but you need a rhythm. Even though I live in the city, I feel the need to be connected to nature, to have my own garden, and for my children and pets to be with me.”

Happy cities are made up of kind people

“I was in Petaling Jaya two weeks back and I stopped at a random plant nursery. I stopped my car and went down to buy some plants, but I forgot that I did not have any cash on me. The shop owner told me the credit card machine is down, so she asked me to take the plants first and leave my contact number with her. I was surprised and asked, “What if I don’t come back with the money?” She replied saying she trusted me and told me to just take the plants first. Neither of us knew each other. When I got home, the first thing I did was to transfer money over to her bank account. That is what makes this city beautiful – you have all these kind trusting people. In the pay-it-forward yoga class I teach every week, all I ask of my students is to do something kind for another person no matter who they are. We have to be nice to each other and show compassion to one another since we are all living in one city.”

Safe and children-friendly public spaces

“Most places for children to play require an entry fee. Our museum does not have many activities going for children, unlike in Singapore. The public parks such as the Lake Gardens are not 100% functional with many broken items. I think it is really important for us to be able to provide a safe place for our children to play.”

Datuk Chef Wan

Malaysian celebrity chef Redzuawan Ismail, more famously known as Chef Wan, actually started off in the accountancy field. Now a household name in the culinary industry, having produced multiple cookbooks and starred in numerous TV shows, Chef Wan is a firm believer that greenery can add to a person’s happiness in the city, as seen in places such as Stockholm and Oslo.

More greenery, please!

“I think beautiful parks and pockets of forests present within a city make living in it more relaxing and make the citizens happier as well. Even in Japan or Canada, you can see that people live longer when there are more recreational parks, as they can spend time hiking and soaking themselves in nature. Meanwhile in Malaysia, there are different attractions present in the different cities here. We have wonderful dining places as well. Connectivity and amenities in the inner city are good and easy to access. It is easy to get from shop to shop, coupled with the improving public transportation, which makes it convenient to move from place to place.”

A beautiful city is a clean city

“My wish would be to see better town-planning so we can have more greenery in the city as well as wider roads in congested areas. I also believe there should be more public recreational places. Old buildings should also be preserved like what they have done in Penang because it is our culture and heritage. Another concern I have is hygiene in the city. The citizens living in the city produce a lot of rubbish but do not dispose them well. Sometimes when I go jogging in places like Taman Titiwangsa, the place is full of litter. In the city centre, people also discard leftover food on city streets and drains, which then attract rats. The public toilets are also a huge concern – they are smelly and disgusting. Surely, we can come together and take care of all these public facilities better. It is our role to take care of the environment.

“I also hope our cities will have a better integration of public transportations as well as more walkways and pavements for people to get from one place to another, and to feel more connected. I would also like to see more green and for our rivers to be cleaned.”

Amber Chia

The world-renowned model is mother to seven-year-old Ashton. She is also the founder of the Amber Chia Academy, a beauty and modelling agency. Raised in Tawau, Sabah, she has lived in KL for almost 20 years.

A city of opportunities

“I always tell my friends, we [Malaysians] can never truly describe to you the beauty of the cities and towns in Malaysia. They have to see them for themselves. We are a multiracial country, with different languages spoken and different cultures all existing in harmony. People living in the cities may be more stressed out, but more often than not, they would still have a smile on their faces. Whenever I go back to Tawau to visit my parents, they always tell me not to walk so fast, but I am already so used to it! Each city in Malaysia has its own uniqueness that cannot be replicated elsewhere. The capital city is where businesses thrive and people come to look for opportunities to make it big. Penang is known as an island of cultural heritage and good food. In Melaka, it is its rich history that stands out. When I travel overseas for work such as in New York, Milan or Japan, I feel people living there are much more stressed out than Malaysians.

“Being a career-driven person with passion for my work, I believe that living in the city allows me to continuously grow my business. KL city is where the entertainment industry is most prominent in the country. Eventually, I will also bring my parents over from Tawau to stay here, as all the best medical centres are located here. I built my career here and started my family here, and I think KL city is absolutely beautiful with a story to tell.”

Reduce traffic jam and increase green spaces

“Perhaps with more public transportation, traffic jam – one of the causes of stress in the city – can be reduced. Another thing is to have more nature-driven areas where we can go to for a short weekend with our families in the city or just outside the city. When I want to take my son for a trip, it is often quite a distance from the city centre. I believe that in the next five years, KL city will only grow to be better, attracting more tourists to come and experience the rich culture, great architecture and buildings we have.”

This story first appeared in pullout on May 12, 2017. Download pullout here for free.