Affluent Malaysian suburb hailed among world’s ‘coolest neighborhoods’

The popular Ben’s Independent Grocer in Plaza Batai. Source: BIG

MOVE aside, the Berlins and Melbournes of the world. There’s a new player battling for the title of “coolest neighborhood in the world”, and it’s in Malaysia.

In Lonely Planet’s recent rankings curated by local experts around the world, the Kuala Lumpur’s wealthy suburb Damansara Heights made a wildcard entry alongside the likes of Tooting in London, Sunset Park in New York City, and Seongsu-dong in Seoul.

In the list, Damansara Heights was described as “one of the richest addresses in Kuala Lumpur”, and a neighborhood that managed the tricky task of having “retained its personality despite its recent revitalization”.

In 2013, the popular street of Jalan Batai underwent a facelift that saw a slew of trendy new restaurants and cafés. However, at the time, residents were concerned about the effect of redevelopment on older businesses and the suburb’s general outlook.

Writer of the Lonely Planet piece and Kuala Lumpur resident Kong Wai Yeng told Travel Wire Asia, “Progress is inevitable but if done right, you can still maintain a neighborhood’s character and also diversify it.

“Urban renewal has its pros – it creates more jobs, provides better infrastructure, and in some cases, gives new purpose to underused or neglected spaces.”

However, some are more skeptical about the title of “cool neighborhood”. Christian Recomio, co-owner and head chef of Sitka, a popular restaurant in Jalan Batai, told Travel Wire Asia: “Cool places usually have a subculture based on tradition where artisans are breaking the mould.”

Compared to more visited neighborhoods in greater Kuala Lumpur such as Bangsar and Petaling Jaya, Damansara Heights still flies under the radar among overseas visitors, something its newfound international exposure could well change.