Friday, April 8, 2011

Cyberjaya - Long Way to The Lake Gardens

"Do you study here?"

It would be the persistent question of the day, and if I hear it one more time, I'd puke. Seriously!

I decided earlier in the morning that I wanted to check out Cyberjaya, this new city (which opened in 1997) designed as Malaysia's multimedia. It is located in the district of Sepang, Selangor, some 50 kilometers from KL. It aspires to be the Silicon Valley of Malaysia, but for the most part, the idea hasn't exactly soared. But it has developed into a university city boasting of 30,000 students, 19% of whom come from 80 countries.


After brunch, I took KLIA Express (9.50 ringgit) to Putrajaya Sentral. I had to wait for the commuter Rapid KL bus that would take me to Cyberjaya (2 ringgit). As frequent as there were buses plying the streets of Putrajaya, those plying Cyberjaya are few and far between. I reached Putrajaya Sentral after 1:30PM so I can only guess that I must have missed the bus by a couple of minutes or so. The wait would take me 30 minutes, or increments of half an hour per departure.

The bus passed through huge empty spaces of what was once oil palm plantations; areas that are now uninhabited and awaiting further developments. As we neared the center, big buildings gradually rose; familiar names: HP, Dell, HSBC, Shell IT, Vivanova Systems, Windpro, Motorola. Despite evidence of a working population, very few people could be seen walking around.

Its 37,000 day population seemed like an over estimation, and its 10,000 residents were probably holed inside offices - or maybe sleeping. The people in the bus with me looked foreign alright: strong middle eastern features, thick bushy brows, hairy arms; there were African guys and some Chinese students. These same populace of students would eventually take the same bus with me later in the afternoon. I was actually surprised to find them get right back to Putrajaya Sentral. I wouldn't be caught dead staying in Cyberjaya in between classes if I were a student. But maybe it is conducive to learning. Otherwise, why were there student accommodations scattered around the Multimedia University compound?


My destination: Cyberjaya Lake Gardens - better known as Taman Tasik Cyberjaya, which my bus driver didn't have an idea of. Even when I used Taman Tasik, he had this funny look, and I couldn't really pester him off for too long as he was driving. And I didn't want to look like the bothersome twerp in front of foreign students. I was as clueless as our driver was and there's really not enough literature about Cyberjaya.


I got off the road near a marshy area, but after just taking 4 steps, he called me and motioned that I could be stopping at the wrong area. I realized he was right. I would be making a rather long walk under the sun, in the middle of nowhere! After a few blocks from what would be the main city drag, I saw a sign that read "Taman Tasik Cyberjaya" then alighted at the next stop, right across Multimedia University. The driver smiled at me. He pointed at the university opposite my stop. Ah yes, it suddenly dawned on me that I was indeed "a student" in this part of town. The sun was harsh but I had no choice but to walk to err... nowhere. I wasn't too sure though if I could find the Lake Gardens!

It was eerie. The sidewalk was immaculately spruced up with hedges, and the grass were impeccably manicured. Whoever conceptualized this new city was a great mind, even the flora is well planned. Despite its ghostly prescience, this place would be populated in the next 10 years of so. Build it, and they will come, I was sure of that. Formet PM Mahathir is such a visionary, I am gradually turning into a fan!

The only people I saw were the maintenance people, sweeping the grass and cutting hedges. After a laborious walk under the sun, I reached a beautiful deserted track field. At the back of it was a public swimming pool. Both deserted, except for this lady in her abaya (a head scarf). She welcomed me inside when I told her I just wanted to see it. Without much fanfare, she opened the pool gate for me.

This was a public facility after all, but no one was using it. What a waste of prime grade facility, I thought. Most of Cyberjaya is that of an establishment eagerly expecting occupancy. There were unobtrusive people tending to the grass, the plants, the lakes - like they were expecting guests anytime this particular day! From the pool, I decided to grab my late lunch at the Food Court nearby.


I saw familiar faces from the bus. The food stalls were mostly African and Middle Eastern food which can be had at 8 to 9 ringgit per plate. I spotted a Chinese shop called "Hee Soon" where food on display looked tasty - and cheap - at 4.50 ringgit, with free cold tea drink. Who could resist that, really? I ordered Stir Fried Spring Chicken Onion with Chicken Rice which was delicious, it reminded me of food from Penang!


The owners were very accommodating, chatting me up, asking me where I was from. "Philippines," I replied. "Oh I know 3 teachers here from the Philippines - and they're great teachers!" he said. There was a teaching population here - 600 teachers to be exact! "So you study there (Multimedia University) ?" he asked again. "No," I replied," I'm a tourist!" Tourists don't come around here, that was starting to get obvious. After a short tete-a-tete, I was instructed to walked further on, through the winding hill and down to where there's a security. Every time I say I'm Filipino, everyone here greets me with a warm hand shake (yes, with the right hand). This has been my observation everywhere in Malaysia (except for a twat manning a guest house in Georgetown). Malays have treated Filipinos as brothers, and I am honored. I doubt if this was even about "hospitality to visitors". This was about fraternity of brothers!


I navigated through a tree lined boulevard in the uneven terrain up this hill until I spotted the guard house (which looked like an office). It was a room, with glass panels as walls. The guard would stop everyone passing through. I had to carefully crawl down the "hill" as there were no steps at all. The guard warmly shook my hand when he learned I was Filipino. "You study here then," he muttered. I just smiled, then went walked 3 to 4 blocks further to where he said I'd find the lake. I crossed the highway, until I finally saw the Lake Gardens!

That was such a relief as, I swear, I was about to give up. It was like finding the Holy Grail while the sun was bearing down its harsh heat. My shirt was drenched with sweat, and i was already mechanically walking towards the waters to "get this done and over with".


Much like most of Cyberjaya, this lake was artificially constructed from what used to be an oil palm plantation. There were benchless cabanas surrounding the lake, and as I've been accustomed already, I was its lone visitor, although there must have been 7 people cleaning the grounds. Like they were preparing it for a throng of visitors when there's really none, but me. I found a place called "Wind Chime Island" where I had to walk through a wooden bridge to get there. But there were no chairs there either. And I was bushed!


I found a shaded bench just beside the Children's Playground. I looked around; no one seemed to be looking my way, and the maintenance people were too far away to notice, so I took off my drenched shirt, waved it, wishing it would dry in 10 minutes or so. It was nice to just look around this picturesque spot overlooking the lake. Poetic even, to be rewarded with such view after a strenuous search.

The rest of the place has a Lookout Tower, a Ginger Garden, a Children's Playground, a Fitness Area, and a romantic lake in the center of everything! It was beautiful - and no one to see them but me. I was glad to finally get there.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

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