Malaysian Ghost Towns Series - Lembah Beringin
Accompanying music: What a Wonderful World ~ Louis Armstrong
Lembah Beringin, (Literal English trans; Banyan Valley), is a township located in the district of Hulu Selangor, well beyond the outskirts of Klang Valley. The name may sound familiar to those who live in Selangor, and many would shrug the place off as probably similar to many of the other towns in the state. In reality, Lembah Beringin is far from the usual pocket of shop lots and residences, but a massive graveyard of more than one thousand abandoned houses, forgotten for over two decades. A true ghost town of Selangor.
A graveyard of decaying houses.
Around 50-minutes of driving from Kuala Lumpur, Lembah Beringin could be accessed through two routes, the main PLUS highway or the more isolated back road that links to Kerling and Kuala Kubu Bharu. The township itself is quite isolated, with forest surrounding Sungai Tinggi Dam on the west, and miles of estate land on the other sides.
Location: Lembah Beringin from KL.
Our trip started off at KM 410.3 of the North-South Expressway (PLUS), through Exit 120 Persimpangan Lembah Beringin. As the name implies, the exit took us straight into the entrance of the township.
Titiwangsa in the background.
Upon exiting the highway, we were greeted with rows of Kemboja trees on the roadside. A curious (and fitting!) landscaping choice, as Kemboja trees are normally planted in Malay Muslim graveyards and frequently associated with the supernatural.
Exit 120, with the lane visibly more littered with debris and dry leaves.
Just reaching the toll plaza alone already gave us the eerie feeling of isolation quite unique to the place. Aside from the fact that only two lanes out of five were open at the toll exit, the entrance road was littered with dry leaves and debris, signs showing that the road hasn't had much traffic for a long time. There were no other vehicles around at the plaza aside from ours, and the only two souls that we saw were a toll booth lady and a security guard.
Abandoned car in front of the toll area
Stopping at a junction we could see a road ahead towards Kolej Yayasan UEM (KYUEM). The private residential school, which boards around 500 students, has been operating in Lembah Beringin since 1998.
We turn left and drove through a road that cuts through the LBGC golf course (still operating), passed by a long-unused guard house, and finally reach the residential area. At first glance, the housing area seemed normal, with a noticeable number of houses occupied by residents, complete with a small mosque and a lone school. We didn't really understand the scale of the township's failure, until driving a bit further into the housing area.
Junction to the town on the left, about 200m from the toll plaza.
Kolej Yayasan UEM.
LBGC Golf Course.
Unused guard house, entrance to Bandar Baru Lembah Beringin.
Houses in Jalan Kenari, among the few occupied buildings in Lembah Beringin.
What seemed to be patches of forest around the small number of occupied houses, were actually hundreds upon hundreds of overgrown buildings of all kinds, withering away behind tall grass and overtaken by trees. Endless rows of half-built shop lots, bungalows, semi-detached houses, and terraces scattered around the township, only separated by blocked roads covered in grass, leaves, and tree branches.
The whole place was surreal.
Dilapidated buildings, near Sekolah Kebangsaan Lembah Beringin.
The road less taken.
Shop-lot complex, near Sekolah Kebangsaan Lembah Beringin.
Vehicles left to the elements.
Reclaimed by the trees.
Buildings abandoned during brickwork stage, Jalan Lembah Beringin.
Malaysia's economy was booming in the 1990s, with developers racing to build properties and purchasers ready to snatch up anything that they could get their hands on. Driven by optimism and confidence, this gold rush spread across the country, including the sleepy district of Hulu Selangor.
Terraces engulfed in nature, Jalan Chamar.
Planned as a township by Lembah Beringin Sdn Bhd (a subsidiary of Land & General Bhd or L&G), the 2,000-acre Bandar Baru Lembah Beringin project started development way back in 1994 and launched with 2,300 units of houses. The small township boasted a direct connection to the PLUS North-South Expressway, just under one-hour driving distance to the center of Kuala Lumpur, an 18-hole golf course (LBGC), and a local private school (KYUEM).
House with a wild lawn, Jalan Kenari.
Rumors floated at the time that developers were responding to the expectation that the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) was going to be built around the district, prompting them to hastily develop a number of townships in Hulu Selangor; among these being Bukit Beruntung, Bandar Sungai Buaya, and Bandar Baru Lembah Beringin. The fact that KLIA ended up being constructed in the Sepang district instead (more than 100km away), may have been the first nail in the coffin for these townships, particularly Lembah Beringin.
Hidden neighborhoods, Jalan Chamar.
Crisis finally struck in the late 1990s. The Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 shook the whole region, causing a destructive domino effect that spread throughout South East Asia until the shores of Japan. Malaysia was no exception.
Property prices crashed, companies folded, and whole industries fell into recession practically overnight.
A row of terrace units, completely taken over by trees, while neighboring houses are still occupied. Jalan Kenari.
L&G was among the countless companies that were hit hard, leading to a screeching halt to the development in Lembah Beringin. Many of the houses in the development were supposed to be complete by 1998, but purchasers stood helplessly as the project crawled to a stop. By 2006, Lembah Beringin Sdn Bhd was fully liquidated, leaving more than 900 unfinished homes behind.
As the housing project became more unattractive to investors, more homes (even the ones that are completed and fit for use) were further left abandoned throughout the years, a vicious cycle that created the graveyard it is today.
One among many.
Concrete skeletons, Jalan Chamar.
Kuil Sri Raja Jadamuni, possibly founded during pre-development period.
Whole neighborhoods of empty houses.
A car abandoned along with the house, a frequent sighting in Lembah Beringin.
One of the many cordoned roads in the area.
Unlike townships such as Bandar Sungai Buaya and Bukit Beruntung which slowly improved through the decades, Bandar Lembah Beringin stands out as a major failure, a perfect case of improper development planning driven by speculation instead of finding balance between supply and demand of the market.
The real victims? They are the purchasers, many among them poor estate workers who used their lifelong savings to purchase their future homes. Still stuck in limbo, they are nevertheless tied to their bank loans, paying their dues every month for houses that they may never set foot in.
Perhaps one day this small township will resume its stunted growth, either through economic means or political assistance, thus giving peace to its original purchasers. Until then, Lembah Beringin will remain as a stark warning for the next generation, builders and purchasers alike.
Exiting Lembah Beringin through the back road, towards Kerling.
Info on Lembah Beringin: City & Country: Making a comeback (12/7/2009) - Edgeprop
Info on Lembah Beringin house owners: Tanggung beban rumah 15 tahun tak siap (18/2/2016) - Metro
Future plans for Lembah Beringin: L&G plans new township in Lembah Beringin (Liew Jia Teng, 23/9/2014) - The Edge Markets
Info on Lembah Beringin house owners: 15 years on, workers' houses still not built (17/2/2016) - Malaysiakini
Selangor Gov comments on Lembah Beringin: Dasar-dasar Draf Rancangan Struktur Negeri Selangor 2035 (Jabatan Perancangan Bandar dan Desa Negeri Selangor, 2015) - Kerajaan Negeri Selangor