The old royal town of Jugra

MALAYSIA - Jugra in Banting might be a small town, but visitors to this former royal town often describe it in superlatives -- the cleanest air, greenest flora and fauna, best place for paragliding, and a peaceful and united neighbourhood.

The people of Jugra are not only fiercely protective of nature and the environment, but also their neighbours, friends, and families.

And who can blame them, when they have lived alongside each other for decades?

Stall owner Hawa Abdul Majid, 39, who was born and bred in Jugra, said home would always be the small and sleepy town, which was once the capital of Selangor.

"Here, we live peacefully amongst our Chinese and Indian neighbours, and I will never trade this for anything. If you want to see what multiracial and multi-religious Malaysia is all about, come to Jugra, because we are a living example of that."

She said Jugra was still a small town surrounded by kampung houses, a hill that was packed with visitors on the weekends because of paragliding activities, a river mouth and many historical places.

Paragliding at the hill has been growing steadily over the last decade, and many competitions, both local and international, have been held there.

Bukit Jugra, 140m above sea-level, served as a landmark for navigators along the Straits of Malacca for centuries.

It was also known as Parcelar Hill to foreign navigators. For years, the hill has also been one of the spots for the sighting of the new moon for Ramadan.

However, even Jugra residents are unsure how the town originally got its name.

Goh Ah Lek, 44, whose mother and siblings still reside in Jugra, said even his parents and grandparents did not know how the town got its name.

"When we were children, we used to ask our parents what Jugra meant, and they didn't have the answer. Many residents here also do not know how the town got its name.

"What is attractive about Jugra is that it is surrounded by greenery and the air is very fresh. And everyone knows each other."

Another resident, who did not want to be named, said Jugra is a town rich in history.

It was once the administrative and royal capital of Selangor, under the rule of Sultan Abdul Samad, the state's fourth sultan.

The sultan also built his palace in the town in 1875. Jugra also boasts a museum, which is housed in the old prison building.

"Jugra was very accessible via sea and there was a port there. The police, army, prison and all important offices were based in Jugra then," said the long-time resident, who is now retired.

"Eventually, Klang replaced Jugra as the administrative capital. The state capital was later changed to Kuala Lumpur and now it is Shah Alam.

"In its heyday, Jugra was famous for its mangrove swamps that produced mangrove wood. There was also a quarry here, but it has closed down."

Many of the town's residents who work in other places, such as Banting, Teluk Panglima Garang, Bangi or Shah Alam, still live here because of the peace and quiet.

"On weekends, many outsiders come to Jugra to enjoy the seafood."

Jugra currently has 200 Malay, 50 Chinese and 20 Indian families, with many still living on parcels of land that were handed down by their forefathers.

"This is a peaceful place to bring up a family and that is why many residents are reluctant to move away from here," said the resident.