Just over a decade ago, tell anyone you had bought a house in Puchong and the inevitable reaction would be a gasp, raised eyebrows and a befuddled "Why-lah?"
Others would conclude that you must be a "gangster Puchong", "buaya Puchong" or hantu pocong, and proceed to make jokes about your imprudent decision to set up home out in the boondocks where presumably wild animals still roamed.
Going by its location "in the middle of nowhere" and its air of mystery, there were many tall tales surrounding the origins of the name of the now bustling urban sprawl in Selangor.
According to urban legend, hantu pocong is a bandaged fiend with bindings similar to the mummies of Egypt who used to cause mischief by hopping along the roadside around the area, thus lending its name to the township. To lend credence to this tale of the supernatural is the infamous abandoned "Puchong House", supposedly one of the most haunted bungalows in the country.
There are all kinds of rumours surrounding the decrepit, spooky-looking place. One story has it that the owner and his family were murdered by a robber. Another is that a mentally ill woman murdered her entire family there. Ghost hunters and thrill seekers from near and far have made a number of videos of their jaunts to the bungalow, but the ghoul which supposedly lent Puchong its name did not make an appearance. In reality, those visiting Puchong these days are only likely to encounter zombies, or rather those reduced to this state of catatonia, by the traffic jams now plaguing the area.
Besides its affiliation with the otherworld, Puchong was also linked to the underworld. It did not help that many members of the notorious Mamak Gang, the longest active criminal gang in Malaysian history, were nabbed in and around Puchong.
But all that is now in the past. Once the target of jokes and unkind remarks, Puchong residents are now being lauded for their unparalleled foresight -- their neighbourhood has become one of the best examples of rapid urban evolution within the Klang Valley.
From an unimpressive rubber estate and tin mining town in the 1960s, with only a single two-lane road running through its estates and villages, Puchong now boasts upmarket residences, residential estates with unpronounceable posh-sounding names, a private hospital, golf club, international school, shopping mall, well-known eateries, and more importantly, salons run by internationally-trained hair coiffure artists.
Indeed, Puchong is now a major growth area where more than a dozen new residential estates have been developed with more being planned. Marketed as the "New Petaling Jaya", Puchong is increasingly seen as the alternative to Putrajaya in view of its proximity to the federal administrative capital. Those living in the newer townships such as Taman D'Alpinia and Sierra 16 get to enjoy the best of Puchong and Putrajaya, which is a mere five minutes' drive away.
Responding to the steady market demand for housing, developers have continued to build and build. This is because what was out in the boondocks is now coveted with property prices in some areas now valued at over a million ringgit.
Today, the township distinguishes itself with its landscape of gated residential communities, shiny office buildings, concrete multi-tiered highways that connect it with almost every major urban centre in the Klang Valley -- now enhanced with access to the Bukit Jalil Highway.
Although the criss-crossing network of roads is at times confusing, and congested even during off-peak hours, all these have done little to suppress demand for Puchong's houses.
Like the burung pucung (heron) it was named after -- there were large numbers of these birds in the abandoned mining pools in the area in those days -- Puchong has continued to soar and is estimated to become even more urban and urbane in the years to come. Not much of the area looks the way it did even a decade ago. Perhaps, what still remains is the Buaya Puchong, now no longer a ravenous, monstrous reptile, but a 4x4 club, well known for its record of service to the community.
Most importantly, after having to put up with them for over a decade, the bad jokes about Puchong and its residents have finally trickled to a complete halt.
Puchong is now a major growth area where more than a dozen new residential estates have been developed, with more being planned.