Golf resort

3 nights at a golf resort in a $100 billion Malaysian ghost town: review

Forest City is a luxury development in South Malaysia. Experts say the area is a ghost town.

Forest City, Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

Marielle Descalsota/Insider

Country Garden is China’s largest real estate developer and Forest City is its largest development. It is also one of the most controversial developments in Malaysian history.

Construction on the $100 billion project began in 2015 and is expected to be completed in 14 years. It boasted of being a “living paradise” and a “green and futuristic city”. But some experts believe Forest City is a ‘ticking time bomb’ as its rapid construction has wreaked environmental havoc on the coasts of Johor Bahru.

Today the development is widely considered a ghost town, with as few as 500 residents in 2019. When I visited Forest City earlier this month, an expert, who declined to be named for security reasons , told me that several thousand people currently live in the area. The expert estimated that the city is at less than 5% of its capacity.

While the pandemic has slowed tourism and real estate sales in the development, construction has not stopped. Three of the eight phases of its development have been completed.

When I visited the city, there was a sales gallery, a shopping center, an international school and two resorts, but very few businesses were in operation. Plots of land have been set aside for development, but it is unclear whether these projects will continue.

“Forest City was not built solely as a residential development,” Country Garden told me in an email.

“Forest City carries out comprehensive urban planning and construction in accordance with the concept of industry-city integration to ensure future business value and sustainable development,” the company added.