When Kirsi Salonen moved to Kuala Lumpur from Finland 7 years ago with her husband and two toddlers, she realised there wasn’t much information online about raising kids in KL. Noticing this gap, Kirsi and her two other friends (who have now left Malaysia) later decided to start Happy Go KL – a website for KL parents.
We chat with HappygoKL’s Kirsi, Jilly Resink and Jay Desan to learn more about their journey, aspirations and their experience raising kids in KL.
Happy Go KL’s Journey
The website started as a blog back in 2014, initially targeting expat mums who needed to connect with other mums in KL. Kirsi’s main objectives for Happy Go KL is for it to be a central place where parents can get information about where to take the kids in KL and go for holidays.
It was clear that Happy Go KL was serving that purpose, as that was how Jay Desan stumbled upon the website. A working mum who frequently searched for ideas and reviews from other parents, Desan was reading an article on Happy Go KL when she realised that Salonen was the writer behind it. “Hey I know her!” thought Jay. Their kids went to the same school. Desan then came on-board as a contributor, sharing her experiences to benefit other mums.
They started with a team of 3 writers, and their contributors have come and gone over the years. Now, they have a team of 10 writers, a mix of expat and local mums living in KL.
Advocating Active Lifestyles
The three mums are obviously passionate advocates for the things they write about. Resink, for instance, who does marketing for Happy Go KL, is a true nature-lover. Her family moved to Malaysia 6 years ago from New Zealand, and she and her two daughters love the outdoors. She praises Malaysia for being blessed with wonderful waterfalls, jungle walks, and beaches.
Another common theme one gets talking to these three women is their love for travel, which is also reflected in Happy Go KL’s travel section. It offers ideas and reviews of family-friendly destinations across the South East Asia region.
“We review both types of travel – be it budget holidays or luxury ones. But we make sure to set the expectations upfront, so readers know what to expect. For example, a review about a ‘glamping’ holiday won’t suit you if you’re looking for ‘strawberries and champagne’. Also, we usually share about the destination rather than the accomodations – things like what activities you can do there, and what you need to bring for your kids,” said Salonen.
Asked what their favourite things to do in KL were, Salonen said: “It changes every so often depending on the kids’ age. Currently, we like playing bowling, and going for jungle walk in FRIM.”
“Chilling waterfalls is great! Recently my kid had a birthday party in the jungle near Ampang, and she claimed it was the best birthday party in her life!” chimed Resink.
Desan said: “My kids play a lot of futsal now, and they like adventurous activities like Skytrex.”
The group talked about preferring to support mumpreneurs online, rather than focus on reviews which may be negative. “We don’t want to bash anyone online. There are other websites that cater to that, such as TripAdvisor or other restaurant online-review spaces. For us, if we go somewhere and we don’t like it, we won’t write about it,” said Salonen.
The three mums also shared their experience raising kids away from their family, and how living in Malaysia with kids compared to their home country. Being away from their support group, they had to quickly create a new ‘village’ here, and that is what they hope Happy Go KL would be for other mums – a community to get support.
Desan also said: “We travel quite extensively too, and I realise that KL is a very nice place to raise a family. It’s very affordable here, and there are nice outdoor places to go to.”
“When you grow up here, and your family are all here, you always go to your neighbourhood mall, and you have a lot of family commitments – perhaps you don’t really venture out to other places,” Salonen said. “Some local mums tell me that they didn’t even know about some of the places until it came up on Happy Go KL. We just love to share our appreciation of KL with others.”