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Nestled in the southern region of Malaysia, the sprawling estate of Forest City is a luxury development built by Country Garden, China’s largest developer. The project cost an astounding $100 billion and boasts towering apartment buildings and a pristine white-sand beach that overlooks the Johor Strait, offering panoramic views of industrial plants in Singapore.

During my first visit to the estate in May 2022, I was struck by its desolate appearance. Hundreds of darkened windows stared blankly from the apartments while there were few signs of life on the roads or at the beach. Despite ambitious plans to house 700,000 residents within six years, only 9,000 people currently call Forest City home.

My curiosity piqued during a recent trip to Malaysia in March 2023, eight years after construction began, I decided to experience staying overnight in one of the vacant apartments firsthand. Through a property manager, I booked a homestay at a condominium unit for 70 Singapore dollars or $52 per night. Similar units are available on Airbnb for as little as $38 a night.

The owner of the unit declined to comment on my story due to privacy concerns, but it was clear that demand for rental properties in this area remains high even when supply is scarce. My stay provided me with an opportunity to observe and explore Forest City further and understand its current status better. Despite its grandeur and ambitious plans for future development, questions still loom about its appeal and potential success as an attractive residential option for investors and families alike.

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