Question – what do Kuala Lumpur and Amsterdam now have in common? Answer – MikeBikes.
Yes, following in the tracks of the cycling city of Amsterdam, Kuala Lumpur now has a new attraction – a cycling tour of Kuala Lumpur’s heritage areas utilising the original Dutch bicycle, no less, in the famous “oranje” colour! Nothing short of exciting and thrilling, the MikeBikes Tour offers a unique insight into some of the city’s oldest and historic quarters, and the best way to go off the beaten track in an otherwise modern and cosmopolitan city!
Before we ‘cycle’ any further, let me tell you that the local council of the capital has recently introduced a dedicated blue lane especially for cyclists. The 11-kilometer long cycling-track along selected major roads in Kuala Lumpur will ensure safety for all road-users and is a thumbs up towards reducing one’s carbon footprint in the city. Cycling in the city is still a new concept in Kuala Lumpur, but it looks like we’re headed in the right direction!
To register for a MikeBikes Tour, it’s best to call ahead and book (better than walking in) the tour package of your choice. At the meeting point, you will be given the Oranje Bicycle and a security vest. Two experienced guides will be at your service throughout the cycling tour.
The meeting point is well-placed certainly. MikeBikes is located at the Malaysia Tourism Centre (MATIC) in Jalan Ampang, a stone’s throw away from KLCC. It is centrally-located and easily accessible to many places of interest in the capital.
With a group of enthusiasts, I managed to join the tour recently. MikeBikes offers two basic, highly experiential tours namely The Best of KL Classic and The KL Sunset & Night Tour.
According to MikeBikes, the first tour takes you along some striking and iconic spots in the city — the Petronas Twin Towers, the fruit and vegetable market in Chow Kit and the Sin Sze Ya temple. This one starts at 8 am and ends at 12 pm.
The latter tour is about discovering the city while it is getting ready for the evening. The guys at MikeBikes painted this picture for us: The locals gather on squares and they set up their food stalls. You will be amazed at the colors and aromas of the city after sunset. Of course, the original Nasi Lemak should not be missed. The beautiful architectural buildings look different at nightfall. The KLCC Tower, Kampung Baru and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building are just a small selection of the places you will visit.
We wisely chose the evening tour (to escape the scorching sun) that would allow us to see the best of of both modern and traditional Kuala Lumpur, a kind of 2-in1 adventure. Plus, I thought it would be interesting to see the changes as the city transitioned from a bustling business centre to whatever goes on at night.
We were all geared up by 5 pm, ready and waiting eagerly at MATIC for a four-hour journey that would cover more than 14 kilometres.
We first cycled to a very special area – the untouched yet famous kampung or village in the city, Kampung Baru. Against the backdrop of KLCC, the only-surviving Malay village of wooden houses looked strangely juxtaposed against its modern surroundings. As we pedalled through back alleys and age-old heritage houses, I realised then that the village wasn’t at all backward but was a symbol of cultural identity that stood proudly against the encroaching modernisation. What makes Kampung Baru near and dear to many is its charm as a street-food institution with more than 200 stalls selling a gobsmacking array of food at affordable prices.
We later passed the Loke Mansion building and then made a brief stop in front of Masjid India at Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, an area famous for local shopping and a melting pot of cultures. From time to time we digested morsels of interesting information and facts about the city dished out by our experienced guides.
As the sun started to disappear beneath the skyline, we reached the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. It was quite something to admire the Moorish architecture of this iconic national building in the fading light. Special arrangements were made for us to have dinner at the historic Royal Selangor Club, once a British-only place of gathering where membership was reserved to only those in selected social circles…and here we were, quite tired, hungry and sticky, yet able to enjoy a once elitist view of the city. How ironic, yet delightful!
After dinner, we had a chance to view Masjid Jamek by night. As we were photographing this centennial place of worship sandwiched by colonial buildings, I briefly felt like I was stepping back in time to what was once the beginnings of a small riverine settlement that later turned into a modern city of wonder.
In no time, we were weaving our way through the heart of Petaling Street, where small-time vendors did thriving business. We cicyled past the Mahamariamman temple from which aromatic incense wafted and fragranced the air, and later passed by KL Forest Eco Park (formerly known as the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve), the last remaining tropical rainforest in the city.
When I glimpsed KLCC later, I knew that our journey was about to end. Towards the end, I thought that any tourist would enjoy and be happy with this authentic experience of getting up close and personal with Kuala Lumpur through the MikeBikes’ tour programme. Driving by these same places in a car would only leave a fleeting impression, if one were any observant. But cycling through the alleyways, weaving through foot traffic, passing by age-oild buildings within touching distance, really put a sense of perspective in me. Though my legs were tired, I felt a sense of pride to witness how my Kuala Lumpur had progressed well in its beauty and harmony. What a ride!
Address: MikeBikes’ at Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTIC), 109 Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
Operation Open daily. Closes 10 pm
Phone: +6017-673 7322