Why you should see Kuala Lumpur on a bicycle

Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur boasts amazing skyscrapers, a myriad of natural attractions, colonial architecture and friendly locals. What better way to see it than on a bicycle.

People cycling at the garden
  • Gracia Phang
  • August 2018

Sign up for a leisurely bicycle tour and see a whole different side of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. We’re talking heritage houses, intriguing markets, piping hot rice rolls served with curry and the world’s tallest twin skyscrapers.

The Kuala Lumpur City Gallery is where the bike tour begins.
The Kuala Lumpur City Gallery is where the bike tour begins.

Here are my tips to have a day to remember on a bicycle in KL.

8am Bike It Off

Book The Hidden Secrets of Kuala Lumpur tour in advance. It’s available every Monday and Wednesday, from morning to noon. And if it’s raining? No problem, you’ll get a refund. The tour has a maximum number of 10 people and begins at the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, where you’ll meet Elena Mei Yun and another tour guide by the iconic ‘I Love KL’ outdoor sculpture. For RMB 250 (SGD $84) per person, you’ll get a bicycle, a helmet and a bottle of water (other expenses such as entry fees will cost extra). On your way, you’ll see sights such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building where Malaysia declared its independence from British rule in 1957. Cycle towards Petaling Street and onto Jalan Tun HS Lee where you’ll have a brief stop at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple and Guan Di Temple, both built in the 1880s.
Contact: +601 3850 0500

9am Local Brekkie

Pedal down Jalan Panggong until you see a huge mural by Russian artist Julia Volchkova in an alleyway. Head further into the alley and you’ll find a local coffee shop. This 50-year-old eatery is known as Orh Gao, meaning ‘black dog’ – also the owner’s nickname. The menu’s star item is the signature chee cheung fun (rice rolls) topped with fish cake and drenched in curry sauce.

Where: Japan Panggong, off Jalan Balai Polis

10am Flea Market

A five-minute ride down Jalan Petaling, towards Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, will lead you to the Pasar Karat flea market. Also known as ‘Thieves’ Market’, it’s home to makeshift stalls selling the likes of antiques and second-hand clothing. Push your bicycle carefully down the narrow lane or you’ll risk knocking into the vendors’ wares.

Where: The alleyway between Jalan Petaling and Jalan Sultan

The Pasar Karat flea market is a must stop on a bicycle tour of Kuala Lumpur.
The Pasar Karat flea market is a must stop on a bicycle tour of Kuala Lumpur.

10.45am New Mall, Old-School Market

Exit through Jalan Sultan and onto Jalan Hang Jebat. As you turn into Jalan Hang Tuah, Berjaya Times Square comes up on your right. Turn into Jalan Changkat Thambi Dolah and into Jalan 1/77C for ICC Pudu. It’s the new address of the famous Imbi wet market, where residents of Bukit Bintang (the market’s previous home) shop for fresh produce and local food. Stop at the in-house coffee shop for the market’s renowned Ah Weng Koh Hainan Tea.

Where: ICC Pudu, Jalan 1/77C, Pudu

11.45am Cool Down With Ice Kacang

A bowl of refreshing shaved ice dessert awaits you after a 40-minute ride along Jalan Tun Sambanthan, which brings you to the Brickfields area (KL’s Little India). Visit popular Ah Keong’s, a humble roadside pushcart stall that serves desserts in porcelain ware like in the old days. At RMB 2.70 (SGD S0.90) for a small bowl, you can enjoy the iced treats at the tables set up outside the 7-Eevent convenience store. To find the ice kacang pushcart, ask the locals for directions to the YMCA opposite the store.

Where: Jalan Tun Sambanthan 4 (in front of the 7-Eleven)

12.30pm Back In Time

A 25-minute ride up Jalan Syed Putra and towards Kampung Baru will lead you into an enclave comprising clusters of Malay heritage wooden houses built in the Malay Palladian style. While some have been left in disrepair, other houses have been better maintained, with families still living in them. You can even rent some of these houses for short-term accommodation on airbnb.com
Where: Kampung Baru

Bukit Bintang comes alive at night in Malaysia's capital.
Bukit Bintang comes alive at night in Malaysia's capital.

1.15pm Back To The Beginning

The last leg of the route down Jalan Raja will lead you back to the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, where the bike tour comes to an end. Located in the heart of the city, the gallery has photography and 3D model exhibits showcasing Kuala Lumpur’s past, present and future, and you can also gather information on tours and places of interest here.

Where: No. 27, Jalan Raja, Dataran Merdeka, +603 2698 3333

1.30pm Refuel At Reggae Mansion

For the lucky ones (like me) who are staying at the Reggae Mansion KL, this three-storey hostel is a short walk from the gallery. It offers dormitories and private rooms, and even a suite. The buzzing Rooftop Mansion bar opens at 5pm every day and offers views of the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower. There’s no dress code or cover charge. Room rates start from RMB 58 (SGD $19.50) a night for a bed in a shared dormitory with anything from four to 24 beds.

Where: 53 Jalan Tun HS Lee, +603 2072 6877

Kuala Lumpur is an intoxicating mix of senses for even the most discerning of travellers.
Kuala Lumpur is an intoxicating mix of senses for even the most discerning of travellers.

3PM Enjoy A Musical

Housed in the historic Old City Hall of Kuala Lumpur, Panggung Bandaraya DBKL (Malay for City Theatre DBKL) presents MUD, a locally produced musical about the city’s past. The story unfolds during Kuala Lumpur’s mining boom in 1880 and revolves around the lives of three friends who hailed from different parts of Asia and met at the muddy junction of two rivers, Sungai Lumpur (now Sungai Gombak) and Sungai Kelang. The 60-minute show runs twice daily at 3pm and 8.30pm, with no intermission. Tickets are RMB 84.80 (SGD $28) each.

Where: Panggung Bandaraya, Jalan Raja, +603 2602 2335

4.30PM Chill… In A Former Brothel

With its rattan furniture and floral murals, the Merchant’s Lane café looks nothing like the bordello it once was. Try the Rose Honey Milk – a mixture of steamed milk and honey infused with fragrant dried rose petals. It’s open every day except Wednesday, 11.30am-10pm. To find the café, look for a green door with mirrored signage.

Where: Level 1, 150 Jalan Petaling, +603 2022 1736

7PM Behold The Night

In hip Bukit Bintang three-storey Nagaba houses a wine lounge, a club and an alfresco rooftop bar. Tuck into burgers and chips, dance the night away or check out the All-You-Can-Drink Mojito Buffet on the rooftop that’s priced at RMB 59.90 (SGD $20) per person, 8pm-10pm daily. Nagaba is open Monday to Saturday from 4pm until late.

Where: 31 Jalan Mesui, +603 2141 0858