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Tours in KL: Bike with Elena

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Food tours are kind of dime a dozen in Kuala Lumpur, there are plenty on offer, from personalised one-on-one walks through to mass tourism graze-fests, but Elena at aptly named Bike With Elena combines eating with one of her true passions, cycling, to create a memorable experience in the heart of KL.

Elena offers a range of bicycle tours, most are focused in and around Kuala Lumpur covering areas like Brickfields, Pudu (Chinatown) or Kampung Baru, while others, like Kuala Lumpur’s Most Haunted Places, are a little more eclectic. We wanted to eat though, so the Night Bike Food Tour KL sounded pretty much on the money, and it was.

The first restaurant was ... small. Photo taken in or around Tours in KL: Bike with Elena, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Stuart McDonald.

The first restaurant was ... small. Photo: Stuart McDonald

We met our guide, the affable Hau Young (we were to pick up Elena latter in the night), out front of the KL City Gallery at 6pm and he gave us the once over on our mountain bike (which was in top shape), affixed some safety lamps to our bike and handed us a helmet. We then had a safety briefing where he explained some points to keep in mind when riding in KL—coming from years of cycling in Bali, there was nothing new in this for us, but if you’ve never cycled in Asia, pay attention!

Briefing over, we jumped on the bikes and were off. Starting at the southern end of Merdeka Square we rode through this historic part of town (our guide stopping and explaining short historical titbits along the way) before weaving our way up through the back streets of Little India, rolling towards Kampung Baru, where the eating was to begin.

Bowl #1. Photo taken in or around Tours in KL: Bike with Elena, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Stuart McDonald.

Bowl #1. Photo: Stuart McDonald

When a cycling tour in KL was originally suggested, we were less than enthusiastic—after all KL is a hassle just to walk in—how bad could cycling be? Turns out not bad at all. Elena and her crew have come up with a backstreets route which only had us on two major roads for the entire evening. Some of the stretches, especially cruising up towards Hotel Stripes and around there, were great—blissfully traffic free yet with enormous skyscrapers towering above. You have to pay attention of course, as drivers in the capital can be somewhat erratic at times, but we had no hair-raising moments throughout our ride. In summary, don’t be put off by the suggestion of cycling in the city.

Our first stop was on the periphery of Kampung Baru to pick up Elena and her very cute bicycle which, (incredibly), she has cycled to Penang on. Initially we thought this was just to pick her up, but it doubled as our first meal. The place is difficult to describe—imagine a room in your Grandmothers house with just two battered lounges and a small table holding two steaming bowls. We’d never eaten in a place like this but the food was great and we were just getting started.

Selling durian ice cream makes you happy. With Elena. Photo taken in or around Tours in KL: Bike with Elena, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Stuart McDonald.

Selling durian ice cream makes you happy. With Elena. Photo: Stuart McDonald

With Elena in tow we veered off to the right to enter Kampung Baru where we first stopped for a quick and delish durian ice cream from a street side cart before riding off into the depths of KL’s village. While we explored Kampung Baru on a few occasions during our time in Kuala Lumpur, this night ride was the most memorable. There is no escaping the gleaming and floodlit towers which surround the enclave but you’re cycling around the back streets of what is essentially a Malay village full of wooden houses, stands of banana trees and low humming TVs as people put their feet up at the end of the day. We loved it.

We paused at a much-photographed blue house, which is set on a manicured lawn with a coconut palm and banana trees to one side and rows of pot-plants running before the house. Behind though the gleaming Petronas Towers strike up into the night skies. The elderly owner wandered out and got chatting with Elena, explaining that she would soon be moving out to make way for a mass transit development. Behind us, smiling and cheeky neighbourhood kids stood by, watching the foreigner on the bike. Truly the village in the city.

Valentine: Simple food done so well. Photo taken in or around Tours in KL: Bike with Elena, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Stuart McDonald.

Valentine: Simple food done so well. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Continuing on, we next landed at the traditionally styled (ie., no bling!) Valentine Roti on the far side of Kampung Baru, for, you guessed it, roti. Valentine claims to have the best roti canai in Kl, and ours, crispy and flakey was right on the money. We munched away while Elena gave us some background to the development happening in Kampung Baru and explained that (not surprisingly) it has not been without controversy. As with all the tours we did, having a guide who could explain what you’d just been looking at or experiencing really added a lot of value.

From here we cruised back through Kampung Baru to the west before weaving through a different set of back streets in Little India, arriving at another Indian outlet with a large tandoori oven blasting away on the pavement. Before we got here we were asked “did we want to ride some more to work up an appetite or eat”—we foolishly said “eat” and when we sat down for a simple plate of tandoori and some cheese filled naan it was a real struggle—the food was delicious, but we were reaching capacity!

Street side tandoori oven. Photo taken in or around Tours in KL: Bike with Elena, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Stuart McDonald.

Street side tandoori oven. Photo: Stuart McDonald

Hau Young and Elena were likewise stuffed, but back on the bikes we climbed and we continued south into Chinatown. We were in search of a woman known for her noodles, but she was unfortunately closed for the evening so we missed out—our stomach quietly breathed a sigh of relief! This marked the end of the tour, but we then invited both to PS150 for a cocktail our treat, and we passed another hour there chatting away about not just the tour, but also KL, the food and how cycling is slowly getting a bit more respect in a city which has given so much of itself over to cars.

Our tour cost US$60 for the evening and it struck us as being excellent value. The combination of KL’s great eating came together just so well with the cycling and the skyline to create a memorable experience. Book with Elena direct via her website and watch out for imitators! Highly recommended.

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Tours in KL: Bike with Elena
Admission: US$60

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