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Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, Chases and Chinatown

Marking roughly the halfway point of our Malaysia ride we veered inland towards the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.  Most major cities are a pain to navigate into; traffic jams, highways and a billion pedestrians but this was one of the easiest rides we had.

Leading into Kuala Lumpur we were graced with almost 40km of dedicated motorcycle lane, completely separate from the highways.  Running parallel to Highway 2, the lane includes mini overpasses and tunnels taking you over and under the roads allowing an uninterrupted ride all the way into the capital.  You can find the start of the lane here: 3.0557220, 101.4663890.

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After the relaxing ride all the way into the heart of the city our bicycles continued having a great day – by being treated like royalty at the Rainforest hostel.

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Situated in the heart of Chinatown our hostel looked over a very contrasting landscape.  Past and present clashing on the streets below with towering office blocks dwarfing the old Chinese shop houses.

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We spent three days mainly radiating around Petaling Street, Chinatown which has plenty of character and great food at every turn.  Meals were a little more pricey than the rest of Malaysia but still incredibly cheap by western standards, dinner for two costing between $3 – $10 AUD.  Petaling St is also famous for its counterfeit merchandise, personally we avoided doing any shopping here as the items could be found far cheaper and without haggling in many other markets of Malaysia.

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Afternoon dining in the monsoon made for a scene from the set of an 80’s kung-fu movie.  Outdoor stalls and their stock of roast meats within were protected by a patchwork of tarp coverings – saved from collapse at intervals by diligent staff, running around with a stick prodding the drooping ceiling to release the water.

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Getting wet was half the fun, with the constant humidity it only took a few minutes to dry off and the meals were always well worth it.

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We ventured further out to find another thriving area Jalan Alor: a famous food street with restaurants lining the street.  The choices were overwhelming, any dish you could think of, snack stalls and fruit stands.

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It was here we discovered the mini Thai pineapple; barely bigger than a tennis ball, sweet in flavour and a softer core so you can eat the whole thing.

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Though the shrunken pineapples peaked our interest something else had our attention.  We will now set a comparison that no one asked for.

Lychee vs. Longan vs. Rambutan

I’ll be honest, it was not the most exciting nor scientific test as to me they all tasted the same, only varying in difficulty to peel.  The rambutan was the clear loser by a mile being a hard hairy egg covered in ants, no thanks.  The longan came in second with less fruit than stone and being the smallest, made them fiddly to peel.  The clear winner was the lychee having the most fruit vs. stone and being the easiest to peel.  Lychees weren’t in season when we were there, it won on memory.  Obvious to see why the lychee won out in the western market.

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To escape the city for an afternoon we jumped on a $1.50 train out the Batu caves where Hanuman, the green monkey-god greeted us on arrival.

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The enormous limestone hill is dotted with a series of caves filled with religious artefacts, monkeys and birds.  Built in 1891 the complex is one of the most important Hindu shrines outside India.

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The monkeys lined the climb to the top in search of an easy meal from the endless number of tourists.  The bike riding seemed to have no improvement on our ability to climb as we were almost out of breath once we had climbed the 272 steps to reach the main cave.

Finishing our visit to KL with something a little more modern we stopped off at the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin towers in the world and once the tallest building in the world.  The current record holder the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at almost twice the height.

Despite being almost half a kilometer tall, taking a good photo of the towers was made surprisingly difficult by the endless number of incredibly bored security guards.  Although we had walked the bikes in, helmets off, we were immediately surrounded by five security guards.  We weren’t even by the towers, we were in the gardens across the road.  Although speaking English to us, noone seemed to understand that we were not going to ride the bikes anywhere, or set up our camping gear.  We just wanted a photo, like every other tourist in front of the towers.

After being chased away from the area in front of the building we cycled to the back of them, by the lake, hoping that that was far enough to not be bothered.  As they all have walkie talkies, a brand new group of security guards found us before we even could take the camera out.  Handing my phone over to one, he ever so kindly took one blurry shot of us before we were being politely escorted round the front, to be thoroughly booted off the property by the original set of guards.  It was frustrating to say the least but I at least got one great shot from over my shoulder as we rode off.

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Surprisingly that has been the only point of our trip that the bikes have been a hindrance, rather than an almost free pass, and made us miss the photogenic friendly Chinatown back in the heart of the city.

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Still early morning we left the city, joining the work commute, with the groups of buzzing scooters swarming around us.

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