Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Kuala Lumpur: Cycling The River of Life - Chow Kit Loop & More

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Kuala Lumpur: Cycling The River of Life - Chow Kit Loop & More
Dataran Merdeka to Chow Kit & Beyond - 2021
Cycling in Kuala Lumpur is getting more exciting with the authorities making more earnest efforts in providing cycling lanes that are interesting and safe to ride along. Sure, some of these lanes are shared lanes, but one can't really complain and these shared sections go through some of the most beautiful parts of the city - one that runs along some of the city's major rivers and is aptly called Kuala Lumpur River of Life Cycling Paths.
The River of Life (RoL). initiated in 2012, is a seven-year project to transform the Klang River (and it's feeder rivers) into a vibrant and live-able waterfront with high economic value. Covering eight (8) rivers with total length of 110km, this project is divided into three (3) major components i.e. River Cleaning (led by Department of Irrigation & Drainage (DID) Malaysia), River Beautification (led Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL)) and Commercialisation and Tourism (led Ministry of Federal Territory (KWP)). The project seems to have faltered, but of late (these past two years), it's revitalized and kicked started again with newly built stretches at Chow Kit & Brickfields. Let's hope that, the construction & development will continue on and hit the targeted 110 km.! Nevertheless, even at this completion stage it has been listed as one of the Top 10 Best Waterfront by UK's the Independent.

At the cycling lanes facing Dataran Merdeka.
The local cycling scene started getting better when in 2015 the local authority, Kuala Lumpur City Hall, started looking into the implementation of cycling lanes to encourage cycling with the implementation of Phase 1 of the Kuala Lumpur Cycling Lanes, leading from Dataran Merdeka and going along the Klang River up till Mid-Valley City via what is now known as the South-West Dedicated Cycling Highway, partly through the Brickfields locality. Unfortunately, after a couple of years portions of the lanes fell into disrepair (but all is good again with the latest effort of the RoL).
The in 2018, in conjunction with the 9th World Urban Forum (WUF9), the Phase 2 of the Kuala Lumpur Cycling Lanes were launched. This is a 6.80 kilometer loop that starts from Medan Pasar and leads to the Petronas Twin Towers via Jalan Raja Chulan and Jalan P. Ramlee, with a return leg via Jalan AmpangJalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Raja Laut.
The latest upgrade are an extension of these lanes via the RoL project, has seen much improvement with better construction and routing, do note that at certain stretches these lanes are shared lanes with pedestrians.

Presently, the RoL cycling trails consists of two loops; both of which conveniently start at Dataran Merdeka. The southern trail heads towards Brickfields and the northern trail heads towards Chow Kit (or more accurately its Tiong Nam locality); other than these two, there are further extensions which many do not know of - we will come to that later on.
A good place to meet up is a the KM 0 milestone marker at one corner of Dataran Merdeka.

For ease of presentation, we will treat this two loops separately (with route maps), with both starting from Dataran Merdeka (of course, one can start anywhere along the loops to one's convenience). But just before riding off, do stop at a few spots for some memorable kick-off photos such as the "I LOVE KL Monument", seen above.

There are several fountains here one is the Queen Victoria Fountain erected in 1904 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897. And slightly further away, is the Count Down Clock (CDC) cascading fountain (seen above), this is best seen at night when the inner walls of this fountain/monument presents a colourful slide show depicting the milestone events of the history of Malaysia.

Okay, enough of playing tourist, lets get down to cycling on the Chow Kit route, one that goes along the Gombak River & Sungai Batu ..... and then perhaps go slightly beyond that to touch on routes along the Sungai Bunus & Sungai Keroh.
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Kuala Lumpur River of Life Chow Kit Cycling Route
KUALA LUMPUR RIVER OF LIFE: CHOW KIT LOOP CYCLING ROUTE MAP:
This is a easy flat route that goes partly along cycling pedestrian paths running along the Gombak River up till its Batu River confluence, and slightly beyond.
Starting from Dataran Merdeka, it proceeds along the shared blue cycling paths along Jalan Raja Laut and Jalan Merpati. At entry near SJK (C) Chung Kwok, it goes onto dedicated paths along the Gombak River reaching up to Jalan Tun Razak; another branch goes to Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah (formerly Jalan Ipoh).
From here, going along public roads one can reach the riverside paths at Sungai Batu-Sungai Keroh. Another extension is the Sungai Bunus riverside paths near Taman Tasik Titiwangsa.
Cycling Distance: 2.74 km. (round loop)    Level: Easy
(Zoom out to see extended route to Sungai Bunus-Titiwangsa and Sungai Batu-Sungai Keroh)


Places of Interest en-route (click on coordinates for Google directions map) :
Choo Sing Tang Temple (关帝廟): (GPS: 3.17898, 101.68069).

OK! Time to stop playing tourist and time to start cycling!
The Chow Kit Loop is one that's almost on the same route going out and returning.
Start off from Dataran Merdeka along Jalan Raja and head for Jalan Raja Laut, but don't cycle abreast like us above (which was during car-free day road closure). Ride single file here as traffic can be heavy.... and fast!

Along Jalan Raja Laut will be shared cycling lanes to ride on, traffic is heavy here so cycle with care especially at the Jalan Dang Wangi junction where many motorized traffic will make a left turn into Jalan Kuching.

About a kilometre ahead, just after Wisma Bumi Raya take a left into Jalan Melur. The return leg will be along the blue lanes on the opposite side of the road as can be seen in the Google Street View above. 

There are no traffic lights at this junction, but there is a signalized pedestrian crossing, use this on the return loop to safely cross this busy road.

 
Ride along Jalan Melur until one see Chung Kwok Chinese School; the dedicated cycling lanes will start just to the left of the school gate. If uncertain just follow the shaded walkway, which will lead you to .....

..... this entry point where dedicated cycling lanes starts to run along the Gombak River

Running on wide boardwalks that partly cantilever out onto the river, the stretch was surprisingly quite shady even in the mid-morning.

We stopped at one of the view spots just next to the Wellvest Youth Hostel - although the busy Jalan Kuching is just on the other side of the river, the roar of the traffic seems to be far away. The river water although not clear is much better than it's murky days years ago; the silt trap upstream must be working as hardly any debris can be seen.

This is our regular stop as on one end wall of a hostel block is a colourful, tall mural.

Ahead the route swings away from the river board-walk to cut under the fly-over ramps connecting Jalan Sultan Ismail to Jalan Kuching, going through several short tunnels running below the roads. We are now riding on broom-swept concrete pavements.

And then onto wide paver-bricks tracks leading to a short stretch along the public roads at the Tiong Nam area.

It's good to know that most stretches at this section are lit up a night.

From the Tiong Nam public roads several ramps lead back to the RoL Gombak riverside.

And here we are down the ramps and onto the riverside trail.

A combo photo showing cycling along this stretch both during the day and night!

It follows the river and goes below the Metro tracks that lead to the PWTC (Putra World Trade Centre).

And then below the Jalan Putra-Jalan Chow Kit bridge.

Just ahead is the PWTC Spiral Bridge that crosses over the river and onto a spiral ramp that leads down to trials along the other bank.

  
Here's a nice YouTube video by SZ - Eagle Eye Studiors that shows an aerial & ground-level views of the Chow Kit RoL section with beautiful highlights around this PWTC Spiral Bridge.

Looking downstream from the bridge, can be seen cascading falls near the confluence of where Sungai Batu joins to the Gombak River.

From inside the ramp form the PWTC Spiral Bridge - the ramp leads down to the other side of the river; once there, one can have two options to continue .....

..... the first option is to take a left and ride along the Sungai Batu to where the trail ends and connects to the busy Jalan Tun Razak, just next to the Sentul Fire Station. (as seen is the above Google Street View)

The SECOND option after coming down from the PWTC Spiral Bridge ramp, is to turn right and continue on the other bank which will lead to .....

To where it connects to Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah (previously called Jalan Ipoh) where we will ride onwards & continue to explore other upstream branches of the River of Life.


See below, an interesting You Tube video on the Brickfields & Chow Kit River of Life trails by cyclist Heng Choo Chian.
 
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Onwards To Sungai Keroh & Batu Metropolitan Park

We ride about 2.5 km. on the public roads, along Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah until Jalan Kasipillay where we take a left then a right onto Jalan Pakris.
At these public roads do ride with care, as the traffic can get pretty busy.

Ahead, at Jalan Selvadurai, a short flight of stairs lead down to pathways along the banks of Sungai Batu!

For better orientation, here's a Google Street View of this entry point (opposite the Lam Kee eatery).

These lanes were fairly wide and shady, and ran at the side of the river. Not many know of the riverside trails here and we only rode a short stretch - there seems to be trails running on both sides of the river but many sections were overgrown or partly damaged. Perhaps we will go an explore these riverside trails more and see how extensive they are.
 
A long wall mural shouted out that this section too is part of the 
River of Life project. Ahead there was a small Chinese Shrine and next to it a bridge spanned across the river. In earlier rides, we had rode on beyond this bridge to explore these riverside trails, but found that the sections ahead ended about a kilometre ahead.
 Let's hope that this section will somehow be connected to the Chow Kit section in the near future.

A combo photo showing the Tua Pek Kong shrine and statues next to it which include a Laughing Buddha. Use these shrine as a landmark, as that's where the bridge spans across the Batu River is. This map is not shown in Google maps unless one switch to Satellite View.

Pause at mid-span of the bridge for some spectacular views!
Downstream are a few high-rise buildings including the Putra Majestic Condominium.
Upstream is the sharp confluence of the Sungai Batu Sungai Keroh rivers.

Across the river is the Choo Sing Tang Temple (关帝廟) as seen in the above Google Street View. To better appreciate its location, do a 360° rotation view.

Linger a while here to admire the temple, at on end of the car-park compound are panels of dragon carvings. While facing the river are statues of three guardian gods and next to them, colorful glazed statues of animals of the Chinese Zodiac.
Getting hungry? Next to this temple is the renown Jalan Ipoh Fish Head Beehoon!

But our exploration of this section of the River of Life is not over yet, we looped back out and rode along Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah and further ahead turned right into Jalan 1/12 which runs parallel to the Sungai Batu here. There are some cycling paths here, on them mock river scenery floor murals have been painted.

These cycling path led to the fairly new Batu Metropolitan Arch Bridge. They are cycling lanes on both sides of the bridge and also on both sides of the roads leading to it.

Since we are at this locality, might as well continue forward a bit and visit the Batu Metropolitan Park. It's a very green park with shady routes to ride on, and there's even a small lake!

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Sungai Bunus Keroh & Taman Titiwangsa

Night view of Saloma Bridge.
The Sungai Bunus section of the RoL is not that well known by cyclist as presently it's just a short loop near Taman Tasik Titiwangsa.
Starting from Dataran Merdeka, head towards Jalan Ampang and cross over the Saloma Bridge to get to Kampung Baru; from there continue on via Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz to cut across Jalan Tun Razak (see map).

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Instead of entering Titiwangsa via the usual Jalan Kuantan way, we are going in from the other side, through the Sungai Bunus Retention Pond. Entry is through Lorong Gurney as seen in the above Google Street View.

Cycling along the cycling trails here; part of the Sungai Bunus Retention Pond is seen on the left. Here the trails are on broom-swept concrete pavers.

Further in the trails are on reddish-orange hardened concrete paths.

Sungai Bunus is seen here with orange pathways on both of its banks. This view is coming in from the Titiwangsa side, near the Remote Control Car Circuit.

After a satisfactory ride around the cycling/walking lanes of the Titiwangsa park, head back to the Sungai Bunus Retention Pond entry point at Lorong Gurney. From there ride a short 1km along Jalan Perumahaan Gurney all the way to Jalan Datuk Keramat, to search for a manhole!

Yes! A small manhole at the walls of the monsoon drains of the Klang River that allow access to the mid-platform of these storm drains for some interesting ride there which run below the AKLEH (Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway)!
 (NOTE: Please don't ride here during rainy weather as a sudden deluge can flood up the stormdrains!)

Other than the odd thing of riding in a storm drain, down there are beautiful murals that line these walls almost all the way to the Dato' Keramat LRT Station. It would be great if there were board-walk trails (like those at the Chow Kit section) to ride on, then we wouldn't have to risk it, riding withing the bottom of the monsoon drain!
(Click here to see more of the murals at AKLEH)

It's good to see that the River of Life project has extended beyond the Brickfields and Chow Kit sections; going further upstream to the GombakSungai BatuSungai Keroh & Sungai Bunus rivers.
Although there are cycle paths there (or some semblance of it), and are presently disjointed, we do hope that the future will see them connected to a proper network.
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