Malaysia: Jungle Joy Ride

Text: Simon Thomas • Photography: Simon and Lisa Thomas

Under a royal blue sky, we’re hurtling south along a smooth multi-lane freeway amid a sea of rolling greens hills. Waves of lush forestation, palm farms, and tea plantations stretch into the horizon. Malaysia is a dynamic melting pot that Malays, Indians, Chinese, and a host of others call home—and where the best of each fuses into a culinary and social scene unlike anywhere else in the world.

My R 1150 GS pulls firmly as I lean into a fast bend with Lisa just a few feet behind me. We’re among 25 new friends and BMW riders who’ve joined us to provide an escort into one of Asia’s most vibrant countries, Malaysia.

The Petronas Towers, a Modern Marvel

Ivan, on his R 1200 GS, is just ahead; we’d met him months ago in northern Thailand and gratefully accepted his offer of an apartment room in Kuala Lumpur (or KL) for our first few nights here. Hard on the throttle, we’re 125 miles north of KL and working to keep up with the rapid pace of our group. We slice through the center of the Kinta Valley and past the Perak State city of Ipoh with its architectural mélange of colonial austerity and Chinese shop fronts. As evening sets in, we’ve exchanged countryside for suburbs, and our freeway is now lit in fluorescent orange and bright neon blues resembling a scene from the sci-fi adventure film Tron. We merge carefully into the traffic entering Greater Kuala Lumpur, a city that 1.6 million people call home. Surrounded by car exotica, we ogle the latest and greatest offerings from BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and Ferrari before finally reaching Ivan’s sky-rise apartment in Damansara Perdana, one of KL’s wealthier suburbs. Our band of riders has shrunk to three as each has peeled off to find their own way home.

The past few days have given us a chance to acclimatize to KL’s modern-day tempo. We’re on the bikes and have moved away from the speeding freeway that encircles KL. We navigate the city center’s complex and congested one-way system at a more familiar pace. Neatly painted markings on black asphalt denote motorcycle parking only. We are dwarfed by Malaysia’s crown jewel that looms overhead, The Petronas Towers. Designed to symbolize Malaysia’s advancement on the world stage, thousands of steel and glass panels stretch almost one-third mile into the sky. On the 41st floor, the famous Skybridge spans the distance and joins the 88 sparkling stories. As night falls, we are perched on the 33rd floor of Traders Hotel, which boasts one of the best views across Kuala Lumpur. We can’t help being impressed with the Petronas Towers as they dominate the skyline and send beams of vertical light into the low cloud base.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the July/August 2013 back issue.