What is a trip to Malaysia without visiting Kuala Lumpur? And what is a trip to Kuala Lumpur without checking out the Batu Caves? And here we are… It is Sunday, June 25th.. the end of Ramadan and we decided to brave the crowds. It seems everyone was out and about today so even purchasing a train ticket and getting on the train was a bit of a challenge but Batu Caves here we come!
The Batu Caves are a limestone hill and a series of caves, dated more than 400 million years old. The complex is located in Gombak, Selangor, Malaysia or about 13 km north of Kuala Lumpur. The Batu Caves are considered the most important Hindu temple outside of India and one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India, dedicated to Lord Murugan, the Hindu God of War. His statue stands proud at 42.7 meters high right outside the Batu Caves and is the second tallest statue of a Hindu deity in the world, proceeded by Kailashnath Mahadev Statue in Nepal.
Loren and I, accompanied by our two new Swedish friends Sanna and Peter were off to a late start… We met up around 1 pm and took the train to Batu Caves. To get to Batu caves from where we are staying, we just needed to take one train (the Komuter) from KL Sentral or Pasar Seni (they are also the two most central stations) and take it all the way to its last stop - Batu Caves. The train system is Kuala Lumpur is extremely convenient, fast and comfortable. It is also very cheap, for both of our tickets we spent 5 MYR or $1.25. The train is modern, fast and equipped with a strong air con which is a blessing on a hot, humid day like today in Kuala Lumpur. The whole journey took about 30 minutes but once we got to the station we spent another 15 minutes going up the stairs and leaving the train station… On a normal day, not a holiday and not weekend day it would have taken us less than 2 minutes to complete the task but due to the holiday (again, the end of Ramadan - are you even paying attention?) everyone seemed to be out and about so the crowd was massive. There is only one entrance / exit and the traffic jams seemed to concentrate in the smallest area possible. We made it out of the mosh pit alive and out of the station! The massive limestone hill is right outside the station and even from there we caught a glimpse of the giant, golden Lord Murugan Statue.
Immediately we were greeted by several street vendors offering us jewelry, cold drinks and clothes. Right past all the little shops and Indian food stalls we were welcomed by the 15 meter tall statue of Hanuman, a Hindu God and an ardent devotee of Rama, as well as a popular character in legends and artwork.
Right beside the large green monkey statue is a small temple also dedicated to Lord Hanuman that didn't seem very popular. Past those two, we saw a giant shopping center and several bigger restaurants/cafes and right above all of that is the star of the show, the most photographed section of the Batu Cave complex - the statue of Lord Murugan. I have to admit that the statue is truly impressive not only because its sheer height of 150 feet (42.7 meters) but its intricacy and beauty, the statue is painted gold and the caves in the background make the view truly breathtaking. We had to battle several selfie sticks but we managed to take a few photos….
Right beside Lord Murugan is a long and steep staircase made up of 272 stairs. Now we are always up for some good stair-climbing exercises but climbing those stairs in the humidity, and heat was quite the task! There were so many people going up and down, then there were those who just simply blocked the way to take a picture. Don’t get me wrong, I like taking pictures too, but when you have a selfie stick and you’re taking pictures on a steep set of stairs and holding up twenty people behind you..well that’s just not cool. Also, selfie sticks are a danger to society. I hate selfie sticks. There I said it. Now once you make it up the stairs, there’s something else besides the selfie sticks you also need to watch out for - the monkeys.
For the most part they are harmless, they just hang out on the trees beside the steps but if you have something shiny and flashy they just might take it. I am surprised they haven't stolen any selfie sticks… Damn selfie sticks.
At the top, beyond the monkeys was a giant hall that opened up in front of us and we walked into the first cave which is massive btw, it’s called the Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave. Along the walls there are a few shrines and small statues and above it all the walls opened up to the jungle and sky. There are two other caves fairly big in size and a few smaller ones too.
There were some renovations happening so some parts of the caves were closed off. It was nice and a bit cooler inside the caves so we spent some time there exploring our surroundings and enjoying the nature. There weren’t many signs and none in English so it was a little difficult to understand the meaning or importance of some of the statues and shrines. So I suggest do a little reading before hand to connect that much more with what you’re seeing.
Now, there were also a few other parts of the attraction that we did not get to see, but here is a little bit on them so you get the bigger picture. There is another cave known as the Dark Cave (we actually really wanted to see this but it was closed). You are able to visit the Dark Cave and do a shorter or longer tour, however there is a cost and you do need to book prior to your arrival. With the longer, “adventure” tour, you’ll need to make sure you dress accordingly because you get wet, squeezing through narrow areas and seeing some cool creatures like bats, rare spiders, cockroaches and more. If going on either of these tours is something you want to do, just make sure to plan ahead because the cave is not always open. Other areas include the Ramayana Cave and the Cave Villa, both of these do require an entry fee and display very colorful statues and Hindu “scenes.” Feel free to read more about these as they may be interesting spots to take children or those unable to climb all the stairs.
Special note: This is a sacred place so ladies be prepared to follow the dress-code, it is strongly enforced! Luckily, you do not have to cover your shoulders which helps in the heat, but make sure you’re not wearing a tank top or something too revealing. Knees must also be covered, so either bring something to wrap around (this is what I did but it made it a little harder climbing the steep stairs) or just wear something that goes past the knee.
In conclusion, the Batu Caves are truly impressive and a definite must-see when in Kuala Lumpur. We were a little turned off by the crowds and all of the selfie sticks but if you take those two out of the equation visiting the Batu Caves was a very pleasant way to spend half a day in Kuala Lumpur.