My friends have written before about their trips to Kuala Lumpur and one of the most prominent attractions that they talked about were the Batu Caves. From the photos alone, I knew that it would be a sight to behold and definitely a must-see in KL. So during my very first day, I made sure it would be the first thing I visit early in the morning.
I left the hotel and took a regular cab going to the KL Sentral Station. The driver charged me RM20 which is obviously a ripoff but I didn’t know how to deal with such cases in a foreign land so I reluctantly gave him the cash and took off. From there, Batu Caves is only 30 minutes away via KTM Komuter which is now made more convenient as the station is a couple of minutes away by foot to the temple gates.
Greeting you there is a 50-foot statue of Hanuman, the noble monkey aide of Lord Rama, standing beside stunning limestone hills. And if that’s not a sight good enough to welcome you, a few meters away is a small temple with two golden pagodas gleaming from the sun’s strong rays.
Behind Hanuman’s statue is a small temple/altar and the entrance to the Ramayana Cave. Inside is a gallery that tells the story of Rama in a chronicle that is shown through scultures and paintings on the cavern walls. Unfortunately, that cave was still closed during my time of visit so I wasn’t able to check it out.
I arrived at 9:00 in the morning still fresh from the shower, not knowing I’d be dripping in sweat by the time the clock hits 10:00. A couple of friends have already warned me about the temperature in the city, which is why I opted to go there early in the morning while the sun is still not in the mood of giving everyone skin cancer. A a couple of minutes of walking though and sweat is already slowly forming around my head. Not good.
The good thing about going there early in the morning is very few tourists were roaming around the area. Instead, hundreds of doves dominated the temple grounds and even more amazing is when these birds take their madness to the sky. But you need to be careful once they take flight cause you might get some dove droppings on you, something I completely forgot as I was awed and amazed for a couple of minutes while hundreds of doves flew around circling the area.
THE GOLDEN STATUE OF LORD MURUGAN
Aside from the actual caves, one particularly noticeable landmark in the area is the huge golden statue of Lord Murugan. He is a popular Hindu deity and this statue was made from 1550 cubic meters of concrete and 300 liters of gold paint. Shala! When I pass on to the other side, I’d commission someone to do a life-size sculpture of me as well, but since I’m poor, keri na ang golden glitters sa National Bookstore.
Completed in January 2006, this mammoth stands at 135 feet and is obviously an eye-catching piece. If you search for Batu Caves on Google, you’d see this image more than the actual interiors of the cave.
Now this is where the tough part begins. The actual cave that also serves as a temple is found at the very top of a concrete staircase consisting of 272 steps. If I was with friends, I’d probably crack some jokes and complain a little during the climb in order to ease the trouble of making my way up those steps. Save from some Hindus and a handful of Chinese tourists also making their way to the top, my travel companions were non-existent, just like my sex life. Ok, TMI.
It may take some sweat and time, but seeing this cave in person is worth it. The size is already impressive in itself, so it would be a big disappointment if you pass by this chance just because you missed out on your daily exercise since kindergarten. On your ascent, you’ll get to see some few friends as well!
Since I was alone, I found company on a handful of macaque monkeys along the stairs. It was my first time to see one up close and outside cages and I was initially concerned since monkeys have this reputation of being too naughty with tourists. However, I was pleasantly surprised that these ones were very tame. So unless you provoke them, like poking their genitals of taunting them with food, you have nothing to worry about.
One gave me a condescending look, though, as if he can smell the lady in me. So I took a quick shot and left him in peace as he scratched his balls.
I wanted to tough it up, honestly. I mean, 272 steps should be no problem for a guy in his 20s, despite my lanky build and Johnny Depp appeal. But after 50 steps, I was already exhausted and gasping for air. I blame it on the cigarettes, really. So after a couple of brief stops, pretending that I’m taking photos of the monkeys when I’m actually trying to catch a breath, I finally made it to the cave entrance!
INSIDE THE LARGEST CAVERN I’VE EVER SEEN
The cave was being guarded by another statue of this Hindu deity whose name escapes me, but she has a peacock with her and that’s awesome. Batu Caves is actually made up of three caves and this one, known as the Cathedral Cave, is the largest one. The ceiling reaches to more than 100 meters above the ground and has a smaller chamber at the other end where it opens up to the sky giving a better lighting inside.
I don’t wanna imagine this place packed with tourists and devotees during the Thaipusam Festival where over a million people crowd every inch of the cave, stairs, and grounds to celebrate the birthday of Lord Murugan.
Before heading down to explore the chambers, a couple of souvenir shops are set-up near the opening where several mini-replicas of Lor Murugan’s statue can be bought aside from other trinkets related to Hinduism. More importantly, there are a couple of stores selling cold bottled drinks as well! Time to replenish all the water that you sweated out during your climb.
Inside the caves are a few mini temples/altars with more statues of their deities. But I think the standout star is the actual cave itself. The entire thing almost feels unreal. Take away all the amazingly detailed and colorful statues of the Hindu deities and I’m sure this will still be one of the most popular destinations in Malaysia.
At one point, I think a bat pooped on my shoulder and it didn’t matter because at that moment I was too busy marveling at the rock formations. And in case you don’t know, Batu Caves is also well known for having more than 160 climbing routes for mountain climbers.
HOW TO GET TO BATU CAVES
If you ask me, the easiest and cheapest way to get to the Batu Caves is via the KTM Kommuter. It’s open from 6:00 AM so you can go to Batu Caves as early as you want.
Wherever you are in Kuala Lumpur, make your way to KL Sentral Station. Go down one floor and buy tickets from the booth beside McDonalds and tell the ticket officer you’re going to the Batu Caves. Ticket will cost you RM2. Once you get your pass, go through the turnstiles and go down another floor to Platform 3 where you’ll be waiting for the train that’ll take you directly to the station next to the caves. Travel time is around 30 minutes and each train has 15 mintes interval from each other.
If you decide to take a cab, it will probably cost you around RM20 to RM25.
Much love to Airphil Express (which now has Manila to Kuala Lumpur flights three times a week) for making this trip possible together with the Malaysian Tourism Board and Travel Guard Chartis for our travel insurance.