When I started planning my trip to Kuala Lumpur, I sat down and wrote a list of things I wanted to do. Top of the list was a visit to the Batu Caves, a series of caves set into a limestone hill located 20 mins north of Kuala Lumpur city centre on the train. On my third day in KL my boyfriend and I made this journey for just a few ringgit to make the climb and see one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India.
Located in the district of Gombak in the state of Selangor, Batu Caves aren’t technically in Kuala Lumpur, but they’re one of the top attractions for visitors to the city because they’re so easily accessible by public transport. The limestone hill that houses the Batu Caves is said to be 400 million years old and have in the past been used as shelter by the indigenous people. Nowadays, they house several Hindu shrines since being dedicated as a place of worship to Lord Murugan, the Hindu God of War (also known as Kartikeya). The 42.7 metres-high gold statue in his image – the tallest in the world – was only unveiled in 2006, having taken 3 years of construction using materials brought in from Thailand. In 1920, wooden steps were built up to the caves, but have since been replaced by concrete ones; 272 of them.
There are several caves, but the most well-known is Temple Cave (also known as Cathedral Cave) which houses various Hindu shrines. The religious site rises almost 100m above the ground and was first converted into a Hindu shrine in the 1800s by the Malaysian Tamil trader K. Thamboosamy Pillai, who also founded Malaysia’s oldest functioning Hindu temple, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur.
At first glance, the steps seem pretty daunting, but they aren’t quite as bad as they seem! After a little photoshoot in front of the statue of Lord Murugan, we headed up them, but not before I was stopped at the bottom by some ladies who insisted I leave a deposit to use one of their large scarves to wear around my waist. I hadn’t researched enough beforehand, evidently, as I didn’t realise that you had to wear something that covered your knees to enter the caves to see the shrines.
Climbing the stairs didn’t take too long, but it was slowed down by the presence of the macaque monkeys! Everyone was stopping for photos – myself included – or hesitating when a monkey stood in their way. They mostly kept to themselves, but it is advised to not feed them, intentionally or unintentionally, and it’s common sense to not provoke them as they have been known to bite people. We saw one man giving water to one of the smaller monkeys, possibly a baby, which was nice to see on a hot day.
Reaching the top, there are a couple of shops selling souvenirs and drinks, and I had my first ever 100 Plus, a Malaysian isotonic soft drink, which I now LOVE. We went inside the main cave, Temple Cave, and I’ll admit, I was impressed. The size of the cave was astounding, and the sight of the cave mouth with the daylight on the outside was beautiful. It was, however, the only thing I was particularly impressed by. I was a little underwhelmed by the shrines inside the caves – they were beautiful, but they were understated, and I think I was expecting something a little larger, or more intricate, especially having looked up photos of the amazing Sri Mahamariamman temple!
We spent a little time looking around the main cave, and watching a cockerel fight a monkey (of its own accord, no animal cruelty involved), before heading back down the steps. When we got to the bottom I drank from my first ever fresh coconut and it was surprisingly nice! A little earthy but very refreshing, something I welcomed greatly in the heat and exertion of the day. Fruit sellers line the road back to the train station, so my boyfriend picked up some pieces of something to eat, which I tried and didn’t like, but is a nice option to have as a fresh snack after visiting the caves. There are also some food stands and other restaurants at the foot of the caves if you’re more than a little peckish, offering a range of typical Malaysian dishes.
Batu Caves are easily accessible by public transport, with the KTM Komuter train running from KL Sentral, Kuala Lumpur, Bank Negara and Putra stations in Kuala Lumpur city. It costs just a couple of ringgit each way, and the caves are the last stop on the red line, so you can’t miss it. The trains come frequently so if you miss one, don’t worry! Another one will be along in no time. The caves are free to enter, but there is a donation box at the top if you’re feeling generous, and it’s difficult to leave the area without buying something else, unless you have amazing willpower!
You can find out more information about the Batu Caves and how/when you can visit here.
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