My little trip to Batu Caves
I MADE A LITTLE TRIP to Batu Caves (finally!) as a local ‘tourist’ when my friend from Singapore came to Malaysia for a little visit and I tagged along. Sad to say, of all the total accumulated years that I have been in Kuala Lumpur, I never did think of making a simple low-key visit to this amazing place. I believe all who are visiting Kuala Lumpur or anywhere else in Selangor should really see this historical spot at least once in their lives.
Here is my personal experience and tips on visiting the popular spot if you have an afternoon free and have never been there.
A little story about Batu Caves
Batu Caves is a well-known place in Malaysia and around the world among the Hindu community, and it is especially famous for a giant golden statue there of Lord Murugan, the Hindu God of War. Standing at 140 feet tall, this particular Lord Murugan statue is the biggest and tallest Hindu deity statue in the country, and the second biggest and tallest in the world, second only after one of another deity in Nepal, the Kailashnath Mahadev Statue which is 144 feet tall.
The caves were converted into a place of worship in honour of this deity Lord Murugan, and this place gets especially busy once a year during Thaipusam, a yearly festival celebration for the Hindus. As you might be able to guess, this Thaipusam celebration involves Lord Murugan. To be exact, the festival commemorates the occasion where the Hindu mother-goddess of love, fertility and devotion gave a ‘spear’ to Lord Murugan to defeat and vanquish the allegedly immortal evil demon Soorapadman. When this demon’s delusion of his immortality was quashed, he transformed into a mango tree to escape death, but Lord Murugan ended him once and for all by splitting the mango tree version of him in half.
Although the limestone and its caves were discovered many, many years ago, the first Thaipusam celebration there was in 1892 and since then the Hindus go there every year to celebrate this victorious occasion.
The cheapest and most convenient way to get to Batu Caves
The cheapest and most convenient way to get yourself and your friends to the Batu Caves is by train. KTM Komuter provides a train service that goes directly to the entrance of the Batu Caves grounds, and the best part is it only costs RM2 from KL Sentral – a station in central Kuala Lumpur where many transportation services meet. So, me and my friends took the train and got there soon enough. There is no extremely long wait for the train, it arrives every half hour or less, and the train is very comfortable for a reasonably low-maintenance person like me. The journey from KL Sentral to Batu Caves takes 20-30 minutes as it is only eight stops away and you can’t get lost as Batu Caves station is the last stop, so even if you don’t keep an eye out on which station you are at as the announcements are sometimes not made or are unintelligible, it is still ok.
If you have some extra cash and prefer not to mingle with random public people, you can take a cab but prices vary (not only because of location and time, but also because some opportunistic cab drivers may overcharge you for the ride since Batu Caves is a popular tourist attraction) and you might get stuck in traffic jam depending on what day and time you go.
Some pointers on what to wear and what to expect when doing the obligatory 272-step climb
There are 272 steps up to the main cave which they named the ‘cathedral’ and I was unfortunately wearing a miniskirt and flip-flops the day I was visiting. At the bottom of the steps, you are able to rent used scarves to tie around your waist to cover your legs. If you are in a short skirt, you can’t go up unless you cover yourself. You pay RM5 for it, and when you return the scarf you are returned RM2 which you can also just donate.
The steps are small and steep, and also have a tendency to be kind of wet and slippery. So be really careful, and it doesn’t help if you have a phobia of monkeys as they sometimes can appear just next to you without warning. The best bet is to wear shoes with good non-slip soles and to leave your fear of heights at home. For those like me who are not really outdoorsy, take it slow going up the stairs and ignore the ladies two generations older than you speeding up and down the stairs with large baskets of fruits and offerings on their heads. I believe I was overtaken by the same old lady twice before I got to the top.
The wildlife you will socialise with when you get there
The most significant animal you will have to be very cautious of there are the human-like monkeys. What I love about the whole monkey scene is that they are free to roam around and mingle, just like you and me, except they don’t have human language speech and money. They loiter around there like some people do, but they are cute little unremorseful thieves. Be careful with your belongings; eat and drink fast before you see a monkey there face-to-face.
Other animals you can observe there are the crazy amounts of pigeons, and in some caves you can actually see bats and rare species of spiders. Also, I saw a man feeding a majestic white rooster inside the cave.
Food and drinks (and some shopping)
Well, I didn’t realise I needed a drink until I got up the 272 steps. The normal bottled soft drinks up there cost RM4 and well, you really have nowhere else to get drinks when you are at the top so you just pay double the market price. My advice, bring a small bottle of drinking water with you (and again make sure the monkeys don’t see you drinking). I didn’t have any meals there, but there were several nice shops for Indian sweets and snacks – and I managed to get a few yummy snacks to go. They weren’t very expensive at all – RM10 for 3 packs of muruku (a savoury, crunchy Indian snack) and RM2 for a pack of Indian sweets and desserts. Be warned though, some are extremely sweet!
There are some souvenir shops too, but unfortunately I am not a fan of overpriced I-love-where-i-am knick-knacks so I didn’t check them out. However there are some stalls set up near the train station where you can find beads and accessories.
In a nutshell
You can easily wake up one morning without a plan and say “Let’s go to the Batu Caves!” and just spend a few simple hours of an early evening there sight-seeing, photo-taking or just having some fresh air and exercise, because that’s right, it is very easy for you to visit this must-see place in Malaysia.