Are You Inclined to Experience Batu Caves?

Lord Murugan at Batu Caves

Batu Caves is an important Hindu shrine, considered to be one of the most popular outside of India. It’s location about 17 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur makes it a must-see attraction for tourists, especially during the Hindu festival of Thaipusam (http://publicholidays.com.my/thaipusam.  The setting is a series of limestone caves couched in the 10th limestone hill from Ampang. The caves are guarded by a towering statue of Lord Murugan, 42.7 meters high.

There are expensive half-day tours and rock-climbing jaunts for nimble tourists so inclined, but it costs nothing to explore the grounds and walk the 272 steps. To allow even better access, a fourth set of 272 steps was recently added.

Brian, Jessica and family were visiting from China, and since we had two toddlers in tow, we skipped many of the activities and only did the climb to the top of the caves.  We visited on Monday, January 30, 2017, a Chinese New Year holiday for Malaysians. It was a good day to be a tourist in KL! There was a thin crowd, and traffic from our home in Bandar Sunway was light. At Batu Caves, the climb was steep.  Because the steps are slightly more narrow than the length of my Size 8 shoe, I quickly learned to step carefully!

As with all Hindu shrines, it is customary to cover your shoulders, chest, and legs to the knee. If you are wearing shorts or a sleeveless blouse, sarongs are available for rent for 3 Malaysian ringgit (RYM)   Men were dressed in both shorts or pants and long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts. I wore a round-neck top with ¾ length sleeves, long, loose palazzo pants, and Ecco sandles.   I tripped on the pants hem going up the steps, which made me wish I’d worn capris or a modest skirt.  In the caves, the floors were wet with water from stalactites above, and the hem of the wide pants got wet.  It’s a cave, and there are water puddles!

Shoes can be worn everywhere in the caves except in the raised temple areas. I saw a few families who left their shoes in the car and walked barefoot down the sidewalk, into the center court area and up the steps.

By the time we reached the top, even with our slow pace, we were drenched in sweat. A bandana or cooling towel would have been a great addition to my frozen bottle of water. The makeup I’d applied quickly ended up on my WetWipes.

For those of us over 60, use the side rails and take your time. I have an annoying case of plantar fasciitis in the arch of my right foot, but by going slowly and taking breaks, I managed easily without later pain to my foot.

The monkeys were a delight to the children and adults. One monkey entertained us as he climbed down the wall from about 10 feet up and raced to a woman with a bag of chips. The monkey grabbed for it, and the two played tug-of-war momentarily. Losing the battle, the monkey went back toward the wall, flinging  a coconut shell toward the woman.

 

Leaving the site takes a little time, unless you go for the unmetered taxis abundant at the site

Light from Above

or take the Light Rail, which is easily accessible. To the caves, all six of us took a six-passenger Grab car from Sunway Pyramid Mall for 53 RYM, including tolls. We couldn’t find a large Grab or Uber car back from the site, so we first tried an unmetered taxi. The driver quoted 100 RYM; Brian countered with 70; the driver eventually offered 80. We agreed to walk away, thinking he might change his mind. He did, but then started renegotiating. Couldn’t we do just a little more because it is far away? He says he cannot get a fare from the Pyramid Mall. So we do the walk-away again. In the end, Brian and family took a metered taxi back to Sunway  for 40 RYM, and they were off. Don and I took a regular-size Grab Car from the site for 34 RYM. It took about 15 minutes from confirmation to pick-up, but we arrived at Pyramid Mall just five minutes after the kids.

We all highly recommend the adventure next time you are in Kuala Lumpur.