For the longest time, I had wanted to see and feel the mystique of Batu Caves tucked within the 400-million-year-old limestone hills of Gombak, Selangor. Batu Caves’ enigmatic name comes from the meandering Sungai Batu which flows past this 10th limestone hill from Ampang. There is great religious significance in the number I read, which is why the cave is the most popular Hindu shrine outside of India and the focal point for the festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.
It goes without saying then, that Batu Caves is THE ‘Must-See’ place where most tourists want to visit. Not only does the site offer wonders to discover, it is also where the iconic Lord Murugan statue stands. It is the largest Murugan statue in the entire world! Towering at 140ft tall, it is painted with 300 litres of gold paint. How amazing is that?!
It goes without saying then, that Batu Caves is THE ‘Must-See’ place where most tourists want to visit. Not only does the site offer wonders to discover, it is also where the iconic Lord Murugan statue stands. It is the largest Murugan statue in the entire world!
Monkeying AroundLast Sunday, my friends and I suddenly decided that it would be a great idea to visit Batu Caves. Upon arriving in the early morning hours, we were of course greeted by the glistening gold statue which stood at the foot of the cave. I was in absolute awe of the sheer size of it. And gilded from top to toe, it was resplendent. Next to the statue was a long flight of concrete steps or staircase that led up to the entrance of the main cave. There are 272 steps altogether. Does it sounds like a lot of steps? Surprisingly, it only took us around 3 minutes to reach to the top.
During our climb, we saw a number of macaques running around everywhere. Some of them were just chilling on the staircase munching on fruits, while others were climbing up trees and rocks. And then there were those that kept trying to snatch unsuspecting tourists’ bags as they walked past them.
At one point, I heard a woman scream at the top of her lungs. When I turned to look at what was going on, I saw one of the monkeys try to yank a plastic bag from her. There was a tug-o-war between the two that went on for quite a while.
“No! You getaway from me, that’s MY bag!”
“I want it! I want it!”
“No! You’re not getting it.”
Yes, it went on for quite a while, I must say.
In the end, the lady lost. She let go of the bag and the monkey ran away with the loot.
I was quite amused at the whole funny spectacle even though I felt bad for the lady. These monkeys are always on a look out for food so if you ever decide to visit Batu Caves, always be sure to keep your stuff (especially food!) in a proper zipped bag. And keep a tight grip on it.
Inside the Cave
The inside of the cave was absolutely breathtaking. It was massive with cavernous ceilings rising 100m above ground, the craggy sides making strange shapes and shadows. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.
Rain water was dripping from the ceilings, falling all the way down from the very top, you could suppose that’s how stalactites are formed, and those that fall to the ground form the stalagmites over time. As I was walking through, I could hear the water hit the ground and faintly echo throughout the cave. It was very atmospheric. The temperature in there was also cool and comfortable. A number of people were gathered at the shrines, serenely praying and asking for their blessings while the Hindu monks performed their rituals. The whole scene was quite surreal.
As I was walking through, I could hear the water hit the ground and faintly echo throughout the cave. It was very atmospheric.
Birds of a FeatherAt the very end of the cave there was another flight of stairs (except this one was steeper), and there we met a very friendly uncle who was scattering wheat seeds at a flock of hungry pigeons. He said he has been feeding these birds at the cave for over six years! The birds know him so well they keep flying around him for more food. He was like the bird-man! He offered to sell us a bag of seeds for only RM5. We bought a bag and decided to join in the feeding frenzy. It was quite an experience and so much fun! Each of us took turns feeding the birds while uncle was so kind as to take several photos of us with my DSLR camera. After we got done feeding, we bade uncle farewell and proceeded to walk our way out of the cave.
He said he has been feeding these birds at the cave for over six years! The birds know him so well they keep flying around him for more food. He was like the bird-man!
On our way down the staircase, we noticed that there was another cave on the side of the stairs. It was called a Dark Cave Conservation Site and Natural History Gallery. We decided to go check it out but there was an entrance fee of RM35 if we wanted to do a 45 minute tour . We decided not to go for it as it was a bit pricey for us. I noticed that there were some dead bats preserved in the jars. They were displayed on a counter for all to examine. I recoiled at the sight but was fascinated at the same time.
I noticed that there were some dead bats preserved in the jars. They were displayed on a counter for all to examine. I recoiled at the sight but was fascinated at the same time.
And then it was time to go home. It was quite the experience visiting this incredible historic site. I can see why people would want to come and visit the Batu Caves. It is rich with heritage and cultural history, full of secrets to uncover and filled with sights and sounds you never hear in the city; all in all, an exciting, yet relaxing, fascinating, educational and beautiful encounter with a natural wonder. I came away humbled by my experience and enriched by the adventure. Go there if you want to see what’s on the other side of this world right here in our country.