Not knowing hardly anything about Kuala Lumpur, I did a bit of research after deciding to stop there for a few days. Via Tripadvisor, local tourism websites, and a few travel blogs, I gathered that one of the most common attractions is a trip to Batu Caves. Batu Caves are located north of the city, but are easily assessable by a very cheap train ride (5RM/$1.30 for a return ticket). From Kuala Lumpur station (KL Sentral), it takes about 30 minutes to arrive at the station for Batu Caves. The station is right at the entrance to the site.
The site is not just one cave but several, spread out along a magnificent limestone cliff that pops out of a rather flat landscape. It is the most popular shrine outside of India for Tamil Hindu’s to celebrate the festival of Thaipusam. I’m not exactly sure of the details of this festival, but the caves are a huge attraction for Hindus from all over Malaysia.
What I enjoyed the most about visiting, aside from the beautiful scenery of the limestone cliffs, were all the women dressed in vividly colored saris. I saw the most amazing shades of orange, purple, green, and blue. Many women also had their hair adorned with beautiful fresh flowers. The flowers proved to be a little dangerous as I saw a monkey grab a flower out of a woman’s head because he wanted it as a snack. The caves really do prove to be an adventure of the senses with amazing colors and smells (both good and bad) and it also allows for a nice bit of exercise as you have to walk up 272 stairs to the entrance of the main cave.
I went into two caves: Temple Cave, which is free, and Ramayana Cave, which had only been open to the public for three years and has an entrance fee. Ramayana Cave is to the left when you first enter the site, towards the tall statue of Hanuman (the noble monkey devotee and aide of Lord Rama). This will bring you to the counter to purchase your ticket for entrance to the cave (5MR/$1.30). As you walk in you are greeted with a huge showcase of paintings and figures depicting the story of Rama. It’s like visiting a Hindu Disneyland, very colorful and fun to look at, but very fake. After making your way through Rama’s story, you come to a set of stairs that take you to the top of the cave where you can see some natural cave formations, stalactites, stalagmites and mineral deposits creating two formations that look a lot like the female and male sexual organs. From the top of the cave there is an area to look down onto the waterfall flowing through the cave, which is beautiful and lit up in many colors.
As a lover of nature, and a lover of natural caves, it’s a little upsetting to see that humans have altered this particular cave, but on the other hand, it still is beautiful. There are only three caves that are open to the public, one of which is a dark cave that you can only view through a scheduled tour. The rest of the caves thankfully are protected.
After making your way through Ramayana Cave you will walk past a few shrines, where you have to take off your shoes. My husband had his in his hands, but that was met with a warning that no shoes are allowed. Some people even took their shoes off to enter the caves.
Temple Cave is the cave that if you do any research you will see come up in all the photos. At the bottom of the steps leading to the cave, you will see a large golden statue of Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war and victory. This cave is reached by climbing 272 stairs, and trust me, you will be covered in sweat by the time you reach the top, so make sure to have loose fitting cloths, lots of water, and maybe even a fan. If you are a lady and have a pair of shorts, or a short skirt, you must rent a wrap-around skirt to cover your legs. This rule only applies to women; men can presumably walk up naked if they wanted. (Well, maybe not, but there were no clothing guidelines for men) Again, watch the monkeys in this area; they are ruthless.
There is another paid area, but most of that you can see without paying the entrance fee. And as I mentioned before there is a dark cave, home to a few species that are only found within this cave system, but are threatened or endangered. You can get a guided tour through this cave by visiting a local tourist agency.
You will find out soon after arriving that Batu Caves has lots of monkeys. This always makes me happy since they are so cute. Or at least that is how you feel at the beginning. Then you start to realize that you can’t eat any food around them, or even have a plastic bag in your hand, because they will snatch it right away from you. Even plastic sodas aren’t safe from the monkeys here. I watched as a monkey took off with an unopened Sprite and ran up a cliff a little ways. This was followed by the sight of soda spraying in the air. Apparently monkeys can open bottles. And I also watched a monkey snatch a floral decoration out of a woman’s hair that was walking the steps up to Temple Cave. So be very careful.
- Take the KTM Komuter train, which you can catch at KL Sentral or the Kuala Lumpur station. If you enjoy old buildings and neat architecture, I suggest starting at Kuala Lumpur Station. Buy a round-trip ticket at the ticket counter (5RM/$1.30 round-trip from Kuala Lumpur station) and head to the platform. The terminal station is Batu Caves. You could also take the monorail from KL Sentral to Titiwangsa station, and then grab a bus.
- Budget minded people: The main cave is free to walk up. You can choose to pay to see the other caves (5-10RM).
- Ladies make sure and bring a sarong or a pair of pants to cover your legs. It’s possible to rent a scarf/sarong at the bottom of the main cave.
- Bring lots of water, or have money to buy cold water or coconut water there. It is super hot, and staying hydrated is key to having an enjoyable time.
- And again, beware of the monkeys! Especially if you are going to eat or drink.
- Taking your time to view everything, having a drink and a rest, people watching, and taking lots of photos, budget yourself about two hours at the caves, and about an hour for transport. After spending the morning exploring Batu Caves, I understand why it is listed as one of the top attractions in Kuala Lumpur
Have you been to Batu Caves? What did you think? What was your favorite part?