Mar 6, 2012

Batu Caves

Find Awe and Wonder At The Batu Caves

A short 13 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur lies the Batu Caves, a popular tourist attraction for all types, and a famous pilgrimage site for Hindus from India, Australia, Singapore and many other Southeast Asian countries. In January or Friday of every year, the Hindu festival Thaipusam draws over one million Hindu followers, and thousands of tourists to these 400 million-year-old limestone caves. Here are a few tips for making the best of your Batu Caves experience.

Keep It Cheap, Take KTM Komuter

Avoid a taxi and take KTM Komuter from KL Sentral directly to the Batu Caves. The ride lasts about 30 minutes. A one-way ticket costs RM1, and with free admission into the caves, this makes for a great half-day value. Bring a bottle of water along, and be prepared for walking. There are 272 stairs to climb to reach the entrance to the caves, and with no shade from the hot sun, and a little harassment from some greedy monkeys, this can be a physical and mental challenge. The stairs are small, and many visitors find that the steep walk down the stairs is often a greater mental struggle than the walk up the stairs. If the walk up is daunting to you, don’t make the trek. Statues, rock climbing (160+ routes!), vendors, street performers, and Indian restaurants with cheap and enormous portions await you at the base of the caves. Of course, we would not recommend visiting Batu Caves, and not, you know, seeing the caves…

What Will I See In Batu Caves?

The Batu Caves is a series of three main caves, and several smaller caves. The Temple Cave is the main cave open to tourists and devotees. The nearly one-hundred-meter ceiling in Temple cave gives the cavern a church-like feel, hence its nickname “Cathedral Cave”. The Dark Cave lies below the Temple Cave, and contains almost two kilometers of nearly untouched caverns. Access to the Dark Cave is restricted to the general public. With a guided tour at the Dark Caves  you’ll find stalactites reaching their arms downwards from the cave ceiling towards the stalagmites on the floor of the limestone caves – a truly otherworldly sight.

Better Not Feed the Monkeys…

Macaques, a monkey species with a complex understanding of social structure and hierarchy rule the roost at the Batu Caves. The steps up to the caves are “maintained” by the monkeys, and are quite filthy with trash, debris and excrement. The Macaques will try to take anything from you that they think is food – despite what others are doing, don’t feed them, and do not tempt them with plastic bags or open purses. You may put yourself at risk of being harassed and potentially attacked if you choose to do so. While many visitors find great joy and entertainment in the monkeys, they have been known to attack children and steal purses.

Religious Significance…and Tourist Destination

The fact is, the Batu Caves is a place of religious pilgrimage, and a culturally significant attraction in Kuala Lumpur… but it’s also a tourist attraction, and with that comes vendors, restaurants, and crowds. The areas has been commodified, and many people find that the souvenir shops at the entrance to the caves can cheapen the effect of this natural wonder. While you will find beauty, and hopefully a feeling of peace and serenity within the caves, at the base of the caves, and at the cave entrance you will find many unnecessary opportunities to spend your money. Remember that the journey is free, the sights are magnificent, and the monkeys are not to be tempted, and you should come away with a valuable experience.

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