Batu Caves, Malaysia
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Despite being built just over 10 years ago, the entrance to the Batu Caves with the large statue of the Hindu God, Murugan, has become one of the most famous images of Malaysia. Stories of the caves' history, and a desire to see the statue in person led me to taking the very short journey north from Kuala Lumpur to the site of the Batu Caves. This article covers my thoughts from the caves as well as sharing how to get from Kuala Lumpur to the Batu Caves.
How to get from Kuala Lumpur City to Batu Caves
The Batu Caves are a short distance north of Kuala Lumpur and a return trip can be done in half a day - in fact I was back in my hotel in the city 4 hours after I left.
As I mentioned in my article on KL (which you can read here), the city has fantastic transport connections, and the monorail was a method that I used quite frequently. Ticket prices depend on the length of the journey but I never paid more than the equivalent of 50p. The monorail serves all of the major areas of the city, runs frequently and although a little cramped at times, was very safe.
The monorail took me directly to KL Sentral, the main train station serving the city. As with large train stations in most cities, KL Sentral is located within a huge shopping centre - so large that I ended up getting slightly lost walking from the monorail station to the train station proper, despite following the signs. That's probably more a commentary on me than the signs, they were fine.
I followed the sign to the KTM Komuter ticket office, a route serving local stations around the city. On arriving, I was told I would need to take a free shuttle bus from KL Sentral to KTM Sentul. It was just a short couple of minutes walk down a escalator and onto the street outside where there were a number of buses waiting. The buses were modern, the journey free and it took about 20 minutes - surprisingly, this was the longest part of the journey. The buses seem to run quite regularly, I only found myself waiting 6-7 minutes.
KTM Sentul is a small station that is a base for some of the local stops going north to the Batu Caves. There was a small ticket office selling return tickets to Batu Caves for just 4RM, (roughly 75p) a ridiculously cheap journey.
Now this was the only slightly annoying part of the journey. The train leaves every 20 minutes, I arrived with about 18 minutes to go. Once the train got going, it took about 10-12 minutes and the journey was comfortable and easy, not too dissimilar to local London Midland trains in England.
The return journey was quicker because I could time leaving the Batu Caves with the train departure from the station, meaning I was able to get back to the city in about 45 minutes. The whole journey (including the monorail from my hotel, and time exploring the caves) cost less than £2 and took around 4 hours.
The walk from the train station to the cave entrance takes less than a minute but you have to walk through a corridor of vendors selling drinks, snacks and souvenirs. The good thing is, unlike some of the markets in KL, this was a lot more chill, with no one forcing things into your face to look at.
The most famous image of the Batu Caves is the 140ft tall golden statue of the Hindu deity, Murugan. The son of the Gods, Shiva and Parvati, Murugan is a particularly popular deity with south Indians and Sri Lankans and is well represented in the south Indian diaspora in both Malaysia and Singapore.
Although the cave as a site of worship for Hindus dates back to the 1890s, the famous statue of Murugan was built as recently as 2006. As with a lot of landmarks in this country, the statue lived up to the hype, and the sheer scale of it is breathtaking. The statue is large, and stands guarding the steps to the main Temple Cave.
There are 272 steps steps from the base of the cave to the entrance, and it's a pretty steep climb, although not too difficult. As with most temples in this area, you cannot wear sleeveless tops, nor can you wear shorts above knee length. The steps run next to a small patch of greenery which has a colony of monkeys, The monkeys also run across the steps, or sit on the handrails waiting for passers by to give them food. It makes for a nice visual, and breaks up the climb a little bit.
I was about three quarters of the way up when it started raining heavily, I took a deep breath, ignored the slightly sore quads and ran up the stairs, managing to avoid most of the downpour. The cave is large, the near 400 million year old limestone structure has a very high ceiling and inside there are a number of small shrines. On the far side there is a small opening letting in light covered in greenery and it does look spectacular.
I waited inside the cave for the rain to subside, before walking out the far side to take a closer look at the main temple of Murugan. The temple is small, but intricately decorated and looks amazing. A few worshippers were meditating inside so I spent a few minutes walking the perimeter.
The Temple Cave might be the largest and most well known cave, but about half way down is the entrance to the Dark Cave, an ecological site. At this point I was dripping with sweat, the rain mixed with the heat had created an unbearably humid atmosphere and it wasn't nice at all. I took a walk into the cave, but a 45 minute tour of a dark, even hotter cave covered in spiders and bats was the last thing that I wanted to do at that point so I returned to the base of the stairs.
There are a couple of other caves, but I decided to head to the Ramayana Cave, directly next to the entrance of the train station. To enter the Ramayana Cave you have to pay a small fee, and at the foot of the entrance is a 50ft statue of Hanuman.
The inside of the cave tells the epic of Ramayana and it's done very well. The narrative is illustrated by a number of statues that walk you around the inside of the cave. It was fun for a while, but I saw some steps and decided to climb. I had no idea what would be at the top of the stairs but they seemed to reach almost the ceiling of the cave so I set off in some excitement. As I climbed higher I went past a nest of pigeons, I looked down, I had climbed a fair bit.
I got to the top, not sure what to expect, and... it was a dead end! Yep, anti climax. The view looking down at the lights illustrating the statues was quite good, but I began the walk down the narrow staircase after a couple of minutes. I reached the bottom and a Sikh family who told me they were from Mumbai asked me what was at the stop. I had to give an embarrassing "nothing, just a dead end" reply.
From there it was just a minute walk through the vendors back to the train station, with the train waiting to leave. A visit to the site is definitely time well spent, and when you consider how cheap the journey is, and the fact you can do it in half a day, I would strongly recommend a trip to the Batu Caves if you visit Kuala Lumpur, and the cost and ease of transport means that you should make the trip on public transport and not a private tour.
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British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.