If you ever go to India, you’ll almost certainly find yourself wandering around a cave at some point. I certainly did when I went to India, spending a day a piece exploring the (actually rather impressive) Buddhist and Hindu caves at Ajanta and Ellora, among a range of more forgettable others.
So it came as no surprise to discover that Kuala Lumpur’s sizable local Hindi population wasted no time finding some caves to turn into temples. The Batu Caves are eminently easy to get to on the quick, cheap and convenient metro network. Thus we ventured out to see what they were all about.
There are currently two separate cave sections. The most famous is further away from the train station, guarded by a 140 foot golden statue of Hindu god Lord Murugan. But its also worth having a mooch around the complex of caves you find immediately to your left as you leave the station. They were opened less than a year ago, or at least the plaque outside says so. Guarded by a rather large statue of Lord Hanuman (I think it was him anyway – Hanuman is the monkey god, and this feller was definitely a monkey), inside you’ll find a remarkable (and slightly tacky) range of colorful painted statues depicting various scenes from Hindi writings. Not to say it isn’t very impressive, because it is. But as ever, you leave with the sense that a little careful restoration would have been a better option, as opposed to the slightly gawdy technicolour light show they’ve chosen instead.
The Batu Caves themselves are reached after a climb of 270 steps, made perilous not by the steps themselves, but rather by the monkeys which roam up and down them stealing whatever they can from passers by. As much as I am a firm believer in both non-violent solutions to problems and not being cruel to animals, I’d have happily clubbed any of these creatures had I thus been armed. If you have any food or drink, stash it in a bag before you start climbing the steps.
The reward for running the monkey gauntlet is a large complex of caves housing a temple and some delightful souvenir shops. The caves climax in a stalactite the touching of which it is said will bring you good luck. Gamely we touched, and we’ve enjoyed remarkably good luck ever since, including immediately afterwards when we descended the steps unhindered by ape.
The Batu Caves are thus probably worth a visit if you’re in Kuala Lumpur. It’ll take a half day of your time, more if you loiter as did we, spending time eating some of the tasty local food, and in my girlfriend’s case, getting a henna tattoo done. There is also what seems to be a mini-zoo, which turned out to be little more than a small collection of snakes. Don’t bother with this bit, I’d say. Not worth the admission fee.
I read someone online having a moan saying the caves were full of litter and trash, and yes I would agree with that. They should look into charging a minimal admission fee and hiring people to keep the place clean.
But if you’re looking for an interesting afternoon diversion in KL which doesn’t involve Louis Vuitton, this is most definitely an option worth considering.