Batu Caves, Malaysia

One of our first real “tourist excursions” in Kuala Lumpur was to Batu Caves. Like I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago, we had been urged to go visit in our first couple of weeks in country because an internationally known Hindu festival was taking place. We ended up deciding not to go during Thaipusam, and personal beliefs aside, we were glad we skipped the crowded festival because we couldn’t imagine visiting this place when there are a million (!) other visitors there with you. With a little extra space to breathe and explore though, it was a really fascinating introduction to Malaysian landscape and culture.

We arrived mid-morning and the sun was already blazing. We meandered in slowly, taking in the bright colors and clusters of people. Tourists and devotees alike were wandering around snapping selfies and checking out the stalls along the open square. Since we weren’t really interested in doing either, we headed straight for the stairs leading up to the caves.

The stairs are steep and so very high. One of our Malaysian friends, who is a photographer, said he once came to Thaipusam on an assignment and it took him hours to reach the top of the stairs due to the amount of people. I can’t even imagine creeping up these stairs, one step every few minutes, while trying not to faint in a crushing crowd of hot bodies. Especially with all the other excitement of Thaipusam attendees’ behavior. Once we heard our friends’ story, it put our short climb in perspective. Still, you want to come prepared, perhaps with an extra water bottle, sun block, and decent walking shoes.

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Once inside, we continued to follow the crowd. It was a much smaller space than what we’d imagined, but there was plenty to observe. The coolness of the stone walls and dark interior made it a welcome place to linger. There were lots of spots with miniature offerings, as well as a couple of larger temples. Hindu families coming for blessings lined up in front of each one.

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As we moved further into the caves, we climbed up onto a new level that was open at the top to the fresh air and sunshine. Here, there were a few larger temples where people were again gathered. One seemed to house a religious man doling out blessings, while another temple appeared to offer its blessing to any lucky person who could land a coin on top of the roof! (I’m sure someone with more knowledge could inform us what was really going on…)

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And then, there were the animals. Primarily monkeys, but also some chickens running around. We had been warned by many friends to watch out for the cheeky monkeys, so I kept my eyes out and my camera close. But it seems that on this less crowded morning, the primate species had not much else on their minds besides fighting each other for food. While some tourists brazenly tossed treats and tried to entice a closer encounter, we just enjoyed the show from the side. Still, with so many monkeys running around, we did get some good looks at them!

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Before we turned back to head out, we had a funny request to have a photo taken with us. I don’t know if the young South Asian couple mistook us for some celebrities, or if they just were enamored with our whiteness. (Based on our experience in Asia, we think the latter.) I am still kicking myself for not asking for a photo of us all together on my phone!! Either way, it’s a funny memory. And then after, we traded photo-taking with another couple, but unfortunately they weren’t so hot with the focusing. Still, here’s the one photo of us together (: My makeshift skirt was a requirement of the temple entrance. If you happen to be foolish (like me) and wear a short skirt or shorts, the ladies at the gate will let you rent a sarong for about one dollar.

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After we’d looked around a bit, we decided to head back out. There honestly wasn’t much to see once you’d done a small tour through the caves. We really enjoyed getting a look at this famous landmark, but we wouldn’t recommend it as a favorite Malaysian spot. Still, it’s a must-see as a tourist in KL!

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That backpack I’m wearing there ^^ ? It’s been on my back for the last six months, and it’s the most handy thing I have with me. It’s magically roomy, but looks and feels just as nice even when it’s not packed to the brim. After carrying a tote bag all through Europe this fall, I knew my achy back couldn’t handle the one-shoulder-at-a-time weight. My sister-in-law gifted me this Harper backpack for Christmas, and it’s served me well since then. Not only does my back thank me, but if I ever do need to carry it closer to my side (like in crowded places known for snatch thefts) the top handle fits perfectly over my shoulder again. You can check the bag out at the Better Life Bag website here or as always, all our favorite products are listed in our shop.

And then finally, we headed back down those dozens of stairs to the entrance. We passed another few monkeys, one brilliantly dumping out half-empty drink bottles to catch a bit of liquid, and another snacking on a tourist’s treat while holding it’s sweet baby.

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We grabbed lunch at one of our favorite kinds of Malaysian restaurants– banana leaf!!– at the far corner of the parking lot, then we headed back to KL in another Uber. Batu Caves was finally checked off the list and we could say we’d done at least one classically touristic thing in our new favorite city.

  • Diane Ringenberg

    Interesting! And you are lucky that the locals even let you be in the picture. Usually, they just want the blonde men. 🙂 I found these type of sites kind of depressing. Did you feel the same?

    • Haha yes I think the blondes do get more attention! But this young couple definitely wanted both of us for some reason… And as for icky feelings, I think we just approached it like a cultural site on this trip. Like I talked about in another post, I always have conflicting feelings when we visit religious sites, but this time we decided if we went on a normal day (vs a big religious holiday) then we would enjoy it more.

  • I got scared of the monkeys at first. Once Carlo and I started ascending the stairs, we did our own prayer walk–praying to Jesus, of course! 🙂

    • Yeah we heard so many horror stories about the monkeys! But we didn’t run into any problems thankfully! 🙂