Located on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur are the ancient Batu Caves. I couldn’t help but be taken aback as these limestone giants appear out of nowhere – in stark contrast to the city I’d just left behind. The cave system is enormous but it’s the main one, along with its statue of Murugan (a Hindu deity) that really draws the crowds.
This is the largest statue of Murugan, god of war in the world. It sits so perfectly within its hilly surrounds that you’d be forgiven for thinking it has been there forever. On the contrary it is relatively new, having only been unveiled in 2006.
I teamed up with a small group I’d met at my hostel and we shared an Uber to the caves. Being the wet season in Malaysia I was expecting some rain and we sure got it, it poured for the entire morning.. It didn’t make the experience any less beautiful, although it did make us hurry up the stairs we could get into the cave a little sooner. But of course I had to stop and take pictures of the monkeys along the way.
When you get into the caves, you are greeted with one of the most beautiful Hindu sites. Shrines, paintings and sculptures decorate the walls of the cave, with many illuminated by sunshine peering through the small holes in the cave ceiling.
It would be easy to spend an entire day just admiring the shrines for their vibrancy and craftsmanship but we pushed on.
Halfway back down is a small path that leads to the Dark Cave. Aptly named, this cave has little to no sunlight.
The only way to visit this second cave is to go with a tour. You can book on arrival and the tour was really well organised. The first cave we went to was mainly inhabited by monkeys (hanging around the gullible tourists that will feed them) but the dark cave is home to mostly spiders, bats and enormous centipedes. I’m not a massive fan of any of those creatures but somehow I pushed through my arachnophobia and chiroptophobia (fear of bats – yes I did have to look it up) to go on the tour.
Proceeds from the tour go toward caring for the cave because sadly it is not heritage listed and is, in some ways a threatened site. Our tour guide explained that the mining industry wants to mine it for marble, while wild dogs and rats threaten the native ecosystem.
By the time we finished the tour it had stopped raining and it suddenly felt a whole lot hotter. The others headed back to the hostel but I stuck around a bit longer to explore the area.
I ended up at another, much smaller but no less beautiful cave called the Ramayana Cave. Another Hindu cave, this one is dedicated to the deity, Rama and tells of his life through many groups of statues.
It was the perfect start to my Malaysian travels. As they’re only a short distance from the city, the Batu Caves are a place not to be missed while in KL.
What you need to know:
How to get to the Batu Caves
I caught an Uber which was about 11RM each way ($3.30 AUD, 2,20€, £2, $2.60 USD) It was approximately a 30 minute drive from Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur
The closest train station is the Batu Caves station which puts you within about 10 minutes walk of the main entrance.
How much does it cost?
Entry to the Batu Caves is free
A tour of the Dark Cave is 35RM per person ($10.40 AUD, 6,90€, £6.30, $8.20 USD)
Entry to the Ramayana Cave is 5 RM per person ($1.50 AUD, 1€, £0.90, $1.20 USD)
What do I need to wear?
As it is a religious site there are regulations on women’s attire which you may or may not agree with, but either way it’s important to be respectful. Women must not wear shorts or short skirts (men may wear whatever they like). If you forget to adhere to the dress code however, you can rent a long skirt for 5 RM ($1.50 AUD, 1€, £0.90, $1.20 USD)
How long do I need?
Allow 40 minutes in travel each way from Kuala Lumpur, the rest is up to you. You probably need at least 30 minutes in the main cave and if you opt for the tour of the Dark Cave, bear in mind that it takes 45 minutes.