Kuala Lumpur: Finding Peace in the Batu Caves

Good news! I picked up my laptop on Friday! It turns on and everything!

Bad news… They wiped my entire hard drive. Which would be fine except my external hard drive has chosen this exact moment to go haywire and not open on my laptop. Um. Awesome. I am praying that it works later and I can get back my precious photography. Oh um and my work documents…. But really I just want my pictures. NOW. I also lost Photoshop (sad face) and my Mac version of Microsoft Office software. Crap. Why can’t I be more computer savvy?

I’ll keep you updated… till then enjoy the Batu Caves!

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When we decided to take a quick weekend trip to Kuala Lumpur, the Batu Caves were definitely on our must-do list. They were actually the ONLY things on our must-do list. Shows you how much we know about Kuala Lumpur (hint: we know nothing).

On Saturday morning we woke up, enjoyed a wonderful buffet breakfast at the hotel, and immediately called a taxi to take us to the outskirts of the city. At this point we had no idea that we could actually take the train all the way to the Batu Caves. See? Public transportation is awesome! So instead we took a 30 minute taxi ride that ended up costing us about 40 MYR. Not too bad but way more expensive than the 4 MYR train ride. Next time…

When we arrived at 11am it was ridiculously hot and humid. Both the sun and the crowds were out in full force. However, this was of little consequence as we approached the imposing mountain and staircase under the watchful eye of the enormous gold guardian.
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The steep staircase shot straight up along the rock wall and was intimidating to say the least. However, our determination to escape the hot sun gave us the energy to ascend as quickly as possible. The weekend crush of tourists and worshippers slowed us down considerably, giving us time to keep our eye the monkeys as they clamored along the side gates, fearlessly stalking people for their next meal of discarded food. Now that I live in South East Asia I so am not a fan of monkeys. They are very aggressive!

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272 steps later… we made it to the top! Whew! At the top of the staircase the ground leveled out and a created a path into the dark mouth of the cave. Behind us lay the sprawling city of Kuala Lumpur shrouded in a layer of pollution and humidity. As we entered the cave the temperature dropped ever so slightly while the humid air blanketed us in a warm, wet cocoon. Sweat began to bead on my forehead, scalp, upper lip, and lower back, a feeling I am very familiar with in Malaysia.

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We walked through the damp cavern and emerged on the other side where sunlight streamed down from a round hole overcome with jungle vegetation. In this section of the caves, known as the Temple or Cathedral Cave, stood a temple dwarfed by enormous stone walls and full of worshippers lighting candles in their bare feet.

I am always interested in the worshipping rituals of other religions and try to relate them back to the practices of my own faith. Although we may believe in one God or many gods, we believe in honoring this higher power(s) through our actions and worship. I find comfort in these symbols of faith across the world.

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With not much else to see, we walked back to the steep staircase and noticed another path leading into a smaller cave opening. Upon entering we found a small desk offering educational tours of the Dark Cave, an important conservation site consisting of 2km long surveyed passages with 7 major sections.

Sign us up!

For RM35 a person, we joined a group of about 15 people and suited up with yellow hard hats and small flashlights. Our tour guide was a very knowledgable young Malaysian man who led us down a stone path deep into the cave, stopping us occasionally to explain the amazing biodiversity around us.

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First we noticed the fruit bats flying overhead and under a small waterfall, which is the only way they can drink! Our guide explained that the cave ecosystem revolves around guano, or bat poop, which is a highly effective fertilizer and food source for insects and other animals. He then proceeded to discuss in detail these insects (supposedly all around us) as well as snakes and the rarest spider in the world, only found in the Dark Caves.

And let me tell you, the Dark Cave was dark! Most of the time we needed our mini flashlights just to see the path below our feet. In the darkest section of the Caves, our guide instructed us to stop and turn off all lights. Instantly, we were plunged into absolute darkness. It became quiet as I listened to the quiet hum of thousands of living organisms surrounding us and I opened my eyes wide to the inky blackness, trying to see what was invisible. I found the darkness incredibly calming and peaceful… until I brushed up against a guy’s backpack and jumped out my skin. I thought it was a bug claiming me as part of the cave.

Emerging from the darkness, we continued to follow the path which became more and more visible. Soon the cave opened up to reveal the Great Chamber and what looked like the light of God. 

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A small opening in the top of the cave let in a thick beam of light that illuminated the ground below. A steady trickle of water flowed down from above, piercing the column of white light. It was absolutely stunning to behold. I could begin to understand how Captain Syers and William Hornaday must have felt when they discovered this marvel in 1878. I could also understand why the Hindus so easily chose these caves as a location for worship. It is impossible not to believe in something when you see this light shining so strongly from above.

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We soaked up as much of the light as we could and reluctantly turned around to descend back down the path. Even after 45 minutes I was not ready to leave the quiet comfort of the darkness. The feeling of peace and serenity within the caves was similar to the feeling I had while scuba diving. I love the feeling of being removed from the outside world and thrust into nature’s hands. It is freeing to have little control over your environment but complete control of your senses. Maybe spelunking is in my future? (Kidding, sort of).

Once we thanked our amazing guide, we wandered back out into the real world of heat, humidity, and people… lots of people. I think this is why the Dark Caves and scuba diving appeal to me so much. They are a brief reprieve from the insanity of life in South East Asia.

After spending a good 2 hours at the Batu Caves, we made our way back down the 272 steps and tried to avoid the enormous monkeys bearing down on us from all sides. Thankfully we had no food on us or we might have been jumped!

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Once we reached the bottom we quickly found the nearest convenience store and grabbed some waters and some ice cream. Both are totally necessary for beating the heat in Malaysia. I probably eat ice cream here 3x a week (I say it is the heat but really I just love ice cream).We hopped into a cab and rode back to our hotel to rest up (and rinse off the sweat and grime) before our next adventure!

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If you are visiting Kuala Lumpur, the Batu Caves are a must. Make sure to sign up for a tour of the Dark Caves and prepare to be amazed. 


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