Malaysia is made up of a mixed, diverse group of people. Being a former British colony, many Indians found their way to Kuala Lumpur bringing, among other things, Hinduism. Just outside of KL is one of the most famous Hindu sites in the world, Batu Caves. Easily accessible by commuter train, these limestone caverns make for a fun excursion.
The Temple Cave
The site consists of several temples and attractions. Many of which are by paid admission. The main cave is free of charge other than the exertion to climb the nearly 300 steps up. The entrance is an impressive image with the titanic statue of Lord Murugan standing guard. He is the largest statue of his kind in the world. Then again, I don’t know how many large statues of Lord Murugan have been erected in the world.
At the end of the 19th century, after Chinese immigrants had been harvesting guano for fertilizer for a few decades, an Indian merchant decided to dedicate a temple in the cave to Lord Murugan. Since then, more temples have been built in and around as well as many shrines.
The cave itself is a large limestone cavern with partially collapsed walls and ceiling, which opened the space to the outside. Being limestone, water is still seeping through the rock in some places pretty fast causing a bit of rain in some places. Since it is so open-air, there are not a lot of cave formations. Instead he floor has been paved and niches carved out for statues.
The Dark Cave
In the same hill, just around a curve is another cave. It isn’t as big and open as the main cave, but it is just as interesting if not more so. This is the Dark Cave. It is preserved in a natural state to teach about cave ecology and promote conservation.
Just before the temple cave was selected for a temple, naturalists were exploring and documenting the caves at this site. Since then, they’ve discovered some unique animals that are only found there including a variety of trapdoor spider. Other inhabitants include bats, both insectivorous and vegetarian, and other crawly critters.
They call it the Dark Cave because it is dark inside. Lights were never installed and guests only enter with a tour led by flashlight. There is a paved walkway that was installed a few decades ago, otherwise the cave is still in a very natural state.
I could hear the bats overhead and see them swoop around by some of the skylights. We walked by guano pits, saw spiders and funky looking, tiny millipedes. At the back of the cave, we were led to a big opening where plants had grown down into the cave. I’m glad I paid and waited for this tour. I thought it was more interesting than the temple cave.
The hill is also home to some monkeys. They climb up and down the steps hoping for some food. Even with signs all over saying not to feed the monkeys, people still bring snacks to share, mostly fruit. Monkeys are cute but also a little scary when up close and they are being defensive of their treat or territory.
In true KL fashion, just as I was leaving, a thunderstorm was rolling in. I hurried back to the train station and waited to return to the city.