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Batu Caves

posted at 5:55 pm
on Sep. 18, 2005

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Today, Susie and I went early to the Batu caves.  They’re just outside of KL, to the north, still well within the urban sprawl.  In the side of tall limestone cliffs, there are several caves, though we visited just the main one.  It was adapted long ago to be a Hindu Temple, and is called Temple or Cathedral Cave.  At the base of the cliff is a HUGE statue of Lord Muruga, standing about 130 feet tall (but currently, like all of KL, under construction).

Of course, it seems even taller once you’ve climbed 272 really steep steps to get to the mouth of the caves, and you’re now looking down at the statue.  On your way up the steps, there are small monkeys that run up and down the railings, begging for bread and bananas that you may have bought from the vendors clustered at the base.

We rented an audio tour from a Kafka-esque rental stand at the base of the stairs.  Basically, you have to buy a ticket for the audio tour from a small hut at the bottom, take the ticket up the steps and present it at the top in order to get the earpiece to listen to.  If you ask at the highly visible audio tour stand at the top, you’re told you needed to buy a ticket at the base. D’oh!

Inside the caves, there was a half Hindu, half non-Hindu crowd, in my estimation.  Many of the Hindus had babies with them, which I’m told they brought along in order to give thanks after difficult conceptions.  The cave is about 50 feet wide and 100 to 150 feet tall, a gash in the mountain with more steps leading up past inner shrines to a small temple in the innermost courtyard.

The big annual ceremony at the Temple Cave is Thaipusam, which I won’t go into detail about, because every guidebook does. Basically, an enormous crowd shows up to the cave, and some of that crowd has pierced tongues, cheeks and flesh hooks, which really makes this a memorable ceremony I suppose.

Climbing 272 stairs, even crazy steep ones, isn’t that hard, but in the heat and the humidity, it took a lot out of Susie and me.  Our legs were shaking at the top, and even more at the bottom, and we weren’t up for much else today.  We went to a museum and back to the hotel (more on that later).



Previous entry:
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