Malaysia is a country that has many large caves, due to the limestone nature of the hills and mountains in the country’s interior.
The fact is, that if you are in KL then the caves are ridiculously easy to visit as a metropolitan railway line terminates there, right at the entrance to the cave complex. Cost from the main station, KL Sentral is just one Ringgit, or about 30 cents, on a comfortable train (warning to men – the train has two “Ladies Only” carriages, which I discovered I was in as I was alighting from the train at Batu Caves Station).
If you go expecting pristine natural beauty, then you will be disappointed as the caves also serve as a Hindu holy site, and so have been adorned with many gaudy statues and temples. These accoutrements don’t interfere with the spectacular nature of the caves, and, in fact make them more accessible.
The entrance to the caves is guarded by a very tall, golden statue, that is the tallest of its type in the world. I am not an expert on Hindu culture, so can’t shed any authoritative information about what type of statue it is, but it does resemble a handsome God-figure, and it has an enormously long protuberance from its back, which I’m sure has much significance that was lost on me.
Even if the statue was not in situ the entrance to the caves would not remain a secret as a set of very steep, painted stairs leads you up to the main cave. Apparently, there are 272 stairs from the base to the main cave. I did climb them but didn’t count them, although I have to say that the stairs are not as daunting as the look from the base. Besides, on the way up, you will want to stop occasionally to admire the view which, on a clear day would be spectacular.
Sadly, KL seems to have few clear days, so magnificent views to the city centre may be rare, but even with the pollution, the views are good, and they do aid in giving you a sense of achievement as you continue to ascend.
When you do reach the top of the stairs, the cave reveals itself, and it is awesome. It is massive, in height, length and breadth. It is difficult to gauge the cave’s true size, but people look like like ants as they wander through the cave.
Naturally, there is a shop at the top, but also several temples within the cave, each with its own significance to believers.
Beyond the cave is another area which contains a temple, and several dozen monkeys who seem to hassle visitors for morsels of food. There antics can be quite entertaining, but many visitors forget that they are wild animals, and I saw several people had their purchased monkey feed bags grabbed by the little simians, and devoured in one foul swoop.
Opposite the caves are several Indian vegetarian restaurants, which are both cheap and good.
Beware of a pair of elderly scam artists, whom I presume to be a man and his wife, who try to scam you with beads and trinkets. They tell you they are not for sale, then forcibly present them to,you, and demand money. As I didn’t want their trinkets they didn’t get my money.
Entrance to the caves is free. Many people book organized tours to the caves, but it is just as easy, and somewhat cheaper to do it all yourself using public transport.