I wasn’t sure what to expect at the Batu Caves. What I did know is that it was one of the most popular Hindu Shrines outside of India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the location where Thaipusam is celebrated in late January or early February, depending on the Thai moon. This is a celebration Philipp and I experienced first in George Town, Penang.
The first thing you notice when you arrive at the caves is the iconic statue of Lord Murugan. This majestic gold statue stands 42.7 meters high. It is the tallest statue in the world of Lord Murugan.
The Batu Caves complex has three main caves the Cathedral Cave, also known as the Temple Cave, the Dark Cave, and the Art Gallery Cave. This complex contains a more few smaller caves that we did not explore.
The largest cave is the Cathedral Cave, with a ceiling of 100-meters high featuring ornate Hindu shrines. Bring some good shoes; the biggest challenge of getting to this cave is walking up the 272 steps. Within the main cave is another two sets of stairways with about 25 steps each one leading down to the floor of the main cave. The other leads to the upper cave where you will find the Valli Devanai Temple. The beautiful thing about this cave is it is free to visit.
Wear comfortable shoes to climb the steep stairs. Many people suggest bringing snacks and water, but I am glad we did not. The 272 steps are patrolled by an army of macaque monkeys looking for snacks. My first advice is don’t carry snacks in your hand; you will be a target for the monkeys. Note, when a monkey bares his teeth, it means they are in an aggressive attack mode (it is not a smile), so stay away. I even noticed they harras people with plastic bags; so make sure you do not carry a plastic bag in your hands. A monkey was playing tug of war with someone’s backpack; eventually, the monkey bit his arm, he dropped his bag and away went his bag. A bite can be serious, so do not ruin your trip by bringing snacks or water bottles. Yes, they love bottled water too. Be aware of the monkeys lining up along the railings waiting for their target. By the way, there are no bathrooms at the top
The good news is that at the top, you will find a few snacks stands where you can purchase water. Make sure you drink it and throw away the bottle before you start your journey down the 272 steps. Visit the restroom before you start your journey up the stairs; toilets are only available at the foot of the Batu Caves!
We did not go to the Dark Cave since you can only enter with a guided tour. The reason for this is that they are untouched caverns with the cave running two kilometers long. The beautiful cave features stalactites hanging from the cave’s ceiling and stalagmites rising from the floor, cave pearls, and scallops, which took thousands of years to form.
The last large caves are the Art Gallery and Museum Caves. These caves do have an entry fee of RM 15, which is about $4.00 US dollars with today’s rates. The cave has paintings depicting scenes of Hindu traditions and statues of Hindi deities. You can walk on a small bridge to see a lake filled with colorful koi fish and tortoises.
I can’t say the condition of this complex was in tip-top shape. It was not as beautiful as the advertisement depicted it. There is a lot of trash everywhere, and the paint could use some freshening up, but it is worth the trek to see tradition and history.