Our morning destination was the Batu Caves, a 13
kilometre drive out of Kuala Lumpur. First discovered in
1892, the caves have become an important place for people
of the Hindu religion, but also fascinate other visitors from
throughout the world. A daunting 272 steps lead up to
these large, natural, underground chambers. Thinking I
would find the climb too tiring, I planned only to walk part-way up and admire the view while waiting for my friends to
return. However, a band of playful, long-tailed macaques
lured me on. Not quite tame, they shared the stairs with
the humans who used the red and white, numbered steps to access the
caves at the top. They sat on the steps or the handrail
posts or in the shrubbery growing on the surrounding rock
walls, allowing people to come quite close before
scampering quickly out of reach.
Diverted, I stopped frequently to watch their mischievous
antics or snap pictures. It gave me a chance to catch my
breath at the same time. One monkey remained sitting on a
post while I crept quite close, with camera ready. As I got
within a few feet of him, he gave me an aggressive snarl at
the moment I snapped the picture. On film it looks like a
big grin. (The picture is risque but one of my favorites.)
Soon, I was surprised to see the colourful, carved statues
over the entrance to the cave, looming ahead. I had
actually climbed all the way up to the caves!
Stepping into a dark cavern, my friends and I pressed
onward as my eyes adjusted to the gloomy interior. The
short, murky passageway opened into a massive cave
with a high vaulted ceiling. To my left, just inside the
cave, I noticed a niche with a carved Hindu deity set into a small, ornate altar. Walking through the huge rock-walled cavern, (approximately 400 metres long and 120
metres high) more colourful figures from Hindu
mythology came into view set into other niches.
At the far end of the huge cave sits another set of stairs. This wide stairway leads to a higher cave, appearing like a stage at the front of an enormous amphitheater. Above the stairway a large opening in the vaulted ceiling allows shafts of sunlight to cascade onto the dark recesses of the caves below. Reaching the top of the stairs, we discovered a small, Hindu temple festooned with colourful, carved deities. Two young monks could be seen in the Temple, wearing only long sarongs wrapped around their waists.
Not only is the upper cave home to the Hindu Temple, but the band of monkeys seem to make this home too. More of the resident monkeys were scampering around the rock ledge surrounding this platform.
One mother macaque was carrying her still-wet newborn,
who clung to her furry underbelly. The tiny tot looked out
at the world with large, round, unblinking eyes. While the
mother used her arms, legs and tail to run and jump around
the rocks, the baby instinctively hung on tight.
Returning through the large cave, I stopped to take
pictures of the vaulted ceiling with the shimmering
shafts of sunlight illuminating the stalactites that hang from
the ceiling and walls. The silvery light resembled a filmy ,white, bridal veil cascading down
into the cavern below. Approaching the exit I found a small
booth in the gloom, which had gone unnoticed before. I
couldn't resist a small carved bone and bead necklace
amongst the souvenirs and crafts displayed outside the
booth. The attendant placed it in a plastic bag for me.
Emerging at the top of the 272 steps, we were glad we
were walking down, not climbing up the stairs again. We
chatted with other visitors to the caves as we began
descending the steps. Suddenly, one quick little gray monkey jumped out from the rocks and darted directly for
me. Before I realized what was happening he jumped up
and tugged at the plastic bag I was carrying. He would
have taken it if I had not had a good grip on it. I yanked
the bag back and loudly informed him, "Oh no you don't!"
He quickly darted back to where he came from, without his
On the stairway coming back down, we stopped to talk to
a Hindu couple with their young baby. The baby's head
had been shaved, then covered with a yellow paste. The
parents explain this was part of a purification ritual, after
which the baby was brought to the temple to be blessed by
It was late morning before we reached the base again. At
the bottom of the steps my eye was caught by an
assortment of colourful beads exhibited on a mat by
another vendor. I lingered for a few moments then hurried
across to examine another Hindu temple situated close by.
I was thankful that we had climbed up to the caves before
the late morning sun brought on the heat of the day.
Newly-made friends suggested we try the milk of a green
cocoanut to quench our thirst. The vendor used a machete
to cut the hard shell at the top and two straws were pushed down through the soft, white meat.
Believe me it was a wonderfully refreshing drink, restoring our energies after a fascinating
Story and pictures by M. Maxine George
For further information about Malaysia contact:
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Last Updated on October 11, 2008 by M. Maxine George editor.
© 2003 Magic Carpet Journals. All rights reserved