I’ve spent my first three weeks in Thailand in the…
It was actually sunny when I left the hostel. Something I wasn’t used to from KL. I met Amy the Nomad at the last hostel and since we both wanted to go to the caves we decided to go together. We met at KL Sentral train station bright and early. Though when I say “bright and early” for a backpacker that means 9:30. We made our way up to the counter to purchase our tickets to Batu Caves Station. At RM2 each way it certainly beat the tour prices of RM80 I had seen online.
Finding the right platform was easy enough and we were soon on the train. I had goosebumps on the train. The air-conditioning was turned up so high that for the first time since arriving in KL I actually felt cold. I would come to be thankful for this later. It’s about an half an hour trip from KL Sentral to the caves. KL trains have this really cool LED train line map that lights up to tell you which stop is next. I’d like to see that implemented back home. There wasn’t much scenery to look at on the way. The Batu Caves aren’t far out of the city so the area around them is still quite built up.
Leaving the train felt like stepping into a steam room. The heat and humidity were so intense after the icy train. We made our way out of the station to the entrance of the caves. We weren’t quite sure where to go so we followed a few people around to the left. There was a small shrine with a massive green statue atop it. We could see a cave entrance behind the shrine so we headed that way.
We kept walking.
A man at a fold out table was motioning us over. At this point we were pretty confused. The Internet said the caves were meant to be free. We paid the guy anyway and got a little ticket that said “Donation”. A little miffed and wondering if we had just been scammed we headed inside. There were lots of religious figurines lining the cave walls. Some of them were creepier than others.
We climbed to the top of the cave up some scarily steep steps and again we were confused. This didn’t seem like the place we had read about. There were some cool rock formations and a waterfall inside but it didn’t seem like we were in the right place.
So we left and explored a little more. After taking some time to photograph another shrine, and getting told off for not leaving our shoes at the bottom of the steps, we managed to find the actual entrance to the caves. There is a massive gold statue of Murugan, the Hindu god of war, at the base of the steps. It stands almost 43 meters in height. The sight of the steps was daunting to say the least. I already knew that there were 272 steps that we needed to climb to get to the cave but seeing it in person puts it into perspective. It’s a lot of stairs.
We came to the base of the stairs to find a sign that said shorts and mini skirts are not allowed. That was fine for me in my jeans but Amy was wearing shorts. Luckily they rent out scarves to wear as a wrap around at the base of the caves or I might have been making the climb alone. Once the lovely scarf ladies had her wrapped up it was time to make the climb. I decided that I needed to get fit by the twentieth step. Only two hundred and fifty two more to go… We stopped often to take photos but I was still exhausted and sweating buckets by the time I reached the top.
I had read online that we had to watch out for the monkeys. So I was expecting to see them everywhere. But we didn’t see any on the long climb up. I was very disappointed because the monkeys were one of the biggest draws for me. As it turns out they don’t hang out on the stairs but actually inside the top cave that opens to the sky above.
We watched as locals and tourists gave them bananas or half coconuts. Sometimes the macaques just snatched the little bags of food away from people. I’ll admit some apprehension whenever a monkey would run past me. Sometimes close enough to touch. But they were my favourite thing about the caves. When the bell sounded from the Hindu ceremony happening nearby they all disappeared back up the side of the cavern. I can’t blame them; it was a very loud bell. It felt a bit intrusive visiting while a religious ceremony was in practice but the people involved paid us no heed.
The climb back down was just as hard work as going up. The stairs are really steep and narrow so it’s easy to feel like you’re going to fall. We took frequent stops for photos and just to rest. I don’t think I have ever felt so hot and sticky in my life. At least it didn’t rain on us while we were there.
There were a few stalls around the base of the caves. I spotted one selling fresh drinking coconuts and promptly bought one. I needed to rehydrate badly after that climb. They even had the coconuts refrigerated. But at this point what we were really looking forward to was the icy cold train. I didn’t get goosebumps this time.