Whether on a religious pilgrimage to appease the gods, or out of simple curiosity, a visit to Malaysia’s Batu Caves offers up one of travel’s most otherworldly experiences.
Ornate Hindu shrines and colorful statues and paintings are found throughout the caves – all accessed by a steep grade of 272 steps.
Fronting the site is an impossibly tall, gold statue of the Hindu god Murugan. At 140-feet, it’s the second tallest statue, in fact, of a Hindu deity in the world. The various shrines and statues depict the tale of Murugan’s triumph over Soorapadam, an especially tricky demon.
The Batu Caves complex dates to 400 million years and is formed from three main chambers along with several branch formations.
Gruesome body piercings occur on Thaipusam
Several festivals are held at Batu Caves, the most infamous of which is Thaipusam, in which seemingly gruesome skin and body piercings are performed, often in the mouth, tongue and cheek. The cleansing ritual takes place in January or February, and is witnessed by a million visitors at Batu Caves during the festival day. Book accommodations early.
Nearby the caves is a stately blue statue of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman – fitting as macaque monkeys scamper throughout the temple grounds. Shield your backpack and wallet from their especially skilled fingers.
The caves also laced with more than 160 rock climbing routes, which were created beginning in 2002. The Batu Caves administration group is reportedly considering building a cable car from the base of the caves to the top.
Getting there: Batu Caves are located about nine miles north of Kuala Lumpur. The KTM Komuter’s Batu Caves-Port Klang Route is a fast and cheap way to travel to the caves. Cost: 65 cents. Admission to the temple is free.
Malaysia Airlines offers direct flights from LAX to Kuala Lumpur. Also, consider visiting Malaysia as part of a multi-country stop. Flights into Kuala Lumpur are fairly inexpensive from the nearby countries of Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.
Getting into Kuala Lumpur from the international airport is easy with the high-speed rail, KLIA Ekspres. The trip to central Kuala Lumpur takes 28 minutes with trains leaving every 15 to 20 minutes. Tickets are about $12.
Kula Lumpur’s hop on and hop off buses are a great way to see the city. They run from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Cost: $12.50 for one day; $21 for two days.
Peruse Malaysia’s official tourism site for more information on the country.