This morning we ran out of water. The Air BnB didn’t provide any and we couldn’t find any reputable sources online to say whether you could drink the tap water, so we didn’t. We had what we had left after our dinner and as always, a salty pizza makes you thirsty so we drained what we had. Neither did we have any food. Therefore, this morning I was in full hunt and gather mode. Luckily this caveman didn’t have to roam far, or kill anything (even though the lobby pond was stocked with huge fish) because there was a convenient convenience store.
Loaded up with water, muesli, coffee, milk and apples, we were good for breakfast. It had been a tiring night so we just organised ourselves in the morning before heading out for Batu Caves, the first item on our Kuala Lumpur “want to go” list.
This is an incredibly large limestone cave system just to the north of Kuala Lumpur and is home to one of the most popular Hindu temples outside of India. Its guarded by a 43m tall Lord Murugan statue at the entrance and many of the shrines depict his victory over the demon Soorapadman.
The ongoing popular use as a Hindu religious site means the shrines and decoration are incredibly well maintained. The colours are incredibly vivid and almost make it look like a cartoon TV studio. It’s much more bright and happy than other religious sites I’ve been to.
And, I can fully understand why you would site a religious centre in these incredible caves. The Christian faith has built huge cathedrals with soaring walls and ceilings but that isn’t needed when nature has provided the same. These caves are VAST. I don’t know how tall, but I’d comfortably estimate +70m tall and about the size of a football field in floor area. There are two sections, the main Temple Cave which is the largest and houses the murti of Sri Murugan Swami and the Upper caves, which is open to the sky and has trees and bushes overhanging and growing down its walls.
I hesitate to denigrate a religious site, but it was not the profound religious experience I thought it would be. Maybe this is my cultural stereotypes clouding my view, but it all seemed rather disrespectful, considering this is a significant and religiously popular site. At the entrance to the caves, not at the bottom of the stairs outside the complex, but actually in the mouth to the temple cave, there were stalls selling souvenirs and snacks and tourist crap. I was expecting a hushed, contemplative and respectful walk through a temple where devotees would be going about their religious prayers. But instead there were overturned bins of rubbish with monkeys picking through them. Piles of building waste and trash in corners next to scaffolding being stored. Huge flood lamps seemingly randomly bolted to the floor dominating the view of the shrines, and 10ft tall metal railings protecting them. And, while reassuring that some level of health and safety was being regarded, there was a huge steel mesh roof over the walkway into the caves, presumably to protect visitors from falling rocks.
These harsh practicalities rubbed up against what spiritual ambience there was and left me feeling like I’d seen an empty movie set, rather than an authentic religious site of any importance. We both left feeling like we had been staring up at the naturally beautiful cave system more than the shrines. This was backed up by the crouds of tourists outside the temple enjoying the colourful stairs and the monkeys. It was a gaudy novelty that tourists enjoyed more than paying respects to the shrines inside the caves.
But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the monkeys. We don’t get anything nearly as interesting at home unless you go to a zoo so it was fun watching them. One energetic chap on the steps was handing out a few peanuts to everyone who passed and taking photos with them and the monkeys. He was having such a great time with all the tourists and his family getting photos.
By this point we had climbed and descended 272 colourful steps and walked around the temple taking photos and looking at shrines. This was all in the midday heat and we were whacked. The air-conditioned train ride back to our stop was an oasis of cool we drank in. Stepping back out into the blaze we crossed the road and dove back into a pool of air conditioning in the mall for some food. On the way out for the day, we had briefly stopped here and enjoyed pick’n’mix sushi. Now I had a bowl of spicy fried chicken and rice and Aimi had some macaroni cheese. It was only a small bowl but filled us right up.
We made it back to the flat and as it was approaching sunset, we head out on the roof. Incredibly, the building has a pool up here! You can float on the edge of the building and look out at the whole of Kuala Lumpur skyline. Its an incredibly luxurious amenity for our scabby flat. We had fun getting photos and enjoying the colours of the sky till it got a little chilly and we went back inside.
But the night was not over. Seeing the Petronas Towers from the roof made us want to get up close to investigate them. We ordered a Grab taxi and got dropped off near the park adjacent to the towers and negotiated our way towards them. We ended up on the other side of a small lake where a mini version of the Bellagio fountains was putting on a show. It was great fun to watch with the glorious lit up towers in the background. These things shine like beacons compared to all other buildings in the city. You know exactly what they are from miles around.
And then it all suddenly stopped. The fountains went off and orange pillars dotted around the park started flashing police lights and playing a recorded message in several languages, telling us to leave the area. It was only 10pm but the park was now closed.
We head into the shopping mall at the base of the towers to look for somewhere to eat but everything had a sign up saying closed. Must be a law or culture thing to close at 10pm here.
Luckily, a restaurant called Dome was still taking food orders. We sat down and quickly ordered. And what came out was a really good chicken burger. Probably one of the best I’ve ever had and it was still cheaper than any restaurant in the UK!
A Grab taxi home finished off a really long day and we collapsed into bed.