When I was looking for things to do while in KL, one of the major attractions that just kept popping up was the Batu Caves. They are a set of five caves located inside of a limestone mountain just a little North of town. One is used as a research area and the others have been fitted with Hindu temples. Although a lot of the travelers we spoke with seemed to love the cave, many of the locals and expats warned us against going. It was close to our house sit AND free though, so we went ahead and made the trip anyway.
The moment we were dropped off, we experienced all of the negative experiences that our local and expat friends described. The place is infested with pigeons, monkeys, and stray dogs. I sort of felt like it was the dirtiest theme park I had ever been to. Any of the religious relevance seemed hidden behind the gift shops and side shows.
That said, we did end up having a great time. We were in good spirits from the start, so were really able to enjoy some of the quirks as they came along. There were quite a few tourists wandering around with sarongs sloppily thrown on. You’re not allowed to wear shorts in the cave, so they had been forced to buy the sarongs before going it. We were able to avoid this by wearing long pants, even though it was super hot and humid. Even so, our walk around the area was quite comfortable. After some quick exploring, we decided to visit the Temple Cave (The Batu Cave) and the Dark Cave (the conservation cave).
The Temple Cave was turned into a temple in the late 1800s and dedicated to Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war. Lord Murugan towers in front of the cave, making it clear why the tourists love Batu Caves… it is Insta-Worthy.
Unfortunately, that is about it. It is decent hike up steep and crowded stairs to the mouth of the cave. I bet the temple is usually quite grand, but we showed up in the middle of renovation. Otherwise, the cave is large. That’s it.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the Dark Cave, the science research and conversation cave, was our favorite. This cave was not free, but was only 35RM ($9) and included a 40 minute, guided tour.
We booked our time slot on our way up to Batu Cave, then came back half an hour later to start the tour. We joined about 10 other guests and were fitted with helmets and a flashlight. Our guide was an adorable, young Chinese student who spoke nearly perfect English.
The tour was very informative and fun. Throughout the entire tour, our ears were bombarded with the sounds of squeaking bats. I saw only one fluttering around in the dark, but I could tell that there must be hundreds if not thousands. Our tour guide even pointed out a pit of bat guano (poop). She said that if we were to walk through it, we would sink in up to our knees!
We even saw a couple of creepy crawlies. She pointed out a centipede with super long legs, a huge spider, and a cave cricket. There were several other creatures hiding in the dark that we didn’t see, but she did a pretty good job of explaining each one.
The part I enjoyed the most was when we moved into the deepest part of the cave. She had us turn off our flash lights, put away our phones, and stand in complete darkness for over a minute. It was crazy how dark it was. My eyes kept telling me that there was something to see, but even when I waved my hand right in front of my face there was just nothing. It was a bit creepy, but exciting at the same time.
The Adventure Home
I have a dirty little travel secret for you. McDonald’s saved our day today… and it wasn’t the first time.
Whenever we get into a bind on the road, like realizing we don’t know how to get home, we turn to our off-line maps… and search for McDonald’s. It is the most embarrasing thing to admit, but it is truly the most useful travel tip I have. Always know where the McDonald’s is.
We took an Uber to Batu for 18RM and assumed we could take the train home. Turns out the train couldn’t take us home. Since we didn’t have internet, we turned to the taxis… who wanted to charge us 60RM. What do we do? We’re in the middle of a poor neighborhood at the far edge of town. We walked about a mile to the nearest McDonald’s, ordered a much needed beverage, hopped on their wifi to call an Uber, and enjoyed a rest in the air conditioning.
Thank you, McDonald’s, for being everywhere we go and for always having AC, cheap sodas, and free wifi. You have saved our lost butts way more times than we can count.
Overall, it was a successful trip. If you only have time to see one thing in KL, maybe go to the Petronas Towers. But if you have time for two things, the second one should definitely be Batu Caves.
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