After our first full day in Malaysia, we were loving the food and loving the country. But today we had plans to visit the famous Batu Caves and other cultural attractions around central KL. So after eating breakfast (again, with kaya toast! delicious), we walked along until we got to the Komuter rail.
Getting to Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur’s Sentral Is Pretty Easy
Thankfully, the city constructed this rail in 2009 to allow an easy access to the magnificent sight. Timing is everything! (Check here for other transport options.)
What would the Batu Caves be like? We wondered about the Hindu temple inside and the decorations without. Plus, we couldn’t wait to see everything KL around the city’s center afterward.
News-Flash: Malaysia Has “Bullet Rain” and It Makes Planning Difficult
Planning our trip during our time in Malaysia and Singapore was a total affair. After we had settled everything, a few weeks out I decided to check the weather forecast to make sure everything was hunky-dory, but to my horror, I found that almost every single day called for heavy rain. Welcome to the rainy season of Southeast Asia, right-smack-dab in the middle of my vacation plans.
So, I scrambled to change plans, find things to do that were more indoors, and I also religiously checked the weather as the trip got closer. Maybe the gods would take pity on this poor traveler and stay the rains. This particular day, as the trip neared, began to look like it would be free of rain, so it became the de facto day for our trip to Batu Caves.
Learning About Hindu Culture at Batu Caves
The trip itself was about 30 minutes, Batu Caves being the last destination. We exited and found our way past carts of souvenirs and collectibles, tables full of foods meant as gifts and offerings, and came to see the shrine at the base of the site. People flocked every which way, but if they were going to walk up to this initial shrine, one thing they all did was stop to take their shoes off at the base of the steps.
The shrine itself was stunning with golden towers adorning its roof and statues of various gods and goddesses inside. Practitioners would light incense sticks and pray before entering to stand before the primary statues. Others sat around against the pillars, little kids scurried around, and tourists snapped pictures. The artwork on the pillars and ceiling itself was something to be noticed: colorful and vibrant with creatures writhing around the columns. One couldn’t help but notice a little ways off a tall statue of Hanuman, the monkey god. Monkeys could be seen here or there; one was actually eating out of a trash can, reminding me a bit raccoons in America.
Outside Batu Caves Sits a Giant Statue
Up here, there are several caves that people can gain access to with a small donation. In each of these, the god Murugan and his exploits against demons are accounted for. But the main cave, the Temple or Cathedral Cave, lies a little further on from the train station, free of charge. Construction on new buildings were being completed during our time there, but this didn’t detract from the awesome sight of the statue of Lord Murugan, which is the tallest in the world at 140 feet. It was built and unveiled just 10 years ago, so it is still polished and incredibly gold unlike some of the other statues in the area that are beginning to show their age.
Beware the Monkeys (and Falling Rocks!) of Batu Caves
The steps lay to the side, and people mounted them in earnest, the women with skirts to cover their legs. Monkeys prowled the stairs, some with babies, providing a comic relief for the visitors mounting the 272 stairs to the top. A few times, they’d prove mischievous, stealing a banana or bag of food from an unsuspecting tourist. One woman’s water bottle was flung down the stairs as a monkey wrenched it from her hands, and another person carrying Tupperware full of apple slices soon realized how foolish he’d been to plan a picnic where monkeys dwelt.
When we reached the top, we entered into the large cavern. The souvenir shop sat at its entrance and several shrines dotted the edges as you journeyed inside. A large screen protects tourists from falling debris upon entry, but just beyond this, it disappears — perhaps a safety hazard, especially since a rock the size of my palm exploded on the cave floor when we walked in. Bats and other nocturnal animals make their homes in here, but the true delight is going through the cave to the other side, where stairs again await to reach an open-air temple with jungle creep extending down the cave walls, clear blue sky above.
Monkeys seemed to make their way from the jungle down the cliff and into this area, and they were such a nuisance. But they did add a sizable entertainment to the gawkers standing around. Monks loitered when they weren’t busy, and others made their offerings. It was a beautiful scene, though the temple itself may not have been much to look at.
Notice the monkeys all the way back. They’d climb down from the jungle above and assault passersby. Be careful, because though some travelers successfully fed them with glee, others have less than happy encounters, including getting bitten by territorial ones.
After 10 minutes of watching monkey antics, we made our way back through the cave system and decided to grab an Uber to reach our next destination.
An Unexpected Market’s Surprise
Living in South Korea, you must get used to using the subway, buses, or grabbing a taxi. However, one nice thing about KL was that you could grab an Uber whenever you needed a quick pick-up. And in Malaysia, these rides are so cheap! RM5-15 is normal, depending on the distance. If you have a local number, you can also use their local app, GrabCar.
We got out of our Uber and went east from Sentral, the subway station. There, we came upon a covered market where many goods were being sold along with different food carts. Being so hungry, we searched from place to place, but much to our surprise, we eventually came upon another President Corner. Before we knew it, we were being ushered in by one of the hostesses. But, wait a minute, isn’t that…?
The woman pulling us in had a familiar voice. A familiar look. Danny looked utterly confused, but I was totally certain. This was the same spirit guide from the first night — even though this was a different location.
We found out she worked here during the day and at the other location at night. Who was this, Nurse Jenny? (+5 points to Gryffindor for the person who gets the reference!) But just as before, she guided us to some scrumptious food — rice with spicy curry soaked through and a large chicken wing coated thickly with a deep red sauce. Honestly, I’m not sure of the dish’s name. It looks like a sort of Briyani? She said it was one of their spicier dishes, but it went down easy.
Food and Teh Tarik in Kuala Lumpur Is the Best
Have I mentioned, I love the food in this country? Make sure to eat some Indian fare when you’re in Kuala Lumpur. As we finished up, we saw people walking away from a nearby counter with what looked like bags hanging from elastic bands filled with icy cold teh tarik. We were intrigued! We got some for the road.
Hanging Out Around Merdeka Square and KL City Art Gallery
Around this time, we left for Merdeka Square, a place symbolizing the freedom of Malaysia. “Merdeka” literally means “independence.” Here, they lowered the Union Flag of the British Empire and raised their own in 1957. Many historical buildings grace the surrounding, and Malaysia has done a great job at their upkeep. During December, several construction projects were in motion. As such, some of the buildings seemed in a bit of disrepair. KL’s revitalization projects should complete by 2019, including that of the world’s eventual third tallest tower, KL118.
A large field of green with fountains and areas to rest under green foliage drew attention, and many strolled the park enjoying the day. Hop-on Hop-off buses cruised by, as there are many historical buildings here including the Sultan Abdul Samad building and the Royal Selangor Club, which date back to British Colonialism.
We went into the City Gallery and found ourselves walking into a tour that showcases KL’s history along with a miniaturized model of the city. This model showed us the general size of the area compared to the city at large. Furthermore, it also showed how the city would look when the construction finishes. I loved it, though they kicked us out of the model room after only a few minutes of watching a descriptive video. I wish they’d explained more of the model to us or shown us where certain landmarks were. In Korea, a similar model exists of Seoul; however, it allows you to search different locations and shines a light down on them.
Either way, we saw beautiful batik cloth and architectural ideas for the city’s future. Additionally, at the tour’s end, we had a “free” RM5 (the price of the ticket) to spend in the cafe or souvenir area. Danny and I got bars of gamat soap, an item home to Malaysia. And what is “gamat”? It is sea cucumber! And mine smells like lemon. Ooh!
Masjid Jamek, Under Construction
From there, we found Masjid Jamek. Construction debris covered it and everything around. The site is actually quite historic for the city. 87 prospectors landed here along the joining of the Gombak and Klang rivers. They built Masjid Jamek (also known as the Friday Mosque) on the location where they landed. Construction workers and police kept me at bay, sadly! I ended up snapping a photo from afar of its gorgeous minarets. Again, perhaps in 2020 I’ll get a better view. Otherwise, this square had a nice skyline and looked like a nice place to browse shops or hang out with friends. We paused a moment before heading on.
NEXT TIME: Our heroes will confront dangerous sea monsters, terrifying heights, and a watery foe. Tune in to catch the next nail-biting installment of SEE MY SEOUL!
What About You?
Tell me about your exciting adventures abroad in Malaysia. When we go again, what would you recommend we do? Let us know below!