Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Batu Caves

Batu Caves is a system of tropical karst towers located in Gombak near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, when most of us talk about Batu Caves, we are merely referring to the Temple Cave, a site of religious pilgrimage and worship for the Hindu community especially during the yearly Thaipusam festival. The cave is named after its namesake, the Sungai Batu (Batu River) which flows in the vicinity. Since there is no dire shortage of sites offering expert information on Batu Caves, I shall not contribute to the existing information overload on the internet. Instead, this entry is just to pass on the awe-inspiring experience of visiting and taking photos there and a few tips that I became aware of.

Tips for visitors:

1. Bring your tripod along if you want to take photos. It might seemed to be an extra burden to haul up 272 steps, but it is worth it. Else you will regret when your pics all turned up shaken and blurred. Think of the participants of Amazing Race Asia 4 where they had to carry an offering tray and at the same time, count how many steps up to the top of the temple.You might also want to consider doing high dynamic range photos.
2. The steps are not as bad as it seems. Make sure you have some cover from the heat of the sun. The humidity might get to you, so nice breathable clothing is good. Just take it slowly.
3. Beware of the macaques. They are used to being fed, and so would expect you to provide for them if you come with bags that appear to contain food. They appear to be able to read fear and bully those who are afraid of them. I had a bag with muffins and drinks but none bothered me (perhaps I looked grumpy).
4. Try not to get in the way of the macaques' family squabbles. You might be an innocent bystander.
5. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the people going up and down / visiting the temple. The visitors and devotees are just as interesting as the caves and the divinity.
6. The Dark Cave smells of guano. This is normal and if you cannot stand the smell of it, then do not attempt a visit.
7. The Temple Cave, being a place of worship, is filled with the smell of smashed coconut, burning camphor and oil lamps. Be prepared if you have a sensitive nose.
8. Look at the walls of the Temple Cave as well as the inner shrine area with the skylight. They are carved by Mother Nature through the years.
9. The stairs and floors might be wet and slippery, so do be careful. Walk calmly and surely.
10. Try to be calm and contain your awe or excitement or displeasure. There are people seeking solace and/or doing prayers.
11. Bring your own bottled water or snacks as the prices of the foodstuff might be considered a little steep.
12. During non festive periods, there's ample parking in the temple grounds. It cost RM2 for a car when I visited the place
13. Last but not least, enjoy yourself.

P.S. If you do get a heart attack on the way up, think of it as if you are on the stairway to heaven. Jokes aside, make sure you have whatever medical aids that you need and do not force yourself. There are plans in the future for a cable car system to provide access to the Cave temple, so better late than dead.

From the car park to the Temple Cave (warning - picture heavy).

View of the car park.

Koi pond and walkway to Art Cave.

Anjaneya in green colour, Maruti, Anjaniputra
Hanuman : Gives the jolly green giant a run for his money.

The statue of Lord Muruga. Hmm, the steps don't look that bad.

A row of Ganeshas on the roof

Really, it isn't that bad, especially if you take it slowly.

View of the Temple Cave from the Dark Cave area. 228..229..damn, I lost count.

Limestone formation at the mouth of the Temple Cave.

Divine play of light.

View from the Temple Cave mouth to the inner shrine area.

Steps to the inner shrine.

Skylight at the inner shrine area.

Looking back towards the Temple Cave opening.

Wild Pandanus growing at the skylight opening of the inner shrine area.

Limestone around the inner shrine area.

More limestone cliffs with the roof of the inner shrine visible.

View of the main shrine inside the Temple Cave (lit by blue lights).

Limestone formations. Wet with water dripping down.

View of the Temple Cave opening from inside.

Limestone formations at the mouth of the Temple Cave.

Stalls selling garlands, milk and drinks.

Chariot atop the temple roof and Lord Muruga standing watch.

The exterior of the Dark Cave
View of the steps to the Dark Cave from the Temple Cave.

Limestone face on the exterior of the Dark Cave.

Steps to the opening of the Dark Cave. You get a cool breeze blowing out with a nice, strong guano smell.

More limestone.