August 14th, 2012 by Karmun
There are certain times of the month when all I feel like doing is stay at home and laze in bed. Then, there are other times when all I feel like doing is head out the door and take on the world. August, it would seem, is more the latter.
After the bird park, I was itching to sniff out another small adventure. The adventure bug had gotten to me so bad that I was on Google almost everyday just searching up interesting things to do within the city since our budgets don’t allow us to go too far (yet). Typing in “fun stuff to do in Kuala Lumpur” brought us to Batu Caves. And that was how our little Monday became a whole load more interesting as compared to every other Monday.
I’ve lived in Malaysia all my life but believe it or not, I’ve never been here. I’ve read about it in my many textbooks, and seen many photos of it everytime Thaipusam rolls around, but somehow I just never got around to heading here myself. Time to fix that and make me a little more Malaysian! ;]
Given that it was a Monday, the place was rather deserted when the Ninja Rabbit and I arrived just shortly after lunch. I wouldn’t have it any other way, really. If the steps leading up the temple really was as steep as they say, I’d rather not have a huge crowd shoving and pushing in every possible direction, thank you very much!
The view from the foot of the hill was mesmerizing. The steps leading up to the temples — all 273 of it — snaked up the side of the hill like a modest scarf, speckled along its entire length with little dots of tourists. It led into this cave that looked easily millenia of years old, the entrance of which was adorned with plenty of crooked stalactite teeth, something I’ve only ever seen on National Geographic. I never once imagined that Batu Caves would look like this! I was just expecting some small temple perched on top of a hill!
The statues that line the roofs of the temples seem to welcome us as we made our ways towards the foot of the steps. They were the most colourful and intricately sculpted I’ve seen yet. Every line in their hair and every fold of their clothing was produced in the finest craft. If you looked closely enough, you can even tell which was in a good mood, and which not so much, based on the smiles or frowns they wore. Not kidding!
Soon enough we arrived at our moment of judgment lol. From afar, it didn’t look as intimidating. Upclose, the mere sight of it left my knees feeling weak. It’s no secret that I’m dead terrified of heights. What if halfway up, whatever courage I have decided that it was done and I was left stranded??
But we’ve come all this way and to turn back would be unacceptable. The Ninja Rabbit led the way, assuring me that if small 3-year-olds can do it come every Thaipusam , lugging huge canisters of milk while at it, so can I. Chanting that to myself, I began making my way up, distracting myself from how far up we were going with small encouragements from Alfred every few steps. Here goes nothing!
It was so much steeper than it looked from the bottom T_T What have I gotten myself into?? Ten steps in, we were already breaking out in sweat and breathing heavily. The stairs were narrow to step on, and for most of it, I was hunched over as low as I could go, ready to hug the floor should the smallest breeze decide to blow against me. It really felt like if I stood upright, I might just fall over backwards and go tumbling downwards!
You can’t tell from this picture, but I was shaking like mad having to turn around like this!
Slow and steady wins the race!
After what felt like forever, we finally made it to the top. I have never felt a bigger sense of accomplishment (other than the times I cross the marathon finish line during my races) than at this very moment.
It may have only been 273 steps, but for me, it might as well have been Mt. Kinabalu or something along the likes LOL. Heights and me just don’t really get along =/
Inside, the most amazing natural architectural wonder awaited us.
The place was cool and breezy, the total opposite of the heat we were simmering in at the foot of the hill. Echoes of our voices ricocheted off the walls everytime we said something. But most prominent was this calmness that blanketed the entire place. Everyone automatically began whispering to each other without realising it as if to preserve the serenity within this 400 million year old cave.
Perched along the the sides of the walls were Hindu deities that look like they were just placed there last week at most. Despite the damp and mouldy conditions of their homes, their paint remains vivid and vibrant, and not a single part of them looked chipped or damaged. Embedded into small caverns without the giveaway of cement platforms or any other forms of man-made holdings, they looked like they have been there all this while. Like they’ve always belonged there and all we did was stumble upon them by accident.
The deeper into the cave we went, the more fascinated I was with how modern temple structures could co-exist so harmoniously with the all-natural stalactite and stalagmites of the cave. It was like they somehow managed put the best of two different worlds in a picture that painted each as a dependent element of the other.
I loved that they used the natural walls of the cave to erect their smaller platforms of worship instead of resurfacing and cutting away the precious limestone. They built the temple into the cave, not over it, get what I mean?
For a small donation, you can also light a small prayer lamp and place it on the altar for blessing.
I always get super excited holding these lamps. They look so pretty and always make me feel special holding it, hehe =D
I have no idea what the Ninja Rabbit was praying for but he must want it bad! Look at how tightly his forehead is furrowed in a frown xD
After the lamps, we got to burn this fragrant incense in a special dish that had a special place right in the middle of the cave where the most brilliant sunlight fell directly over it. It was all really cool because as it goes up in flames, it gives out this really thick, twirly black smoke that swirled into air, releasing the sweetest woody scent.
Playing with fire has never felt this gratifying xD
Maybe I’m a sucker for culture and all things exotic, but the whole time we were there, I was just drinking it all in. My head was so constantly whipping from left to right trying to imprint everything I see into the deep vault of my memory that I almost gave myself a severe whiplash, hahaha. Everything about the place — the organic, green way it smells, the echo-ey way our footsteps sound pattering across the earthen ground, the chilly temperatures that wrapped around us in the cave — made me feel like I was off on a far away adventure.
Strolling along the edges of the inner temples, we began to notice that the priests were busy preparing for something. They worked fast with their hands making beautiful flower arrangements and garlands, before shuffling quickly with them into the temple.
Shortly after, the temple musicians began a small orchestra of traditional Indian music.
Turned out, we had just walked into some kind of prayer ritual for a newborn baby boy. The place that was just so quiet that the smallest whisper carried to the other end of the cave, was suddenly alive with festive music, sweet smells, and a surprisingly assuring chant. In that moment, in the midst of all that was going in, I suddenly felt the calmest I had in a long time. I felt completely at ease, like nothing could get to me, not here where the music is happy and the air, cool and sweet-smelling.
Little Alfred even dared poked his head of the bag out to see what the commotion was about hehehe.
We had kept him zipped up tight and safe in the bag because there were monkeys roaming about and we didn’t want them snatching Alfred away!
The place was just beyond beautiful in a very mystical, ethereal kind of way. I’ve seen many temples — Chinese, Indian, Thai, Burmese, you name it — but Batu Caves simply stands apart from the rest. Maybe it being planted right smack in the belly of a 400 million year old cave had something to do it, but it just felt special from the rest, you know?
We were in there only about an hour and a half, but it had certainly felt much longer than that. We had gotten lost in its web of charm and almost did not want to find our way out.
Going down was a whole other problem for me. Ascending the stairs was alright because I didn’t have to see for myself just how far above the ground I was. Going down, on the other hand, required me to look right down at my biggest fear as I made my way step by step down the thin, narrow steps! Gulp.
I don’t know how I did it but eventually I made my way back down to flat ground safely. This has got to be one of my most accomplished Mondays for sure! Hahaha.
The Ninja Rabbit then decided my bravery should be celebrated by chasing pigeons who were cooing away contently on the temple grounds lol.
One Monday well spent, definitely. All 273 steps included, hehehe.
Give me more suggestions on places I should visit! I love exploring new places and discovering new things. Between the Ninja Rabbit and I, we’ve exhausted pretty much all the interesting places in KL, maybe even in the whole of Peninsular Malaysia. Let us know if we’ve missed any places out!
Happy New Week all! Whatever you have in store for the week, make it grand! =)