Visiting Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur
It’s a very easy day trip as the caves are only 13km out of Kuala Lumpur. I took Bus 11/11d from Bangkok Bank Terminus. Close to Central Market.
There was a German on the bus too, and even they only complained twice about getting there. So, it’s not too hard once you’ve found the bank!
Getting back can be a 30 minute wait, but the bus is generally not so crowded. Bar from public holidays, weekends, celebration festivals etc.
Do you have to take a tour? No, but a lot of people seemed to be on tours when I was there!
Giant statues of the Batu cave temples
Possibly the star attraction to Batu caves is the world’s tallest statue of Murugan ( 42.7m/(140.09 feet ), a Hindu deity. Standing in front of 272 numbered concrete steps leading to the main Temple or Cathedral Cave.
Normally I am not so impressed with such statues. And, many Malaysians I spoke with saw nothing so impressive with it. But, I must admit I found it quite impressive.
“It’s good to see people of today building statues for tomorrow like that of Murugan”
Certainly it’s better to look at than countless shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur.
Also worth a peep is the giant 50 foot blue statue of Hanuman, the noble monkey devotee and aide of Lord Rama, near Ramayana Cave.
Inside the Batu Caves with a very annoying photographer
Cool temperatures, railings, lots of statues and even more Indian tourists than one could think possible posing for photographs. Yes, pick a weekday to visit the caves if at all possible. Otherwise the crowds of Hindu’s visiting the caves may thwart your peace of mind.
“Not only that, but you’ll probably also get an unhealthy obsession of wondering why people cover their babies heads in baby oil, and put eyeliner on them …”
That said, everyone was very polite and nice, except for one North American with more camera equipment than your average National Geographic photographer. At least, I hope so.
With a tripod wider than nearly two people, the “gentleman” took over 5 minutes to compose every shot. Blocking the view for everyone else.
It was a sad thing to see as people were obviously disappointed, and were forced to take photos with said photographer in the background of nearly every statue. The German didn’t take photos. But, I noticed an Indian man tapping his toes to the side.
Taking photographs around temples
“You are also waiting to take a photo here?”
The Indian looked at me, then at the photographer. “Bloody right mate, good thing I have patience.”
A Londoner. Moreover, a Londoner dressed like an Indian / Malay, Hindu deity visiting chap with a small camera.
The clarity of his English didn’t flinch the American. Identified as such, by a stars and stripes badge, or two, on his jacket and hat.
We all shuffled on. But, some how were always at an impasse at each statue. The blockage? Said, photographer. Batu Cave was in need of a laxative to flush out this Nikon wielding gunslinger.
How to raise the blood-pressure of a camera nerd
With a queue of increasing people behind us. The Londoner about to start a soccer riot. And, the non caring German blurting out harsh Germanic words, loudly, it seemed things were getting blatantly obvious.
Still the photographer seemed oblivious to all but his most accurate of settings.
Frustration overflowing we stepped in near unison in front of the light metering, manual focusing over-pocketed photographer. It should have been enough of an enema. But, strangely he said nothing and just stood there with a mild look of disdain.
Armed with a multi-pocket vest, two large cameras, a near armor plated looking day-pack and a scaffold like tripod he looked like having more money than ability
Camera settings near ready, tripod extended. I took the photo in under 20 seconds. The Londoner seemed to have problem though.
“Tsk, it’s too dark in here for this thing, everythings a blur.”
“Try a tripod?” suggested the German pointing to me while looking at the American with a blantantly brazen smile.
“Now that’s an idea!”
So with that, the Londoner and I fumbled for an unreasonable amount of time attaching his pocket camera on to my tripod. Meanwhile, seeing that we weren’t actually taking a photo people moved around us taking their own photos, blessing themselves, and moving on with smiles and well oiled baby heads.
An audible huff blew out from the photographer as he finally scooped up his tripod with a clacking of metal. Marching further on into the cave, he didn’t get far. He was now behind the rather large crowd that had finally overtaken his one man blockage.
“Shame that,” I said looking ahead.
A short victory laugh later and we walked on in relative peace. But, deep down, I think we all were hoping to bump into some-more “professional” photographers.
How to take a photo at a temple
Inside buildings, tripods are banned in many places around the world. Primarily due to people like this guy setting up a whole photo shoot when others are trying to pay homage to their religion, or simply take their own personal photos.
I am really all for bringing in tripods. But, can see why they are banned in so many places.
- If you are a pro, apply for some private time at a temple, or go when it’s quite.
- If not, don’t spend more than a minute blocking everyone’s view.
- Have your camera set up, tripod extended and get on with it.
- Remember that 10,000’s of people have already taken that same shot over the years. It’s not that special. Even if you are carrying enough equipment to feed a family for a few years.
Territorial Monkeys at Batu caves
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable, although slightly worrying activities at Batu caves is climbing the 272 numbered steps leading to the main cave. Not for anything else other than watching the territorial monkeys jump on the tourists and visitors.
“Perhaps this is where our tripod wielding photographer should be made to stand for an hour”
The macaque monkeys are not afraid of people, are territorial and possibly very spoiled by numerous tourists feeding them.
The result is many macaques will randomly pick on a tourist and bounce off their head either on the way up, and down.
While many locals laugh at this. There have been a few tourists terrified into running away. With large teeth, sharp claws and little fear there have been bites along with scratches reported.
Blessings of the Hindu god’s
The monkey’s are there for many reasons. Religious rights, tourism; the list goes on. Batu Caves are very popular for both tourists, and Hindu’s alike.
With the caves dating back over 3,000 years, I don’t know what came first, the temples, or the monkeys. All I know now, is that something will give way in the future. Someone will end up getting hurt, or sick unless something sensible is done. Quite what, I don’t know given the religious implications here.
That said, it’s a good example of how not just tourism can effect a place. But, also how humankind in many other ways can alter things beyond an original intention.
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