“How long will you be staying?” the airport official asked as he looked up from my passport. “One day,” I replied. He scoffed, looked at me again, brows up high like twin hills crowning his round eyes, “One day? Are you sure that’s enough?”
“I don’t know,” I told him with a smile, “You tell me.”
In my mind, I thought that one day was enough. It was just a city tour, after all. A side trip on our way to Singapore. I was just there for the Petronas.
The first order of the day was a hike up to Batu Caves, which was a scenic 30 minute train ride from the city. That Batu Caves is a sacred Hindu site does not have to be stated. You’ll know that with one look at the numerous gods and shrines peppering the site, one of which is the largest statue of the Hindu god Murugan. He stands guard before the caves, tall and golden. He is impressive. Majestic. I can see up his nose.
Joining the statues and temples lining the promenade are tattoo parlors, fruit stalls (not much for eating, but for offering), fortune tellers and trinket sellers. The day that we went there, someone had just gotten married and the wedding party was holding a feast nearby. Women in their best saris walked around with their little girls in a colourful flurry of purple, yellow, and orange silk. The men were seated in a makeshift banquet in the parking lot, talking amongst themselves. Tourists were crowded around the statues taking selfies and flashing peace signs at any camera within a 10 meter radius.
The cave themselves were more than 200 steps above us. A slew of monkeys begging to be fed scampered along as we climbed the steps. Some looked at us longingly with sad eyes, mostly from a distance. A handful of them ran up to us and swiped the bottles that we were carrying.
Halfway through the steps, I found myself trudging. I took pictures of monkeys as an excuse to stop. Every once in a while I looked back down at what we’ve climbed so far, only to be met with temporary vertigo. Once we got to the top, we were rewarded with a view of the plaza below (and lord Murugan’s regal behind).
One of the caves is spacious and airy, filled with sunlight and several more shrines and steps. Another adjacent cave is dark and filled with wildlife, and comes with a fee. We chose the free option. The view inside is not exactly as breathtaking as the one below, but the cave gave us a much needed breather after the 200 or so steps.
After a short survey of the interiors, we walked back down to the station. Haruman stood by the exit, as if asking me “Leaving so soon?” What do you mean, soon? I spent all morning In Batu Caves!
There’s a saying that what you do on your birthday will determine what you’ll be doing for the rest of the year. Spend your birthday partying and you’ll be partying for the rest of the year. On the day we set out to tour Kuala Lumpur, nobody in our group was celebrating her birthday, and yet all the walking and climbing up Batu Caves seemed to map out the rest of our day’s journey. All that walk that morning was just a prequel of what was about to come.