A short train ride north from the city center, one departs from reality and enters a fairy tale world of towering, crepuscular limestone cave systems full of glowing Hindu shrines, amazed tourists, barefoot acolytes, and greedy macaques. The Batu Caves are a distinctively magical place.
The great, golden Lord Murugan guards the steep stairway that leads into the caves.
The caves are the focal point of the Thaipusam Festival, which occurs each year in March and consists of devout Malaysian Hindus making a day-long journey from the city center while experiencing varying degrees of physical self-abasement, including piercing their skin with hooks and needles and dragging ornately designed floats behind them for hours on end.
Shrines painted directly onto the limestone walls.
The walls of the cave are crawling with macaques, slinking shadow-like amongst the foliage as ethereal sunlight bathes the floor of the caves.
Kuala Lumpur rises from the valley floor 13 kilometers to the south.
Beware the brigands! This wizened criminal had just snatched this bag of popcorn from an unsuspecting tourist.
A post-exploration vegetarian snack at a Jain Restaurant just outside the gates. A relatively small, but influential and ancient Indian religion with around six million followers worldwide, Jains abstain from all animal products and even eschew root vegetables (garlic, onion, potato, etc) from their diet as they believe the cutting of roots effectively kills the plant organism. Their beliefs are centered around compassion for all living creatures and a renunciation of worldly materials and resources. They believe in no gods (nontheism), instead finding each individual personally responsible for leading a harmless and pacific existence steeped in asceticism and reverence for nature.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Roti Poratta and fresh coconut juice.
To get to Batu Caves: From KL Sentral, take the KTM Komuter Train (Sentul-Port Klang) to the end of the line. Takes about 30 minutes and is a pleasant ride. One can also grab a direct bus from Chinatown.