A journey of a thousand steps begins with the first

Exploring Batu Caves

Beauty is subjective and comes in many forms. And thankfully one of them is just around the corner. But before getting there, I would need to overcome two forces that protect this interior beauty. First, our very distant cousins who would do anything to make sure the gifts and offerings I take along are theirs and rightfully only theirs — they truly believe in the saying ‘welcome, my home is your home, but your things are all mine’. Once you have mastered the art of handling your possessive distant cousins, you are ready for stage 2. In stage 2, all you need is to gather the remaining energy to take steps, one at a time, to reach the top. There are 272 steps in total. A piece of cake, that doesn't sound that bad at all does it? 😄 

Today, you are travelling with me to a famous spot in Malaysia. Batu Caves. There are a couple of things one can do here, and I will talk about those in a bit.

Come right up

The Batu Caves area is well known as a religious site. On the hilltop, inside the caves, is a temple, dedicated to Lord Murugan. The temple complex consists of 3 main caves and the largest is known as Cathedral Cave. According to research, Batu Cave Temple was promoted as a place of worship by K. Thamboosamy Pillai, an Indian trader, and he later in 1890 installed the Murti of Sri Murugan Swami in the temple cave. He was inspired by the Vel shaped entrance of the Cathedral Cave. These caves are part of the 400-million-year-old limestone hills. The view of the stalactites and stalagmites in their natural lighting is overwhelmingly breathtaking and the surroundings are immensely serene. 

Batu Caves is not too far from the Kuala Lumpur (KL) Sentral station. The KTM Komuter train ride is a quick, cheap and comfortable way to get here. Train service runs every ½ hour (during non-peak hours) from the KL Sentral station. The commute is a 15 km hassle-free one. It would take you approximately 30 minutes to get here if there were no track delays. Taxis and private car rental options are also available. 

The temple grounds are open until 9 p.m. Afraid of heights? Don't worry, there are many temples, restaurants and activities at the ground level as well. This area is generally a place of worship, so clothing rules apply. The food served around the temple complex is usually vegetarian. Do try the coconut fruit drink. I just got myself one. Awesome!

Fuel up!

Batu Caves is also a popular outdoor rock-climbing spot. A close friend, Chong, and his local adventure group are sometimes here for outdoor climbs. It is said that there are over 160 climbing routes of different levels of difficulty and intensity to satisfy each passionate climber’s needs. 

Caving is also a popular activity in this area — the Dark Wet Caves is one of them — test your eyes’ ability to focus in the dark, hear and feel the nature that surrounds you. You'll likely come face-to-face with some creatures there, and I am sure if you are quiet enough, you will hear that pin drop. The entrance to the Dark Wet Caves is at the ¾ point to the temple cave. Tours to this cave are organised by the Nature Society of Malaysia for a small fee.

A picture after that awesome drink

Remember when I introduced you to our possessive distant cousins? Well, say hello to the Macaque (old world monkeys). These are a small dominant group of monkeys that live in these limestone hills. 

Here are some interesting facts to digest — humans and monkeys are both primates and humans share a common ape ancestor with chimpanzees; Apes and monkeys share a distant relative which lived millions of years ago. I guess it’s because of this closeness, they are used in animal testing. Well, macaques feed on the seeds and plants available in these hills. They are indeed cute and highly intelligent, they know how to imitate humans and will gladly ‘accept’ your things. They open your soda cans, eat ice cream, pose for photos, smoke cigarettes, snatch and wear your dark glasses and comb their hair using your comb. Some can get cheeky, one even lifted Anna’s  (a friend who was visiting) skirt. I have not tried a selfie with them and wouldn’t encourage you to do that either. As cute as they sound, they do tend to get wild if you overdo being friendly. Here is a secret. Hush. They go to bed early, so if you visit the caves at night before closing time, chances are you wouldn’t be hassled by them. Wouldn't be as exciting though. We are visiting their home after all.

Distant cousins

Thaipusam Celebration

Thaipusam is one of the major events celebrated in Batu Caves. This is an annual religious festival that falls on the full moon of the Tamil month of Thai (Jan/Feb). In Batu Caves, this is a 3-day auspicious festival that attracts millions of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. If you are here during this period, join in and be part of this celebration. Thaipusam was celebrated on the 31st of January this year. Thaipusam is also celebrated grandly in other states as well (Penang, Perak, Pahang, Johor, Melaka).
Braving the crowd for good intent
Here is a recap of the events during the 3-day Thaipusam festival in Batu Caves: 

Day 1 – The chariot procession begins in the early hours of the morning where Lord Murugan makes his way from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple to the Batu Caves Temple. This is a 20KM pilgrimage walk with the chariot. The chariot stops at several stop points along the way to allow worshippers to give thanks and break coconuts. Along the way, you’ll also see some children and adults carrying either paal-koodams (milk pots) by hand or on their heads, or shouldering kavadis (decorated carriers). There are also many like me, who may just decide to walk. Kavadis vary in size and shapes. The bigger and more colourful ones are usually seen at night. The colour theme for the celebration is yellow. Yellow is an auspicious colour, but that doesn’t mean one is not allowed to wear other colours. Food and drinks are distributed free along the way. My request from past years’ observation is that we all respect the food, take only what we need and do not litter along the way.

Paal koodams

To avoid the crazy crowds during this period, many worshippers fulfil their Thaipusam vows weeks prior to Thaipusam during the same Tamil Month. Trust me, the Komuter trains are sardine-packed with people during this period. But that is where the fun starts, isn't it? 😀

Day 2 – Thaipusam day – Thaipusam is a day of prayers and a time for repentance. Many devotees start their Thaipusam rituals weeks earlier by either detoxing or going on a vegetarian diet or spiritual cleansing (reciting prayers, meditation). Wikipedia mentions its origins and states that: 

The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel ‘spear’, so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. It is commonly believed that Thaipusam marks Murugan's birthday;

Giving thanks

Day 3 – the chariot procession heads back to Sri Maha Mariamman Temple. 

I visit Batu Caves often and so have many of my travelling friends. Climbing the steps can be challenging for the different age groups, but it is not necessarily impossible. Just as everything else in life, every step forward is a move towards something greater. 

And just as these great steps are, my coffee for the day is one that is many steps away from home. It’s an Orange Peel Latte, before I take the next few steps onward. Its flavour is tangy, fresh and topped with spicy cinnamon, served warm as a welcome for the next festival that’s around the corner. The view outside is pleasant but deceiving. I could stare outside for hours all day. A Japanese proverb states ‘A journey of a thousand miles starts with one’. 

Those 272 steps, challenging – we are all built differently. We are different, but that difference need not stop us from climbing the heights at our pace. The view up there is worth every step.

Enjoy your cuppa and have a great week, one step at a time. 💗💙💚💛💜💗

Orange Peel Latte


  1. Recently, we went to Batu Caves the first Sunday after Thaipusam. It was supper crowded. We even couldn't get off our car. I had been in the place a few times in the past and like to go up the stairs and see to the temple in the cave. This time though we were not lucky. Thank you Uma for sharing this.

    1. Babak, Yes, Batu Caves is usually packed during ThaiPusam weeks. Hope you got a chance to try some dosa and coconut drink. :)