Look up the word in a bilingual dictionary, and you will find that batu means ‘stone’ – but the name Batu Caves is thought to be derived from the nearby Batu River, and not geologically inspired. Although it is a thriving postcode within Gombak, the moniker is commonly associated with the famous limestone hill at its heart. This eponymous rocky outcrop and its surroundings are where many attractions call home.
Hearthstone of Thaipusam
It’s impossible to dismiss the religious magnitude of Batu Caves, what with the gargantuan statue of Lord Murugan keeping a holy vigil at the foot of the hill. Behind this golden sentry is an impressive set of steps, 272 in total and lined with mischievous monkeys, which take visitors to a sacred enclave known as the Temple Cave.
Come here during the Hindu festival of Thaipusam – which falls on 31 January this year – and you will find yourself among thousands of devotees immersed in colourful rituals, expressing their gratitude and penance to Lord Murugan.
They do so, in a trance-like state, by hoisting a kavadi (ceremonial burden) up to the temple, enduring body piercings without a hint of pain or blood, as well as carrying pots of milk and breaking coconuts as gestures of offering. Preceding this vibrant display of thanksgiving is a grand hours-long chariot procession from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in the heart of KL.
Cradle of nature
Aeons in the making, this limestone formation is also rich in natural wonders. A tour of the hill’s Dark Cave reveals that it is a spot brimming with creatures that flourish in its mysterious realm, from rare spiders to colonies of bats. The elaborate cave structures that house them are truly captivating; beautiful carvings chiselled over countless years.
Emerge from the darkness and consider the limestone face, the perfect playground for rock climbers. Sign up for a guided lesson and you will be in for an adrenaline-filled time scaling the sheer precipices.
Forest reserves are a short drive away if you want to fit some traditional outdoor action or nature exploration into your schedule. Head to the Selangor State Park, FRIM, Bukit Lagong, Hutan Lipur Sungai Tua or the Batu Dam to hike or bike through a verdant rainforest.
Slice of Malaysia
Take the time to explore the neighbourhood and you will be rewarded with the sights and sounds not offered by the bustling metropolis that is KL. It is a consummate chance to experience a taste of Malaysian suburbia!