Tag Archives: kuala lumpur

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Guarded by a giant golden statue, with the cacophonous yells of monkeys, you’ll find the Batu Caves looking down upon Kuala Lumpur. Weathered and rugged limestone hills steeply climb upwards, adorned with festoons of jungle foliage, giving way to one of the most popular Hindu shrines in the world outside of India.

Upon coming to Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves was one of – if not the – top thing that we wanted to see. The caves are very easy to access. You can take the metro directly to the town of Gombak where the shrine resides for RM 4.40 (~$1.50) from KL Sentral Station. However, we had to take an Uber to the caves, as we were in Petaling Jaya which did not have rail access. This was not an issue though – it was cheap, quick, and efficient.

Consecrated Gold Statue of Lord Mudrugan

Upon arriving to the caves, you will first notice the golden statue of Lord Murugan. It towers above you at the entrance to the long staircase. Which brings me to the second thing you’ll notice immediately – the stairs. There are 272 concrete steps bringing you to the cave complex within the hill.

Batu Caves Stair Entry

The Batu Caves are an active religious site, and you should come dressed appropriately. This means wearing shirt sleeves and covered knees for me, and to covering shoulders and legs for women. If you don’t meet these requirement, you cannot enter – however there are usually attendants at the base of the stairs renting out sarongs for only a few RM each. Actually entering the cave complex itself is free.

We began our climb in the late morning under the surprisingly warm January sun. We took our time climbing the stairs, but it only took ten or fifteen minutes to reach the first landing. Along the way, we took time to admire the jungle and local inhabitants of the caves – namely monkeys.

Climbing the Stairs
Monkeys Just Hanging Out
Mischievous Monkey

The monkeys keep their distance mostly, but as we’ve learned in other locations, they are wildly unpredictable, curious, and will take a swipe at any opportunity. On the way up, we saw a baby monkey had managed to swipe an entire ice cream cone.

Monkey With Ice Cream
Monkey Stealing a Waterbottle

Dark Cave

We took our first stop at the landing of Dark Cave. The Dark Cave is an undeveloped part of the cave complex, which offers tours. There is a 45 minute guided tour for RM 35 (~$10) running every 20 minutes. For larger groups and advanced notice, you can book a 3 – 4 hour tour, further exploring the cave complex for around RM 80 (~$22) a person.

Dark Cave Entrance

We didn’t take the tour, because we didn’t have closed-toe shoes. If you have the time and opportunity it is a great tour though. The caves are home to the rarest spider in the world, endemic geckos, and other fauna found only here. The 2 km complex exhibits a wide range of geological formations with stalagmites, stalactites, cave curtains, flow stones, cave pearls and scallops, and other features. Instead of taking of the tour, we read the informative plaques at the entrance to the cave, and watched the antics of the monkeys – very entertaining.

Cave Map
Batu Caves Flow Stone
Plaque at Batu Caves

Temple Cave

After a half hour, we continued up the last third of the stairs to the shrine. When you arrive at the top of the stairs you will find a large landing opening to a large cave atrium. You will actually need to descend more steps into the main “room” which houses several small shrines.

Kyle and Bri on the Steps
Inside the main room
Shrine within Batu Caves

Various vendors will sell you trinkets, drinks, and other items while up here. Keep in mind that the drinks in the shrine are more expensive than at the base because everything must be carried up by hand – no elevator or wheel-chair access here.

Proceed further into the cave and you find another shrine in the back. Here the roof gives way and light enters the cave. This allows the cave to feel more open and inviting than many other cave complexes you may encounter.

Staircase to Interior Shrine
Shrine Within Batu Caves

Batu Caves is actually a rather recent development. The caves are estimated to be 400 million years old, and has been used by the indigenous Temuan people for centuries. Modern day usage of the caves began in 1860 with Chinese settlers  excavating guano for fertilizer. The caves then became famous after being recorded by colonial authorities and the American Naturalist, William Hornaday in 1878.

An Indian trader named Pillai was inspired by the ‘vel’-shaped entrance to the cave. In 1890 he founded the Sri Mahamariamman Temple within the cave. Wooden steps to the temple were originally put in, but concrete steps were placed in 1920 to accommodate the heavy number of visitors.

Thaipusam

The Batu Caves serves as the premier place to be outside of India for the Hindu holiday of Thaipusam. We are still kicking ourselves for not visiting the temple during the holiday (we were in Kuala Lumpur during it).

The festival begins in the early morning hours and features devotees walking several kilometers from the the city. During their march, kavadi bearers pierce themselves will metal skewers, and elaborate shoulder carriers (Kavadi), as a display of their devotion. Priests tend to the devotees sprinkling consecrated ash over the flesh of the participants.

Thaipusam

This display is made to offer milk to Lord Murugan, the god of war within Hinduism – though he also features prominently within some sects of Buddhism in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India as well.

Thaipusam

Photo courtesy of: nina.bruja

While the display can come off as extreme and macabre, the surreal experience is viewed as a purifying bringing good luck in the coming year.

The festival is extremely crowded, attracting over a million visitors on the day (which takes place in late January or early February.

Thaipusam

Other Attractions In Batu Caves

At the base of the stairs, there are two other cave temples: the Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave. Both feature Hindu statues and paintings. For those interested in the history and lore of Murugan and other Hindu teachings, these are excellent places to check out – though not free like the cave temple.

Art Museum Cave

There are numerous shops and stalls surrounding the entrance to the complex selling souvenirs, clothes, food, and drink.

I enjoyed my first of many coconuts on our travels here. Briana also managed to grab some vegetarian food easily and for a very reasonable price.

Kyle with Coconut
Veg food at nearby stall

We really enjoyed the Batu caves and recommend it for anyone visiting Kuala Lumpur. It’s a great activity for most anyone, especially families and active adults.

Things To Keep In Mind At Batu Caves

  • This is an active religious site, and as such you should dress and act respectful and modest
  • The complex is large and will take several hours to properly explore
  • The temple requires strenuous physical activity as there is no elevator or wheelchair access
  • Pay attention to the monkeys, we recommend not carrying food, and keeping water out of site when not actively drinking.
  • Keep all loose items on you or in a bag, don’t let the monkeys grab your stuff
  • Monkeys have personalities, some are far more bold and aggressive than others
  • Once a monkey has an item, it is no longer yours – don’t get bit by fighting a monkey 

~B & K

Briana Descending Stairs
Angry Monkey

Kuala Lumpur Central Market

With having finished the National Museum of Malaysia, we decided to make our way towards the Central Market and some food. We hadn’t eaten all day, and it was getting towards late afternoon, so food was the only thing on our mind.

A Stroll Through the Lake Gardens

The route would be through the Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens. From the museum, you can take a short walking tunnel under the highway opening up to a large, well manicured park. A large lark goes the length of the park.

We made our way along the paved paths, through the shadows of palms for a good long while. The heat and lack of food was slowing us down a bit, but we had plenty to look at.

The Lake

Interesting Trees

After about a kilometer, we came to a large covered pavilion surrounded by baobab trees. This area of the park housed many unique trees as well as various bridges crossing the lake. There was even an edible garden area (you’re not allowed to eat the edibles though). We stayed for a short bit to rest and look, but with a long way to go, so we proceeded on.

Bridge in the Park
Kyle at the Park
Lily Pads

Nearly another kilometer had passed, and we had gone by a large children’s park, and had come to a main road. From here, you can proceed further north and you’ll find yourself at the National Monument, or you can turn south and you’ll wind up at the Bird Gardens. The Lake Gardens themselves are a very large complex that contains the previously mentioned, as well as Butterfly Gardens, Deer Park. Along the outside rim of the Lake Gardens are the National Mosque, Islamic Arts Museum, and various hotels.

However, we proceeded down the main road, away from the Lake Gardens, still in search of food. We could see the Petronas Towers off in the distance and knew from previous experience that there was at least food there, but that we would hopefully find some before that. The road continued on for about another kilometer passing a nice fountain and smaller park, and then we finally made our way into the city streets.

View of KL Tower
Water Fountain
Downtown KL

Getting Into the Thick of It

Quickly, the quiet changed into the chaos that is KL. We ended up passing by an Irish place that offered vegetarian ciabatta sandwiches, so we stopped here and got Briana something to eat. I decided I could wait a little bit longer and try to find something else later on.

Islamic Arches In KL
Downtown KL

Later on ended up being a McDonalds only a few hundred feet away, but it was ok – I got a large burger and fries, and we got an ice cream as well. The McDonalds was pretty nice all in all, but didn’t offer any unique items like the South Korean McD’s did.

Exploring a Concrete Jungle

With our stomachs satisfied, we began our more serious search for Central Market. By this time, I’d managed to get data working on my phone, and we’ve managed to at least use the maps and gps to get around town. But we needed to be wary. The bikers around here are notorious for stealing phones and purses from people’s hands – and several were eyeing my phone and had that calculating look in their eye about how to make off with it.  So I kept it close, and put it back in my pocket. We had to cross the street, but for whatever reason, KL doesn’t seem to do cross walks, so we had to just time ourselves with the light and try to avoid getting hit by the bikers who ignore every rule.

Downtown KL
KL City Streets

Arriving at the Central Market

After a close call with a bike, we had finally made it across and proceeded on to the Central Market. It was only a few more minutes walk there and we finally arrived.  Central Market was first established in 1888 as an open-air wet market, but was renovated to it’s current state in 2004 to meet the needs of tourism and modernity. However, it still retains it’s charms and is a great place to wander and find authentic items.

There is a main street that has many street venders, but upon turning inside, you’ll find dozens of shops and stalls. Ranging from clothes, to trinkets, to antiques – food, drink, toys, and everything between, you can find anything. Briana bought some pants in a local style, which have worked out quite nice here. I would have liked to pick up a souvenir, but we could not have sent it back to the states, nor carried it with us on our travels.

Be Careful With Your Purchases

I was saddened to see a lot of ivory for sale. Many of the items on display, and stores, explicitly say no photography.  I’m pretty sure it’s because of the ivory pieces. Although the ivory trade is illegal, it still occurs in South East Asia, with China and the US being the biggest buyers. The Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand closely follow. We also came across real weapons from antiquity. Yet another item I doubt would make it through customs.

Central Market KL
Central Market Juice
Central Market Coconuts

Gotta Love the Ice Floss

Upstairs, we found a food court, we we decided to take a rest. I was still a little hungry, so I got us Strawberry Ice Floss. We really like the Ice Floss here.  Upon finishing our food, we continued on in the upper floor and checked out a few more antique shops, and then made our way out of the market.

Central Market Ice Floss

Go Check it Out

We were basically done for the day, but Briana really wanted to get a good picture of the Petronas Towers. However, no matter how far we walked, it never seemed to get any closer. Ultimately, with it dark and our feet tired, we gave up, took a quick snapshot and called our Uber.

~K~

Night Time KL

6th largest mall in Malaysia

1 Utama Shopping Center Kuala Lumpur

One piece of information I did not know about Malaysia before we went is that it’s home to many amazing malls! Asia and the middle east as a whole are populated with gigantic, clean, and modern malls which are filled with shops, restaurants, activities, and more like grocery stores. Our first of many malls in Kuala Lumpur was 1 Utama.

1Utama

Malls, I have always loved them

I remember going to the Mall of America a few times in my youth and I always found it both impressive and fun. I have now somehow been to 4 malls which are larger! 1 Utama is the winner so far, though, ranking at 6th largest in the world according to Wikipedia, and 4th according to CNN. At 5 million square feet, it’s the largest mall in Malaysia.

1 Utama is technically located in the city of Damansara. We visited a couple times when we came to Malaysia the first time and stayed in Petaling Jaya. Still, it’s not far from Kuala Lumpur so it would not be unreasonable to make a visit there from KL using Uber. There is an old wing and a new wing. Your driver will probably ask which you prefer to be dropped at, but if you are not going for any specific purpose it doesn’t matter because they are connected.

6 Floors to Explore

There are 6 floors – though it’s slightly more complicated than that – but if you have trouble navigating, there are a few directories. We even found a touchpad/interactive map in one area. They also have a website you can check out before visiting.

Touchpad 1 Utama

More Than Just Shopping

Some of the attractions at 1 Utama (and no we did not see all of these) include 2 movie theaters, 2 karaoke centers, a bowling alley, a batting cage, an indoor gym, a kid’s play land, an escape room, a rooftop garden, and a diving center. There is also an indoor rainforest.

Rainforest
Kyle in the rainforest

You’ll find many stores here that you might find in a mall in the US. There are all kinds of fashion/retail stores ranging from casual to upscale. There are bookstores, toy stores, makeup stores, etc.

Toys r Us in 1Utama
Makeup Store
For Americans

Great Opportunity To Sample Food

One great thing about Malaysia (particularly Kuala Lumpur) in general is the selection of food. It’s as diverse as the people there. You can find great food from all over the world here – though especially Asian food!

  • Chinese
  • Vietnamese
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Malaysian
  • Thai
  • Indian
  • Lebanese

Here are a few places we either tried or got photos of:

Korean Food.

It was neat seeing this sign because we were like, “Hey! we have been to Myeongdong” – a neighborhood in Seoul – “this must be Korean.”

Myeongdong Restaurant

Thai Food (So good!).

Pictured here:

  • Mango sticky rice
  • Red ruby dessert
  • Mango salad
  • Shrimp pad thai

Yummy Food

Taiwanese Food

These are sweet potato plum fries!(Also so good!)

Taiwanese PlacePlum Fries

McDonalds

McDonalds

Ice Cream and Desserts

Spiral Ice Cream cones
Korean Desserts
Milkshake Bros
tuttifruiti

A piece of cheesecake we treated ourselves on our very first visit.

Cheesecake

We watched the people at “Sticky” make candy.

StickyPeople making dessert
Making Candy

And more!

Little Cravings
Menu

You Get The standard Staples Too

Places like Starbucks seem pretty common all over the world, but this mall even has some options you wouldn’t expect to find outside of the US such as TGI Fridays.

We also had to check out the grocery store even though we could not do much cooking at the time we visited.

Grocery StoreProduce Selection
SamplesIce Cream Selection

We also checked out an herbal remedy store and restaurant (we just checked out the store). I was just getting over a cold and was curious about their remedies:

Herbal Store
White Fungus

It was such fun just walking around and exploring the mall in general. It’s pretty kid-friendly.

Flowers
Spinny Things
KyleinspinnythingFor Children

Top Quality Amenities

The toilets are normal and clean as well.

Our biggest problem with 1Utama was that it was hard to get an Uber to leave. There is quite a bit of traffic in the area and many times they’d end up on the wrong side and then it’d be a while (if they didn’t cancel) before they’d make it to our location. I assume parking here is also a nightmare though.

Underpass Between the Old and NewWaiting for Uber

It’s busy for a reason, though!

1 Utama

~B~