The foreign fellows from the Malaysian Press Institute have been planning for weeks now to visit the Batu Caves – one of KL’s tourists spots, a labyrinth of dark, slightly creepy caves found within limestone abutments. It’s also a sacred place for Hindus – there’s a temple tucked inside one of the caves.
Plans that never make it to fruition. And to think, it was more or less twenty minutes from our apartment in Bukit Damansara.
Over lunch today though, there was a realization that the fellowship was nearing its end. And we didn’t want to leave KL without having visited the historic caves.
Took the bill. Hailed a cab. Went up 247 cardiac arrest-inducing steps. And there we were.
Before I began my first backpacking trip in July 2013, interrailing around western Europe for just a month with university friends, my best friend Charlotte gave me a small A5 book in which to stick mementos; tickets, leaflets, occasionally pornography found it’s way in there along with accounts of each city recorded while making our way to the next destination. It’s easily one of my favourite possessions, as it serves as a sort of palpable, physical memory, and I took great pleasure in returning the favour and buying a journal for my travel partner when we decided to set sail for south east Asia & Japan in September 2013.
This blog is a little less personal, but I wanted a similar document of my travels online, and a place to record the zillion little nuggets of opinion that popped into my head along the way, that I could share with my friends and family.
When I say share, I mean force them to read. Just so you know what you’re getting yourself in for.
Henry and I have a knack for being in the right place at the right time and it was no exception with the festival we stumbled upon. Already knowing we wanted to visit the shrines in the Batu Caves, we found out that during that day the Tamil population of Kuala Lumpur would be celebrating Thaipusam, a festival dedicated to Lord Murugan, the God of war. Worshippers process from Little India to make their offerings, burdening themselves with Kavadi (large decorative contraptions worn on the body) and piercings through the mouth and back - pleading with Murugan to help them with their journey. Others making offerings, all dressed in yellow, processed up the 272 steps to the caves carrying milk as an offering. The scale, noise and spectacle of the festival was intense and almost primal, and it carried us along for the ride.
Feeling a sense of achievement at reaching the top of the stairs, we were able to visit the myriad of shrines and devotional spaces, each for a different god, before we began our descent back to the earth. As we left the procession showed no signs of slowing and it seemed it would continue long into the night.
This picture was taken just as the festivities were really ramping up from the bottom of the steps.