Caves and Temples
Day 190 Batu Caves
We have booked an extra night in Kuala Lumpur so that we can go out to the Batu Caves on the outskirts of the city. We catch the hop-on, hop-off bus to the Sentral station and this is an experience in itself. On route the road is closed and we are directed onto a diversion, and we assume the driver knows where he is going.
Suddenly we arrive at a low bridge which the bus cannot drive under, a three-point turn is made and we set off along a back street into the bowels of Little India. We are treated to views of the Hindu temple and the street market. A car is blocking the road and there is no driver in the car, we are unable to get past. By this time there is a queue of people behind the bus and we are well and truly stuck.
The driver manages somehow to reverse into a side street missing other vehicles by inches and turns again once the backed-up traffic has dissipated. Hurray we are back on route to the Sentral station albeit has taken rather longer than we anticipated.
The station is huge and it takes some time and a few enquiries to make our way to the ticket office for the train to Batu Caves. The ticket is a plastic coin (good in the present climate, wonder when it was last sanitised) and we make our way to the platform where the train is. The train is very modern and clean which is very reassuring. We sit back and relax as we can see that we will pass through about ten stations before reaching our destination.
Our station is the last station on the line and once alighted we make our way up the escalator to the exit. From here we are able to see the caves in the near distance and make our way towards them. It is comprised of three major limestone caves and a number of smaller ones. This attraction seems busy unlike the other places we have been in Kuala Lumpur; however, this is apparently very quiet and the market vendors are suffering due to the lack of visitor numbers.
We walk along the road towards the main cave which is guarded by a giant golden statue of the Hindu God at the bottom of the 272 brightly coloured steps. We start the long climb up to the Cathedral Cave which houses several Hindu shrines. This is quite a slog in the heat of today, 36 degrees and no shade.
Monkeys are frolicking around the steps looking for food and being fed by some unthinking tourists. There are signs asking visitors not to feed the monkeys, but as usual not everyone takes heed. Mark has his water bottle knocked out of his hands by one of these monkeys who are quite aggressive. I find this part of the climb quite scary.
At the top we are amazed to see the 100m-high arched ceiling of the cave which houses a number of Hindu shrines. Further through and up more steps we can see up to the sky through a hole in the ceiling. Monkeys are climbing up the sides of the cave carrying their young below them. There are also chicken roaming around the shrines and temples.
Some of the shrines have ceremonies carried out by monks in orange robes. We remove our shoes and spend time in the different temples. Mark and Marcus attend one of the ceremonies and are blessed by the monk having white spots painted on their foreheads and are given red string bangles.
On our way out to the steps we pass a young girl who looks distressed and has what looks like blood all over her face and hands. I stop to ask her if she is OK and her response is ‘Oh yes, do I look a mess? I splashed my face with water forgetting I had a bhindi spot and have no tissues’ We gave her some wipes for which she was really grateful, our good deed now done for the day.
On reaching the foot of the hill we come across two other cave temples – the Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave which houses numerous Hindu statues and paintings. From here we walk back past the station to another large cave which is full of tableau representing the history of Malaysia and with lit up stalactites and stalagmites.
The train journey back to Sentral station seems quicker than the one to the caves and we are soon back in Kuala Lumpur. The ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus has run out so we buy a ticket for the monorail, which Mark has been wanting to go on all the time we have been here. Again, this is a modern carriage which wizzes through the air bending on corners. This makes for a really quick journey through the city centre and we are soon back at our hotel.
This has been a tiring day and I don’t feel like going out this evening so Mark and Marcus go off for an hour or two on their own. They bring me a McDonalds cheese burger back which I’m afraid to say I really relish.
Day 191 KL to Cameron Highlands
On checking out of our apartment we ask for a taxi to take us to the Bus station and the receptionist uses the grab app, the taxi costs $20 opposed to $70 when we arrived. It’s a shame we cannot use this app on our UK phones. The journey is on busy roads but we arrive with enough time to collect our tickets and get onto the bus.
We are sat in front of a German couple who are travelling around Malaysia. They are having a great time but the young man seems quite concerned over coronavirus and mentions it a number of times during our conversation. He does think he’s probably safer here than in Germany at the moment.
Once out of the city the landscape changes dramatically. There are steep hills covered in lush jungle vegetation and the road starts to climb. In some places the bends are treacherous and the driver beeps his horn almost continuously. At least this driver seems to have his wits about him and Mark doesn’t need to chat with him to keep him awake.
As we get higher into the hills, we realise that this area is quite poor. Many of the houses are wooden or tin one room shacks and people have set up stalls at the side of the road selling a handful of fruit or vegetables trying to make a few dollars. Every now and then there is a really lovely artisan stall selling bamboo furnishings and woven products such as hats.
Just before we reach Ringlet, we pass Lata Iskandar Waterfalls which cascade over several tiers of granite slopes and flow into a small pool at the bottom. The spot is overrun by tourists congregated under the shower of the falls or perched along the rocky ledge for selfies and photos. There is a makeshift market consisting of ramshackle shops and stalls strung along the main road here which offer souvenirs, handicrafts, herbs, tropical fruits and vegetables.
As we continue to climb into the highlands, we cross a large lake with a hydro-electric power station at the head, surrounded by dense jungle. The road is steep and windy and becomes even more hair raising, it also becomes busier. Eventually we reach Tanah Rata and the bus pulls up at a shopping centre.
We leave the bus, collecting our luggage and order a taxi to take us to our hotel which is quite a distance away near Kea Farm. The drive is very pretty as the road winds through forests and mountains with terraces of vegetation. I think they must be tea plantations, although they look like clouds of bushes.
The Cameron Highland golf course just before the town of Brinchang looks really inviting and would be a lovely place to play a round. Brinchang itself is not so pretty with large blocks of apartments and hotels lining the road. However, we have even further to travel to the small community of Kea Farm, nestled in the highest hills surrounded by vegetable farms and tea plantations.
The scenery is fantastic but the road is a nightmare. One huge market with crowds of people and horrendous traffic. It looks chaotic and there are dogs wandering around and rubbish everywhere. A pack of dogs run in front of the taxi as we pull into the hotel and the driver says, ‘There are wild dogs everywhere here’. Oh great, I’m terrified of dogs at the best of times so I don’t think I’ll be wandering round here.
After checking in at reception we make our way to our room. This hotel was obviously quite grand when originally opened but unfortunately it has not been touched since. The room is large but could do with a refurb (scuffs on walls, shabby bathroom, dated furniture) but the bedding and bathroom are clean. Nevertheless, I wipe every surface down with antiseptic wipes, including handles on doors.
Making our way down to the coffee shop we see afternoon tea advertised in the lift and decide to treat ourselves. This proves to be really nice and I feel this may not be too bad after all. We have a stroll around the hotel and the restaurants look OK so at least we won’t starve. Mark and Marcus go to have a look around the area and I go back up to the room to ring my mum.
I stand on the balcony taking in the spectacular views of the highlands, it really is beautiful and it is easy to understand why the English loved to escape the heat by travelling up here. I’m feeling much more positive and on returning Mark and Marcus report they have not seen any more packs of dogs but are convinced I will not like the market. It is packed with people and food is being served in less than hygienic places. Therefore, we eat in the hotel restaurant and the food is good and very reasonably priced.