All this ramping up and the day has finally arrived. We met a guy from the UK named Robert and his friend who he met the day before named Claire, also from the UK. To arrive at Batu Caves early enough to catch the festivities, we have to wake up at 7 to catch the train. Mandeep, Sam and I meet them at the train station and start our 45min transit to the caves. The heat rushes in as we exit the air conditioned confines of the train. The crowd that gathers at the entrance is absolutely huge and I’m amazed at how busy this place is this early in the morning.
As we enter the complex, we walk past a Hindu temple surrounded by a koi pond. The cave opening itself starts at the top of a giant flight of stairs. On the right, there is a giant festival tent set up for the festivities. Before we get to the stairs, people hoping to get a blessing from the priest inside the temple wash their feet at a nearby fountain to cleanse themselves. Inside the temple, a priest presses grains of rice on people’s foreheads to bless them.
We start climbing the stairs and work up a major sweat by the time we get up there. The cave opening are surrounded by stalactites. Dotted throughout the the place are little temples and shrines where revelers pray. The echo in the cave is so cool and the air is so humid you can cut it with a knife. The back end of the cave has a huge opening where people feed the monkeys with coconuts. Watch your stuff here cuz these monkeys get aggressive if they’re hungry. For a little more on the caves, check out my post on things to do in KL.
Getting hungry around lunchtime, we move down to the pavilion to try our luck at some of the free Indian food. There are stalls flanking both sides of the tent with tables all along the middle. Indian music is blasting the whole time. This area is just pure chaos. We line up for a wide variety of goodies but people end up just jumping the line whenever. I can’t name all the food that they offered but it was delicious. Once we get the food, we run into the problem of no tables. Great. Well might as well eat standing up. For some strange reason, one of the local politicians invites us to sit at their table with them. Sick. Why not?
This table is prime real estate. We get a great view of the performers on stage and the politician and his buddies introduce themselves while we gorge on food. The VIP tables have their own supply of all the goodies that are being served on the side, as well as servers replenishing whatever is running low. The heat, the music and the crowd create such a festive atmosphere and we just don’t stop eating. Claire even makes it onto the local news stations with a short interview (in retrospect I’m pretty sure they invited us to the table because of her)!
This was such a highlight for me, to experience celebrating a festival in a foreign country. It was spectacular, beautiful and delicious all in one. A true feast for the senses. Now, its time to fly off to our next stop, Penang.