The last stop of our cruise in Malaysia was Kuala Lumpur, the capitol and largest city of this country.
Well, I say Kuala Lumpur, but what I actually mean is that we docked in Port Klang, roughly 50km away from the center of KL. And even that is misleading, as the cruise terminal in Port Klang is located in the middle of nowhere. The only chance to get away from there is either one of the pre-arranged tours from the boat, or taking one of the numerous taxis waiting there for you.
Willemijn and I had been to Kuala Lumpur a few years ago, and didn’t find this city too exciting. It’s a city that you cannot explore on foot (most streets don’t have pedestrian ways at all) and the main attractions are centered around the big shopping malls. And, while shopping malls can be fun, they are not something you travel half-way across the world to see, as you can find the just as easily at home.
So instead of heading into town, we decided that we wanted to experience two things: local public transport (i.e. the train) and the Batu Caves, one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India.
To start the day, we picked up a taxi at the cruise terminal to take us to the Port Klang train station (PelaBuhan Klang) and took it from there. Expecting train services to run similar to Singapore schedules (i.e. every 3 to 5 minutes), we were surprised to find that these trains only run once 40 minutes, or so. Luckily we were just in time for one of the services to take us towards KL Sentral.
Another surprise was the speed with which the train was going, or rather, the lack thereof. It seems that the Komuter service, as it is called, has been only recently reinstated and they are still trying to get things up to speed. According to the poster inside the carriage, the train is capable of operating at 110km/h, but the actual speed was probably closer to 20km/h, especially for the first few stations between Port Klang and Klang itself. But at least there was a train station directly at the Batu Caves, so it did get us there in the end.
And the 2-hour-trip did prove to be worth it. As the name suggests, the Batu Caves are a series of caves set high in a limestone hill, housing a Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is a very popular spot, both for tourists and for devoted Hindu’s, and we were not alone.
Dominating the central square is a 42.7m tall, golden statue of Lord Murugan, looking out over the city. Behind it, a steep staircase of 272 steps lead into the caves themselves. A long climb, especially in the hot on humid weather of KL.
But at least we had company on the way: a large number of monkeys live on the hill, living off the hand-outs from the humans that visit this place. They are not frightened of people and can be fairly aggressive if they think you have food and are not willing to share.
The inside of the large caves is dotted with shrines and sculptures of Hindu deities and other figures. And lots and lots of people.
As we were dependent on the running of the train, we had given ourselves an hour and a half for exploration, which turned out to be more than enough. We even had time to see a little side cave with a diorama of some Hindu religious scenes.
We then proceeded to take the train back, but decided to get out at Klang central station, rather than Port Klang, as at least there was a bit of city around the station there. This saved us almost 30 minutes of travel time, as the cab ride from here to the cruise terminal was not significantly longer that the one to Port Klang station, and only cost 10 Ringgits (ca. AU$ 3) extra. We should have done this in the morning as well.
It was then time to wave good-bye to Malaysia and spend the next two days at sea. The route would take us back past Singapore and on towards Koh Samui and Bangkok.