A Golden Idol and some very naughty monkeys.

Today, I’m diving back into the series narrative… (if you’re new to the series, you can read the launch post here!)

It was day two of our journey from Thailand to the USA, and we had just finished eating nasi lemak. We were on the subway, making our way toward the Batu Caves.

Our subway screamed forward, jostling and shrieking. I stared out the window. Concrete buildings and greenery rolled by as we went stop, go, stop, go, stop, go all the way to the caves.

Finally, the subway doors opened up one more time and we eagerly stepped out. The very mountain that rose so high into the air fell away into a jagged limestone cliff.

And there was more.

A massive golden statue stood erect beside a dangerous flight of colored steps that led into the mountains.

A little history of these fascinating caves.and the statue of Murugan.

These caves are one of the most popular Hindu tourist attractions outside of India. This fact may strike you as odd considering that the Malaysian population (according to a 2020 census) is only 6.1 % Hindu. The reason for all of this is that when in the 1890s, a man named Pillai saw the shape of the entrance of the main cave, observing that it resembled the vel, the ‘divine’ spear of

Murgan, the Hindu god of war and commander in chief of the Celestial Army.

It’s said that because of the similarity, Pillai set up the first Murugan statue to be installed at the site and founded the century-old temple that is near the back of the cave. (You can see the golden Murugan statue holding the vel in the pictures.)

The current statue, the one that is covered with 300L of golden paint, was only completed in 2006.

How does it compare to the golden statue that Nebuchadnezzar made?

Well, Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue was about 90 ft. tall. This one is 140 ft. tall!

After laboring to the top of the vibrant 272 steps, we stepped into the monstrous mouth of the mountain. Except for the water that continuously dripped from the darkness above, there was little evidence that a ceiling even existed. Even with the electrical lights buzzing in the cool air, the bottom of the cave steeped in an unusual darkness also.

Passing through the large chamber, we made our way up another flight and into a courtyard formed by the mountain all around us. It was dazzling, with the trees and the stones forming a beautiful ring of colossal size.

And then there was the temple to Murugan. Watching the men and women prostrated themselves before the small golden image in the temple, I wondered what they wanted and why.

I looked it up. Hindu people pray to Murugan to receive blessing, direction, and rain – in essence drawing near to idols for things only God can give.

The monkeys (macaques, for you biology nerds) were very naughty, pretty much stealing anything from the tourists that they wanted.

Holding my little sister as we descended, I wasn’t at odds with the beasts and my apprehension grew as we edged past the toothy primates.

I was worried they would want the plastic bottle I was holding… and they sure did look interested, but, fortunately, they didn’t make any moves toward it.

Sharp teeth. Plump brains. Plenty of stringy muscle. They were worthy opponents if it came to a tussle.

We got down safely, but not without some leery moments, and passed by the Murugan statue one more time and boarded the subway to return back to Kuala Lumpur.

The next morning, we would rise early to catch a flight to Doha, Qatar, for a tour of the city.

Until then, thank you for reading!

New to the series?

Read the launch post and watch a short video I made about the trip!​

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