I finally made it to the Batu Caves. More importantly, I met two delightful women last weekend who accompanied me. Tammy, who works for the US embassy, and I met on a pedestrian bridge in Ampang magnetically, as I searched for true north on my way to an expatriate breakfast. Linda, a project manager from Great Britain, and I met at the breakfast function once I got my bearings, wandered around a sketchy neighborhood and arrived sopped in sweat, but on time.
This is my third encounter with Internations and two out of three have been pretty cool. So I called Linda, and Tammy (and two others) to join me on an excursion to the Batu Caves, which is north of KL. Despite its tourist overtones, it was terrific because I LOVE the Ramayana and one cave held a retelling — through a series of giant dioramas. If you have not read the story, find an abridged version to read, or read the whole thing.
It was typical Malaysia. Limestone caves, hidden in what used to be jungle, now littered with trash, grimy sidewalks and ticky tack souvenir booths.
Of course, I was the only one inappropriately dressed — selectively, I should add, at the cost of 5 ringets for a deposit on a piece of cloth to cover my legs.
We climbed the 300 steps to the top with the monkeys, barefoot women in brilliant saris, and a
a pilgrimage of monkeys and tourists.
I accept, embrace and understand the need to be barefoot in sacred places. However, there is a limit to my understanding. In Masjid Jamik and the Hindu temple I visited in KL, I would have eaten off of the floors.The Batu Caves were accumulating guano as we toured it, and there were puddles that I hesitated to go through with my shoes on.
I have mentioned my princess status in jest. And even though I am now a proud owner of a “Princess” brand leather bag, I am by no means a neatnick. In KL I can move from impeccable to filth within minutes. By the time I get from where I work and live, to the LRT, I have walked through shiny places that would put OZ to shame, waded through plastic waste and putrid smells mixed with a medley of Malaysian food stalls, back to the LRT platform and train, which is smooth, and shiny, and cool.
There is not much more to say about the caves. They are spectacular and colorful. I gained two friendships and I got to revisit the Ramayana. Not a bad way to spend a day!