Discover Malaysia’s incredible temple caves


Caves are tourist attractions and objects of scientific interest around the world, but in Southeast Asia they are also places of worship. The cavers leave and the faithful enter. Tourists are still there, of course, after all a cave converted into a temple can be even more interesting than a cave without faith.

Malaysia is one of the countries in the world where turning caves into temples is most common. According to the website Caves of Malasya, the caves of Asia have been religious places for centuries, especially for Hindus and Buddhists. But wait a minute! Isn't Malaysia a Muslim country? Yes, but a large part of the Malaysian population is of Indian and Chinese origin. Immigrants brought other religions, which coexist peacefully. A certain professor Joseph Hobbs – an individual who even the holy Wikipedia couldn't help me figure out who it was – said that ‘the most incredible and vibrant uses of caves as places of worship' are spread across the approximately 200 km that separate Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, from a city called Ipoh, which is the capital of one of the Malaysian states. In total there are more than 50 caves that are temples in Malaysia. We visited the three most important ones – Sam Poh Tong e Silver Barrelwhich are close to Ipoh, and the most famous of all, the Batu Caveswhich are close to Kuala Lumpur.

Ipoh Caves - Malaysia

Sam Poh Tong Cave: images share space with stalactites.

Silver Barrel

My guide to Malaysia says that the two main tourist attractions in Ipoh are a football field and the building of a famous international bank. And when I say a football field, I mean a field: a lawn and nothing more. What the hell brings tourists to this city? The answer is Silver Barrel, which has been used as a Buddhist temple for almost 100 years. Almost 40 Buddha statues take over the place, including the largest in the country, a 12-meter-high seated Buddha. Paintings decorate the cave walls. From the top of Silver Barrel It is possible to have a panoramic view of the entire Ipoh region, but to get there you have to climb the almost 500 steps that cut through the cave.

Sam Poh Tong

Malaysian caves

This Buddhist temple is at the entrance to Ipoh. The cave was discovered by a Chinese man, who then decided to live there and, of course, transform the place into a temple. Sam Poh Tong's gardens have been voted the most beautiful in Malaysia and are home to almost 300 turtles.

Ipoh is on the way between Kuala Lumpur and the island of Langkawi. A quick stop is enough to see the two caves, which are on the side of the road. Those most interested (caver mode on) can spend a few days in the city and explore the almost 30 caves used as temples that are in the region. Furthermore, it is wise to avoid spending too much time in the city, which is nice enough, but offers nothing to do other than the caves, the football field and the bank building.

Batu Caves, the most famous in Malaysia

Some say that they are the country's main tourist attraction, a type of Malaysia's Christ the Redeemer. But it wasn't always like this: a few centuries ago Batu Caves they were nothing more than an important source of guano for the region's residents. Until an Indian merchant ruined the business of collecting bat dung and opened a temple there, in 1890.

262 steps lead to the top of the main cave and the biggest challenge there is far from physical effort: it's really difficult to avoid the hundreds of monkeys that run after tourists asking for food. And they almost always succeed, although sometimes it is by stealing from inattentive humans.

Next to the staircase is the 42-meter-high golden statue of Muragan, a Hindu god. In addition to the main cave, a dark cave that serves as home to bats, countless cockroaches and very rare spiders is also open to the public, but for this unmissable attraction you must pay for entry. So, not because of the bats, cockroaches and spiders, we left this tour aside. The third cave that completes the Batu Caves is the Villa, which also requires entry, but does not have bats and does not require the visitor to climb all 262 steps.

The Batus Caves are located in a district of Kuala Lumpur, 13 km from the city center, and the modern KL metro drops you off at the door for less than R$1. The caves are the largest center of Hindu worship outside India.

Also read: Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur

Batu Caves - Kuala Lumpur

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