One of my most vivid memories of Malaysia was spent in the very vibrant Hindu pilgrimage site, Batu Caves. My siblings and I were on our way down the 272-step staircase from the main Temple Cave when our path was blocked by the most adorable little girl.
She had strawberry blond curls, the prettiest smile, and she was tentatively approaching a rather naughty looking monkey as her mother looked on. It started out nicely enough, with the monkey looking all cute as he met her halfway. It was one of those picture-perfect instances wherein you’re torn between capturing the moment on camera or continue being the quiet observer and taking it all in.
I guess it was a good thing I chose the latter because the moment she moved to pat the monkey on the head, all hell broke loose. The monkey turned aggressive, acted like a wild animal (well, it sorta is), and ended up scratching the little girl’s arms. The girl, of course, was terrified and burst into tears as she ran back to her mother, who laughed as she soothed her traumatised child.
The memory stuck.
Actually, come to think of it, everything about that particular trip to the religious site stuck. The rest of my stay in Malaysia I remember as being a blur, but that time spent in Batu Caves—which was just an hour, tops—I vividly remember.
I think it was the sensory overload, which started the moment our tour van approached the site.
Seeing the massive 140 ft. golden statue of Lord Murugan overwhelmed.
Add to that our climbing of the 272 steps to get to the Temple Cave (which was hot, humid, wet, and reeked of monkey dung) and being amidst a flock of pigeons, naughty macaque monkeys and very colorful statues of Hindu gods and goddesses…it was one incredibly stimulating experience—the kind that clings to the skin.
I will never forget how I felt the moment we reached the entrance of the Temple Cave. The moment I saw what awaited me after that gruelling ascent, I was rendered speechless. This, by far, remains one of the most dramatic sights I’ve seen in my lifetime: