The Bengali Runaway: Batu Cave
Sophia (the flat mate), Amore (Sophia's friend) and I met James at the train station. He was a British teacher living in China on holiday in Malaysia for a week. Very polite and English. He was on his way to his hotel and asked us for directions. We got talking and then Sophia asked him to if he wanted to come with us to Batu Cave. He hesitated. He had his suitcase with him and needed to check in to his hotel. 'Just come,' Sophia said. 'Oh alright then,' he replied and that's all the convincing it took. Sophia and Amore didn't want to climb Batu Cave; they had done it already. So James and I walked barefoot in the warm monsoon rain up the stairs leading into the Hindu temple and shrine. I didn't think 272 steps was much but my calves disagreed and protested half way through. I had to stop briefly to allow them to recover and took that opportunity to turn around carefully and look at the view. The city lay sprawled out beneath us and the people at the bottom of the stairs seemed like tiny figures swimming in a brown sea. There was something very Indiana Jones about it all. Sophia had told us that there were monkeys in the cave that we needed to be wary of. They were very confident and unafraid of snatching things from people. Food, camera, your hair. I could barely look up and see what was ahead of us as the rain was pouring down continuously. Would I meet those monkeys when I reached the top? Would they notice my drenched hair hanging limply just above my shoulders and my camera draped across my body and pick on me? Could I fight them off? How do you even fight monkeys in the rain?
We walked into the mouth of the cave to find things were a lot calmer compared to the nonstop down pour of the monsoon rain. There were no monkeys sadly. I was actually looking forward to potentially having a tug of war with them. It was cool and fairly dry inside, lit up by tungsten lights nestled in between the nooks and crannies of the wall. There was a hole in the roof of the cave which gaped open to the skies, letting the rain pour in. I stopped and stared for a while. How magical it was to see a down pour of fine rain mingled with light fall through from such a great height.
There were a couple of men playing the drum and the flute and a few more dressed in orange sarongs lighting a shrine. I snapped away trying to get a good angle without disturbing anyone. James waited patiently; he was such a good sport. After looking around for a little while longer, we decided to go back down. Coming down was scarier than going up, the steps weren't exactly the same height so I couldn't allow my legs to walk on autopilot or else I'd lose my balance and fall. The continuous rain had made a waterfall of the stairs and a sea of the floor down below. After 272 slow, deliberate steps, we finally reached the bottom to find the water level was about 15 inches deep. I had never experienced so much rain nor had I ever waded across water like this before. Still bare foot, my clothes completely drenched and sticking to my skin, I was happy.
I was happy.
This is what I had come for.