Monkeys and Fireflies

Kuala Lumpur Travel Blog

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Batu caves

There is a temple (yes another) about an hours drive from the city centre according to the guide book. We haggled a price with a driver and got what we thought was a more than reasonable price for an hour of his time. He must have been laughing, 15 minutes and we were there. He kept insisting on us phoning him when we’d finished as everyone out there would accept no less than triple what we’d paid to get back. To shut him up we took his card.


Batu caves is a Hindu temple with the worlds tallest standing golden statue out front. We arrived at just after 8am, after assuming the drive would take longer, but this turned out to be to our advantage. The only other people about at that time were there to pray.

Oh, and about a million pigeons, and dozens of chickens and cockerels. There are usually loads of aggressive macaque monkeys loitering around this area but they must have been having a lie-in as we saw none.


There are 272 steps to the cave entrance. There were noisy bells being rung as people prayed and each person then made the climb to the top, some devotees were struggling as they were ancient and some nutters walked the length of each step before proceeding to the next one, the nuttiest of all was repeatedly jogging up and down the lot (whilst smiling). At the top is a vast open cave with a hole in the top, a few shrines dotted about and more birds. Hanging down all around were large stalactites, I think that’s the right one.


Seems we chose to leave at the right time too, as we crossed the entrance to leave a couple of coaches pulled up.

Groups of blokes poured out. We got to the main road and hailed a taxi. As the first ride cost us 30RM we thought we could get it for less now we knew how far it really was, we offered 20RM, he must have misheard because he answered ’12, ok then’. Sweet!


We had a proper tour booked for the afternoon, the fireflies tour. Fireflies are a phenomenon apparently and can only be seen in two places in the world, here and somewhere along the Amazon river. Problem being with the Amazon one is that the river is teeming with piranha fish. We waited in reception for our coach. No-one else seemed to be going on the tour from here, then a guy turned up, introduced himself as Jeffrey.


It turned out it was just to be the three of us and Jeffrey.

 He certainly knew his stuff as he proved all the way there, it was about an hour and a half to our first stop. He told us all about the local climate change, surroundings, beer, economics, history etc. Anything we threw at him he could answer.


The first stop was at an old fort where there should be silver leafed monkeys. These are friendlier than macaques and are known to climb all over you. We parked at the bottom of a hill and took a hot walk to the top. There were monkeys everywhere. Jeff had given us 3 large bunches of long green beans to hand out to the monkeys. As soon as I opened up my bag to get some out something landed on my back. There was a monkey climbing up me, so I started handing it beans. We started to peel the monkeys of us and fed them for a bit.

There was always one or more jumping at you or climbing your legs, it was brilliant! In the end I was just walking round taking photos and feeding them with one sat on the back of my neck. Then we saw a mother and baby. The adults are grey and black and the babies are bright ginger, they walk around clumsily making pathetic squeely noises. We stayed about half an hour and was covered in muck by the time we left, my new t-shirt lasted about 2 hours, not bad for me. Sadly we had to leave, if we had to end the tour now, I still would have been happy after that.


Next up we went for tea at an outdoor Chinese restaurant by the waters edge. Tea was way too big, there was a plate full of crab claws, a plate full of whole tiger prawns, a large bowl of rice, sweet and sour fish, veg, plate of squid, it could easily have filled 5 or 6.


On to the fireflies, it was dark now and luckily there was no rain or the visit is called off. Jeff told us all about them, locals call them kelip-kelip. The light is caused by some sort of chemical reaction, I asked if they stored up energy or something like that from the sun, a bit like solar panels. This caused a right laugh at my expense, I still know what I meant and think it makes sense. You have to get a little wooden boat with one of the local fishermen, they do this at night to subsidise their wages. We headed into total darkness, a bit creepy in a narrow boat no more than a foot deep, and almost straight away you can see a whole bushy tree flickering on and off. They are almost all in unison, there is a reason for this but I can’t remember it. The reason they only live here and don’t spread out is because they need this particular mangrove tree to survive.

There are literally millions of them, occasionally one will fly over to you and land in the boat it’s like watching a tiny bulb flicker, it’s really bizarre, I suppose it’s a phenomenon.


Time to leave, what an incredible tour and I think I speak for us all when I say that the monkeys were definitely the best part. On the way back we talk a lot more to Jeff about religion mainly. I was a bit embarrassed when I couldn’t answer some of his questions about our main religions so I blagged it. I know more about eastern religions than our own, I am ashamed I really ought to know more, but I bet I’m not the only who isn’t fully in the know, are you?

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