1. Batu Cave
The magnificent Batu Caves are one of the top tourist attractions in Malaysia, partly because they are located only 13km from downtown Kuala Lumpur and easy to get to.
Countless tour operators run half-day trips to the Caves but you do not really need to waste USD50 on an organized tour unless you like being rushed around the caves so that the guides can have extra time to drag you to handicraft shops and earn some extra commission.
The last time I went I spent just USD1 on transport and a further USD3 for a perfectly acceptable curry lunch. You can do the same but first let me explain what attractions you can expect at Batu Caves.
There are 4 main attractions at Batu Caves which is a limestone hill riddled with caves. These attractions are Temple Cave (or Cathedral Cave), Dark Cave, Cave Villa and Ramayana Cave
How to Get to Batu Caves
On my last visit I took the KTM Komuter train from KL Sentral all the way to Batu Caves Komuter station which is located a few steps from the entrance to the attractions. The fare was only RM2 each way which makes it the cheapest and easiest way to travel. The train has ladies-only coaches for the comfort and safety of female passengers. If you take your own car there is ample parking once you have negotiated the confusing road layout and reached the entrance to the cave complex.
2. Gua Tempurung
Gua Tempurung, located 25km south of Ipoh near Gopeng, is probably the largest cave in Peninsula Malaysia and has plenty to attract the serious caving enthusiast, the adventure seeker or just the casual visitor.
The total length of the cave is 4.5km although the part accessible to the public is about 1.9km.
The cave contains an underground river of 1.6km in length.
The cave complex comprises 5 giant domes:
– Golden Flowstone Cavern Reaching 90 meters in height, this gallery includes a smoothed stone cascade which looks golden when the river is in flow.
– Gergasi (Giant) Cavern Contains a massive 15m high column.
– Tin Mine Cavern Excavations left by earlier tin miners can be seen here.
– Alam (Universe) Cavern A 72 meter high cavern.
– Battlefield Cavern Fallen stalactites and rock formations litter the floor of this gallery including one nicknamed the Fallen Warrior.
How to Get to Gua Tempurung
The location is marked on my interactive map on the Caves page. It was easy to find. I exited the North-South Expressway at the Gopeng exit. After the toll gate I turned left onto Federal Route 1 in the direction of Kampar. After 5km I turned left when I saw the large billboard pointing to Gua Tempurung. It was another couple of kilometres from there. There was plenty of parking.
If you are without a car it would probably be best to get a taxi from Ipoh and negotiate for the driver to wait and bring you back.
While you are in Ipoh you could take my walking tour.
3. Perak Tong Cave Temple
There are more than 30 cave temples in and around Ipoh and Perak Tong is one of the most famous and frequently visited.
I expected more people there when I visited recently – it was almost empty. It was a weekday though and I imagine it gets more crowded at weekends and public holidays.
How to Get to Perak Tong
View from the peak above Perak Tong, Ipoh
This cave temple is marked on the interactive map on the main Caves page. Coming from Ipoh’s historic railway station, head north on Federal Route 1 following the signs for Jalan Kuala Kangsar. Perak Tong is in the northern outskirts of Ipoh near Taman Loke Lim and Taman Permai. It is located right next to the road so you cannot miss it. It sits at the foot of a hill called Gunung Tasek (163m).
If you are travelling via the North-South Expressway, the temple is very close to the Ipoh Utara Interchange (exit #140).
4. Sam Poh Tong Temple
Sam Poh Tong Temple is located at Gunung (Mt.) Rapat on the southern edge of Ipoh. This limestone hill has more holes in it than a Swiss cheese and there is a proliferation of cave temples in the vicinity.
According to Lonely Planet’s website, Sam Poh Tong is ranked as the 18th best thing to do in Ipoh (out of 33). That does not sound very encouraging does it? Mind you, most of the other 32 things to do on the list are restaurants – Malaysia is a food-obsessed country!
When the restaurants are excluded, Sam Poh Tong scores quite highly but behind Perak Tong, Ipoh’s other famous cave temple. I think this assessment is fair. Perak Tong has the more interesting cave interior and provides a good view of the city but Sam Poh Tong has the better gardens. If you only have time to visit one I would recommend Perak Tong. But on the other hand, Sam Poh Tong has other interesting cave temples right next door so you can kill two or more birds with one stone (more on the neighbouring temples later).
How to Get to Sam Poh Tong
The temple is marked on the interactive map on my main Caves page. A number of other cave temples are located right next door including Nam Tian Tong and Ling Sen Tong. These are well worth visiting. There is no entrance charge at any of these cave temples although it is customary to drop some money in the donation boxes.
From central Ipoh head south on Jalan Gopeng (Federal Route 1) towards Simpang Pulai. You will see the colourfully decorated temples on your left at the foot of a hill (Gunung Rapat). Access to the cave temples is via a slip road directly behind the Pomelo Stalls opposite Hillcity Hotel.
5. Gua Tambun Cave Painting
Considering Gua Tambun Cave Paintings have been around for thousands of years they are not that well known due to poor promotion (they are not even mentioned on the official Tourism Malaysia website for example).
They were ‘discovered’ in 1959 by Lt. RL Rawlings, a British army officer with the 2nd Battalion of the 6th QEO Gurkha Rifles while on a routine training exercise. He would have realised that these reddish-orange drawings were not the usual graffiti and this was confirmed shortly thereafter by a team from the National Museum who identified the doodles as Neolithic rock art.
Their exact age is rather fuzzy with most estimates putting them between 2,000 to 5,000 years old. They’re certainly very old!
They have been painted on the side of a limestone cliff ~ they are not really in a cave at all but on a rock shelter, a slightly overhanging ledge, located between 5 and 25 metres above the ground level. They were most likely painted using haematite.
Given their age and the fact that they are exposed to the elements, it is not surprising that large parts of the rock art have faded and can no longer be seen by the naked eye. Vandalism and graffiti have encroached on some of the lower level rock art.
In 2009, a team of researchers from University Sains Malaysia, using close range high resolution photography and digital image analysis conducted a thorough examination of the site and were able to identify that there were once over 600 distinct rock art elements, possibly making Gua Tambun the largest rock art site in Malaysia.
Most casual observers would be lucky to identify more than a few dozen or so drawings now remaining.
The drawings are of humans, animals, fruit, geometric shapes and abstract motifs. A dugong, a tapir, boar, deer, goat, turtles are among the recognisable creatures.
How to Get to Gua Tambun Cave Paintings
I visited on 28 February 2015 which is when these photos were taken. Here is how to get there:
Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see the map. As shown on the map, the landmark to look for in Ipoh is the Caltex petrol station on Jalan Tambun (A13), close to where Jalan Tambun passes underneath the Lebuhraya Utara – Selatan (North South Expressway).
There is a short lane next to the petrol station which leads down to the gated entrance to a polo field. Park here (next to the no parking signs!) or somewhere nearby and continue on foot.-Squeeze past the gated entrance (it feels like you are trespassing but there is a sign here pointing to Lukisan Pra Sejarah (Prehistoric Paintings).
Follow the track at the edge of the polo field along the foot of the hill.
Soon (after 500 m) you will see a wooden gazebo with a flight of concrete steps going up the hill.
Once you reach the top of the steps the rock paintings can be found on the cliff face in front of you, off to the right.
6. Gua Senyum
Gunung Senyum Caves are located in Pahang about 45 minutes drive from Temerloh.
Gunung Senyum, which means Smiling Mountain, is a limestone outcrop which rises sharply 478m above the surrounding oil palm-dominated countryside.
The mountain is riddled with caves, some of which are visible as soon as you pull up in the car park of Gunung Senyum Recreational Forest.
Next to the car park is a traditional Pahang house dating from 1907, a park management office, a food stall, campsite, toilets and surau. There is also a lake, partly spanned by a suspension bridge. The remains of a defunct aerial ropeway/flying fox are also evident.
7. Gua Charas
Gua Charas is a temple cave found in a limestone hill (Bukit Charas) about 25km north west of Kuantan, Pahang.
The cave is a holy site for both Hindus and Buddhists and their symbols and statues are dotted around the interior of this vast cavern.
Bukit Charas is a 400 million year old limestone and granite massif reaching 355 metres at its highest point. (The Tourism Malaysia information plaque outside the cave says that the mountain is 1000 metres high but I do not think that is correct.)
How to Get To Gua Charas
The cave is located on the main road from Kuantan to Sungai Lembing (C4). You cannot miss Bukit Charas and the cave is clearly signposted.
8. Kek Lok Tong
Kek Lok Tong (sometimes spelt as Kek Look Tong) is translated as Cave of Ultimate Bliss (or Great Happiness) and indeed it does seem to bring a feeling of well-being to the many local visitors who regard it as their favourite among Ipoh’s many splendid cave temples.
As the crow flies this huge cavern is no distance at all from Sam Poh Kong, Nam Thean Tong and Ling Sen Tong, those other famous cave temples on the southern outskirts of the city. But it is located on the reverse side of Gunung (Mt.) Rapat and it is not that easy to find, requiring a lot of zig-zagging through residential backstreets before arriving at Kek Lok Tong’s car park.
9. Nam Thean Tong
Let me tell you about my recent spooky experience at Nam Thean Tong, one of Ipoh’s oldest cave temples having been established in 1867 by a Chinese priest called Kuong San Teik.
This cave temple, which is sometimes spelt as Nam Tian Tong among other variations and was formerly known as Lum Ting Toong, is located next door to another more famous cave temple, Sam Poh Tong.
I had read that Nam Thean Tong is a Taoist temple and this was evidenced by the painting over the entrance of the Eight Immortals, characters from Chinese mythology who are revered by Taoists.
How to Get to Nam Thean Tong
Directions to the Nam Thean Tong Cave Temple can be found on the Sam Poh Tong page.(Sam Poh Tong is right next door).
10. Gunung Reng
You cannot miss Gunung Reng if you are driving on the East West Highway in Jeli district in western Kelantan. It is a spectacular limestone outcrop located close to the highway between the towns of Jeli and Belimbang.
I went there recently on my way from Baling to Kota Bahru.
Just before the mosque in the photo there was a rough road leading to the recreational park at the foot of the hill.
I could not see any steps or path going up the side of the hill so I suppose it is not possible to climb to the top unless you are a skilled mountaineer with all the right equipment.
The recreational park contains a dilapidated children’s playground, a shop and food stall, surau, toilets etc.
How to get to Gunung Reng
The location is marked on the interactive map on the Caving in Malaysia page. There is no entry charge and no gate to the cave entrance so I guess you can go at any time. At dusk you might be treated to the sight of thousands of bats emerging from the cave to look for their supper.