I’m still not feeling all too great, BUT today we’re in Port Kelang, Malaysia. Our tour today took us to Batu Caves (called that because they’re full of bats), a popular pilgrimage site for the Hindu god Murugan. Today is the end of the Tai Pucam festival, and the place was so packed that our tour bus had to park a couple of blocks away and we all walked.
The caves are natural caves, and there are several shrines inside (and several more outside). To see the inside shrines, you must first climb 272 stairs that take you to the first big cave. Cross that, and you must then climb another set of stairs to get to more shrines inside.
Pilgrims were doing a ritual cleansing that consists of having one’s head shaved and then covered in saffron paste. Everyone wore yellow, and most pilgrims were taking offerings of flowers, fruits, incense, etc. Our guide said that lots of people go there to ask for a spouse or a child, a job or a promotion, etc. And often, people who get the thing they asked for will go every year to show their gratitude.
The thing that struck me was how many of the people going up those stairs were going up them barefoot. The place is overrun with monkeys, pigeons and bats – three species not particularly known for their fastidious bathroom habits. That’s some pretty impressive faith. (“Please, Lord Murugan, cure me of this hookworm…”)
After the caves, we went to the Royal Selangor pewter factory, a super-famous pewter factory started by a Chinese immigrant in 1885 and still run by the family. We got to see the pewter-making process, which was pretty cool. Even cooler was getting to make our own pewter bowls. We were each given a disc of pewter about 9” in diameter, a block of wood with circular depressions in each side, a metal hammer, a wooden mallet, and a set of letter stamps. First, we stamped our names onto our discs. Next, we used the mallets to hammer our discs into bowls, first using the shallow side of the wooden block, then the deeper side. I now have the world’s tiniest, cutest fruit bowl, which is currently holding 4 very tiny plums and an equally tiny peach in an unstable pyramid.