Batu Caves and my de-flowering by a defiant monkey

Batu Caves, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Normally you'd think that you'll be fairly safe from wildlife while travelling in a capital city of a South East Asian country, but that's not always the case. My innocence was taken by a defiant monkey at Batu Caves, located merely 13 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur.

It was 2012, I was in KL and decided to visit the Batu Caves, limestone caves that contain Hindu shrines dedicated to Lord Murugan whose huge statue proudly stood guard. The unexpected reward atop the 272 steps was a massive cathedral cave housing several Hindu shrines. The shrines were almost overshadowed by the sheer height of the cave ceiling – I spent my first minute inside the cave looking up in awe.

Coming down from the main cave I discovered the Dark Cave where one can join a 45 minute educational tour. It was interesting to learn about guano (bat poo) that is the whole driving force behind the cave ecosystem. At one point the guide asked us all to switch off our torch lights to experience total darkness. It was exactly that, total blackness, even frantic waving of a hand in front of my face was undetectable! The sign at the front of the cave also boasts that it is home to the rarest spider in the world, the Trapdoor spider, which unfortunately we did not get to meet but this I'm sure was a relief to most on the tour.

Instead of a potential spider encounter, I should have been afraid of the monkeys surrounding the cave/temple complex. While visiting one of the Hindu temples, the priest blessed me with white/red powder on my forehead and a flower behind my ear. Unfortunately the feeling of serenity was short lived. Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my ear. My flower gone and my ear bleeding, a monkey had come out of nowhere and stolen my flower, and proceeded to eat it in front of me, a face full of defiance, challenging me to come get him, if I dared.
The naughty monkey that stole and ate my flower

Monkey bites and scratches can be nasty as they have the potential of transmitting rabies and herpes B virus. Both of these can be fatal if untreated. Rabies is particularly scary in that it is often symptom free for days, months and sometimes years, but by the time the symptoms appear it is too late and almost universally fatal. Good news is that it can be prevented by getting rabies vaccines and immunoglobulins as soon as possible. Want to find out what to do if you get a bite or scratch? Take a look at my other blog post about rabies and herpes B viruses.

More monkeys outside Batu Caves
My next stop was Singapore so when I got there I called around to try and find doctors with rabies vaccines available. No such luck. They all advised going to the emergency department; fortunately where I stayed was only 5 minutes walk from Singapore General Hospital. I had a fever that day from a stomach bug so was diverted to the "fever section" of the emergency department, but that's another story for another day! After I came home I finished my course of rabies vaccines and it's nice to know that I'll have some protection in the future.

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