Feeling Paranoid at Thaipusam in Kuala Lumpur
Unless you come from a Hindu culture or just a resident of Malaysia, the chances are you probably don’t know what Thaipusam is all about. I sure didn’t, but then my recently acquainted Malaysian friend asked for me to come up for it in Kuala Lumpur. So what is Thaipusam? It’s an annual festival held on the full moon of the 10th month of the Hindu calendar and celebrated by mostly the Tamil community where thousands (and I mean THOUSANDS) of people gather at the popular Batu Caves attraction to watch devotees demonstrate their vows in elaborate costumes and piercings.
I wasn’t initially a fan of the idea being sandwiched between smelly armpits and being herd like cattle, but I knew it was probably the only time I’d get to see something like this, and it would be a great photo opp to share with my peeps. I was also feeling a little sensitive to terrorist attacks with the recent Jakarta incident even though I knew the police officials had it all under control.
I was in Malacca at the time and took the early morning two-hour bus ride to KL make it on time but later found out that the big day wasn’t until the following morning on Sunday. So I meet up with my local friend anyway, and we spend the day doing what girls do: shop, wine, and dine.
We were partying a bit late the night before so we got a pretty late start on the day and made it to the festival at around 2:00 pm. The local transportation (MRT) line was packed (as predicted) that even men were sitting in the ladies’ only car – which made me feel a little perturbed as they all sit comfortably in our car while elder women were standing for 20 minutes before we get there. It was later more comforting to hear these weren’t “real Malaysians” and obviously they were a bit clueless, but you get where I’m going with this; the crowds!
As soon as we step off the railway, masses of people! I’m looking at the crowds packed like sardines (and probably smelling like them too) on the other side all waiting to leave the Batu Caves. This made me feel a bit uncomfortable. If there were any real state of emergency, those people weren’t going anywhere.
I let my feelings pass, and we make our way to the Batu Caves. There were dozens and dozens of vendors lined up, carnival rides, and again, TOO MANY PEOPLE. I’m sweating balls in this heat, and I just can’t wait to get to the other side so I can get my few pics and run!
I’ll admit it was a bit intriguing to see, but each of the devotees was usually swarmed by clicking cameras all trying to get the same picture I wanted. My friend wanted to get closer to the steps, and I’m whimpering inside but remain a trooper and fight my way through the crowds elbows and all. I couldn’t believe how many people they allowed walking the stairs to the caves. Again, sardines! If there were any sort of emergency that broke out, I could imagine a lot of helpless people. Why do I feel like I’m talking like an overprotective mom right now?
After we grab our few shots, we squeeze our way back out of the crowds and decide we had enough. The lines back to the MRT hadn’t changed, so we got a couple of henna tattoos that pretty much smeared by all the sweat and shoving through people. The AC was nice on the way back to the city, though?
I hoped to have some crazy inspiring story to share with you, but sometimes the crowds are just crowds. I didn’t feel a sense of awe nor did I feel emotionally taken. But if you are looking for a couple of cool photos, then this is definitely worth the trip!