After our surprisingly expensive work swap in Cherating, Malaysia it was time to hit the road again, but not before we saw some of the local sights (other than the prostitutes in the bar). We found the very scenic way out of Cherating by way of the Gua Charas – a looming rock formation that seems to rise out of an otherwise completely flat landscape dominated by palm plantations.
We arrived bright and early, just as the gates opened. It was great timing because we had the whole place to ourselves, instead of sharing with the bus loads of people that were showing up when we were done. We set off up the very steep uneven set of metal stairs. After a surprisingly painstaking climb, as we were both out of breath and complete sweaty messes, we arrived at the mouth of the main cave. The large, dark, echoing cavern was vast and intimidating and incredible. Any hidden ambition to be like Lara Croft or Indiana Jones vanished as Emer nearly jumped out of her skin with every drop of water that echoed, bat wings that flapped, or other unidentifiable noises. We moved our way through, past prayer stations and closed restaurant stations (it would be kinda cool to have a meal inside an ancient cave), and then on to the large Sleeping Buddha statue at the end of the cave.
After emerging from the Sleeping Buddha’s cave we made up way precariously up to a higher level. Since we were the first visitors of the day, the path was still heavily occupied by it resident tribe of monkeys. After several encounters with monkeys in India, previous notions of monkeys being cute and cuddly creatures has changed to thinking of them as scary nuisances. So, having to walk up super steep steps through a patch of territorial creatures who ended up surrounding us, turned out to be a trial for both balance and nerves. But once we made it through it was totally worth it. Despite bats constantly flying overhead, the way the rocks and trees intertwined in the opening of this outcropping was really quite cool. While generally against defacing natural wonders with graffiti, we must admit there was something cool about reading the writing dating back over 50 years in the hidden nooks.
If you’re planning on checking out this natural wonder, we would suggest one of the two prime times: first thing in the morning for privacy, or between 11 and noon when the light finds its’ way through the ceiling of the cave and shines directly on the Sleeping Buddha.