Aren't they the cutest things? We were heading for Penang Hill when a signpost brought us onto a detour to a dubiously-named "Bat Cave Temple". The walk went through a small residential estate that ended in a hilly scattering of houses that would not seem out of place in rural Taiwan. Beside an ugly cement silo stood the fairly non-descript building, which seems unremarkable compared to the ornate temples down in Georgetown.
The temple is dedicated to Tua Pek Kong, an earthy Chinese deity popular in Malaysia and Singapore due to his penchant for bestowing prosperity on dutiful souls. We were a little too underwhelmed by the little cave at the back of the temple and so neglected to take note of a sequence of rites that visitors were supposed to perform before venturing into the lair, such as purchasing an offering, tweedling a stone tortoise and feeding the fish at a little pond overseen by the goddess of mercy. Divine retribution came the next day when Joe stepped on a big pile of dog poo before breakfast.
There was a little altar at the back of the cave but no apparent bats. My disappointed duck complained to a lady selling incense by the entrance and she led us blind packers back into the chamber and pointed upwards and right just after the doorway to a sloping wall that ended in a dark crevice. There were probably about a hundred or more little bats dangling from the rockface. Some were huddled together in batty bundles of fur and leather. Others preferred to hang out by themselves. Bits of batty poo stained the floor and I ignored the occasional sense of something dripping onto my shoulder while shooting the beasties by Joe's torchlight. My best guess is that these are sheath-tailed bats, possibly Emballonura alecto which is known to live in disturbed areas, given their relatively large eyes, lack of a nose leaf and characteristic posture of holding onto the surface by their wrists. On a notice board outside, a local newspaper clipping described the place as being "infested with bats." The clearly repulsed reporter would surely be glad to know that the nasty creatures are now much dwindled from their earlier swarm of thousands, as devotees in their haste and hustle dampen the draw of this den of wings.