Back in KL, we celebrated the end of the expedition at an insanely delicious Punjabi restaurant.
Later, we found ourselves wandering around the Thean Hou Chinese temple, an ornate, multi-tiered prayer hall with a very open and welcoming vibe, the sounds of the Chinese harp wafting out over the evening traffic. The fusion of the restaurant and the temple created the perfect microcosm of Malaysian culture and a fitting final night on the road.
Can we talk seriously for a minute about the aforementioned Punjabi restaurant? Because our experience there was transcendental. The food was out-of-control good, and not only because we'd just emerged from the bush. Mango lassis made with real, unpasteurized yogurt (it's worth noting that the four of us had been lying on our cots at night in the jungle and collectively fantasizing about mango lassis in a serious, serious way). Tandoori, curries, heaping bronze bowls of colourful veggies, and beer. If you find yourself in KL or anywhere remotely near it, get yourself to Jassal's Tandoori Restaurant. Tell him we're still full.
Malaysia's a place that's fed and nourished so many different dimensions of our team; it's hard to believe a single country can offer so many distinct worlds. Malaysia gave us the noise and colour of street markets so we could meet people, socialize, chat with locals, and laugh. It gave us long, meditative walks through pristine forest so we could be quiet and still. It gave us raw, challenging weather that kept us up all night, and then deep sleeps in modern hotels. The sombre reverence of mosques and temples, and then the feeling of total freedom in a 4x4 Jeep barrelling down an open dirt road under the stars.
I suppose you can unearth these contrasts in any country -- but only if you're game to keep moving rather than stay in one city, one town, or one resort the whole time. The past three weeks have been a good reminder of that; Paris is not France. Toronto is not Canada. We covered a whole lot of ground on our Malaysian expedition -- logged hours driving through the country and trekking through the wilderness -- and we were rewarded immensely with a vast galaxy of different experiences, vibes, activities, and flavours.
Terima kasih, Malaysia!