And here we are, writing final thoughts for our final country in Asia. It’s awfully bittersweet. When we started more than a year ago, we couldn’t even fathom the end that seemed so far away. During the past month in Malaysia, we found ourselves simultaneously amazed and terrified for that deadline; amazed that we managed to do what we set out to do, but terrified that it’s over. We will always remember Malaysia as our finish line.
His Final Thoughts
Malaysia was one of the most developed countries of our trip. Getting from point A to point B was straightforward and easy, as dependable service was available everywhere we went to. Over land, we could choose between buses and trains that took us to the desired destination in a short time. In the skies, AirAsia was awesome and offered fares that were hard to believe (often cheaper than taking a bus or train!). We never ran out of good travel options here. When it came to accommodation and supporting facilities, like restaurants, bars, etc, Malaysia also lived up to expectations. We were provided with nice places to sleep along with world class food and entertainment, all for a budget price.
Usually, with all of this modern development comes a downside: the lack of “off the beaten path” idyllic places. Though this was true in certain parts of the country – the bustling capital of Kuala Lumpur had skyscrapers rising higher than the clouds – Malaysia still surprised us with its natural side. Malaysian Borneo had more than its fair share of amazing wildlife and diversity, both above and underwater! The green rolling hills of tea plantations in Cameron Highlands were another place of quaint, scenic beauty. Cenang Beach in Langkawi reminded us once again of how stunning yet humbling the ocean and beach can be. Despite being cities, both Melaka and George Town still had old small-town charm, with an interesting history and food to die for. Needless to say, Malaysia is a diverse country.
Although we traversed west to east over the course of 45 days, we didn’t catch everything. In peninsular Malaysia, we stayed exclusively on the west side and missed some marvelous groups of islands on the east, such as the Perhentian Islands and Redang Island. Meanwhile in Borneo, we barely scratched the surface. I was dying to dive at Sipadan Island, consistently ranked amongst the top dive sites in the world. Prices kept us away this time around. We sadly were not able to climb Mt. Kinabalu, closed due to an earthquake that took place early this year. We also skipped the entire Sarawak province and missed cities like Kuching along with plenty of national parks.
It’s not as easy to impress us anymore, but Malaysia nonetheless managed to offer us new experiences while at the same time providing a comfortable standard of living. I’d like to think that we ended our Asia trip on a high note here.
Her Final Thoughts
In Malaysia, we felt like we had all the time in the world. 90 days entry combined with our slowed pace in the later stages of the trip meant that we could go as leisurely as we wished. As a result, we found ourselves often staying almost a week per place in Malaysia, much longer than we have averaged throughout the year. It was a great opportunity to take it easy, find pleasure in the little things. My memories of Malaysia are filled not just with famous sights, but moments of quiet and calm; instead of a hectic blur, I recall times where I simply stood still and breathed it all in.
We could not have chosen a better place to end our Asian food adventures, even if we tried. Malaysia had traditional Malay cuisine mixed with heavy outside influences, such as Chinese and Indian. Thus it was the perfect mix of trying new dishes while revisiting old favourites. For a week in George Town, we ate more than anything else. Curry laksa we learned to love, though I admit I was always partial to some solid Chinese food. Malaysia also provided plenty of options for authentic food from all over Asia, which we made sure to take advantage of. Not surprisingly, we ate as if we would never eat here again.
One theme throughout our time in Malaysia was the sense of the end. It was ever-present in the back of our minds, no matter how hard we tried to avoid it. While this may not be fair, it’s both the burden and the privilege thrust upon Malaysia. Burden because as each day passed, we inevitably became more downcast, more nostalgic, which undoubtedly shadowed our perceptions of the country. At the same time, it was a privilege because we treasured every last minute. Malaysia was more than just visiting this particular country – it became a means of appreciating and celebrating everything the entire continent gave us one last time.
I’d like to think of our time in Malaysia as a gift, a reward for making it until now, having gone through the entire last year. So for every day of the 45 days here, I cherished how far we’ve come and tried to properly say goodbye.