Paradise in Borneo
20 April 2015
Recently, my wife and I decided to stay on for a few days after a conference in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to explore the beautiful city. We chose to stay at the mesmerizing Shangri-La Rasa-Ria Resort and Spa and it was the best decision ever. Located on a stretch of private secluded beach surrounded by forested hills; we enjoyed daily beautiful sunrise and sunset long walks with the cool sea breeze brushing against our cheeks and soft sands beneath our feet. Mmm…we definitely found paradise on earth in beautiful Borneo!
The rooms were heavenly, especially rooms in the new Ocean Wing offering magnificent views of the South China Seas. Decorated exquisitely; the room was spacious, comfortable and what’s more comes with a large bath tub at the balcony. Super cool! The various on-site restaurants offer various mouth-watering local and international fare (Coffee Terrace and Naan were our favorites).
To eat like the locals do however, we headed out to Kota Kinabalu town which is just a short 30-minutes taxi ride away. I highly recommend the Gaya Street area where we were able to sample some of the best hawker fares in Sabah. Don’t miss out on the famous local Tenom Noodles, Tuaran Noodles, Beaufort Noodles and our favorite of all, the delicious and refreshing Fresh Coconut Pudding. Yummy!
There is so much to see and do in Kota Kinabalu. Whilst at the Rasa-Ria resort, we decided to sign up via the resort’s conceirge a combined package of jungle trekking plus a visit to the adjoining Orang Utan sanctuary located within the Resort grounds. We loved every minute of it. We truly salute and admire the ongoing efforts of the Resort and the Orang Utan Sanctuary in nursing injured and orphaned Orang Utans found in the wild back to health; then rehabilitating these endangered apes before eventually releasing them back into the wild. We had so much fun watching these teenage “Men of the Jungle” swinging from trees to trees and bonding with the wildlife rangers. Too cute! The views of the South China Seas, far away islands and even glimpses of Mount Kinabalu (highest mountain in South East Asia) from the canopy walkway along the jungle trek were also breathtaking to say the least.
Though it was so beautiful and there were much to see and do at Rasa Ria ; being avid adventurers we simply could not resist the temptation to venture beyond the resort grounds and visit more of beautiful Kota Kinabalu. Being fans of classic steam-trains, we decided to sign up for a half-day nostalgic train adventure aboard the famed North Borneo Railway. We absolutely loved the colonial-style refurbished passenger trains that seemed to come alive straight out of the 1900s. It was a truly fantastic journey back in time passing by paddy fields, old markets, small villages and even a Chinese temple. The traditional breakfast and lunch tiffin sets comprising local Malay favorites were really delicious too. Choo-Choo!!!!
We also spent another half a day wildlife-spotting on a river adventure down the Garama Wetlands. Unfortunately it was the rainy season and it rained a little, much to our disappointment. Due to the higher water levels, we missed out on seeing any wetlands crocodiles or water buffaloes. However much to our delight we chanced upon an entire troop of Proboscis monkeys . Our boat managed to get close enough for us to have a good look. They were so adorable.. some were sleeping with their eyes shut high up in the mangrove trees, some were just goofing around, some were carrying adorable babies underneath their bellies, and the alpha male folded his arms haughtily with his back facing us while perched precariously atop a swinging mangrove tree. I was most amused by their long drooping noses -certainly a comical sight to behold! As the sun sets upon the horizon we dropped by a nice floating restaurant serving the most delicious local Malaysian cuisine for dinner. Right after dinner we proceeded back up the river to view the fireflies in the mangroves… which was amazingly stunning. The mangrove trees looked like Christmas trees all beautifully lit up!
All in all; it was a very wonderful vacation. Borneo is a beautiful continent, more so Kota Kinabalu and of course the state of Sabah. Shangri-La Rasa Ria was undoubtedly one of the BEST and most beautiful Shangri-La properties we have visited so far. Coupled with friendly locals, yummy local cuisine and beautifully preserved attractions (both natural as well as man-made); it is without a single doubt that both my wife and I will be back here again……