Shangri La Rasa Ria, Borneo
I’ve been sitting here for weeks trying to figure out how I’m going to write this poxy review. Usually words flow out of my fingers (I can never shut them up!); this time round I’ve been practically strangling them in the hope of a spell of fluency. Borneo, our second stop on our Asian adventure, was the highlight of our trip and understandably, I’ve been wanting to do the place justice. And two months later, on this (practically) sub-zero Easter weekend, I thought it was about time that I squeezed said fingers and had a crack at reviewing this incredibly special place- the Shangri La Rasa Ria. (For those who missed my original post on the Rasa Ria nature reserve- swing by orangutan style here).
Told you, they’re the king of the swing!
We made our way over to Kota Kinabalu on an Air Asia flight from Hong Kong. We were buzzin’- we’d loved the city and were stupidly excited at the thought of swanning around the beautiful Borneo for five days- especially as it posed such a staggering contrast to that of our former metropolis digs. (It’s all about the variety, y’all!).
We spent our first night in the town of Kota Kinabalu- a small, reasonably undeveloped location which stands as Borneo’s hub and only major city. It was quiet but a little murky, welcoming yet bleak, and after spending four days rushing around Hong Kong, we decided to take it slow and visit Center Point Sabah (a shopping mall) before kicking back with a Pizza Hut and a movie night in Hotel63. Not exactly cultural, but exactly what we needed to recharge our batteries.
The next day the accommodating staff at Hotel63 booked us a cheap and cheerful transfer over to the Shangri La. For a fifty minute taxi drive along the seafront, a motorway and then a weave through somewhat thicker foliage we paid around £25 (bargain)- and then we pulled up to the grand, open Shangri La lobby. A period of hysteria followed, and once we’d realised where we *actually were*, we were given a glass of fruit punch and a damp towel- and were checked in from the comfort of the lobby’s luxurious sofa area. (Standing up at check in? NAH…)
Our bags were taken, and we were given a pager to let us know when our room would be available. We’d arrived at 9:30am- the rooms are usually ready at 2pm and we got ours at 11am! Full marks for the enthusiasm, RR! That hour and a half gave us the perfect opportunity to explore the hotel’s grounds too…
Rooms: Once our pager had sounded the alarm, we were shown to our room by one of the attendants from reception. We loved our new space- it was split level with the beds forming the centre stage whilst the living area, made up of a massive sofa sat at the bottom, had the killer view. The bathroom was roomy, the beds were extremely comfy and the air con was SPOT ON (it was 35c outside so anything above 20c in the room was not deemed acceptable/was against the law).
Our Deluxe Garden View Room. We were on the third floor and the view was jaw droppingly good!
Food: The Rasa Ria boasts countless foodie options, and as the hotel is quite isolated, it’s obvious that you’re going to have to nosh on site. We made a conscious decision to try as many different restaurants as possible, and all of the food we sampled on site was fantastic. Our first port of call was The Coffee Terrace- a laid back, open plan sort of place which became a favourite of ours. I had a Malaysian curry and fried noodles on my two turns in the restaurant (both delicious). It became our regular lunch spot, and all of the meals ranged between £7.50-12. Can’t exactly fault the view either…
The view out from our spot in the Coffee Terrace
The Malaysian curry in the Coffee Terrace
We ate in Naan, the RR’s resident curry house on our first evening. We both had a main curry dish each, rice and a naan for around £12 each (again, great value as we were both stuffed!). The next night we tried our luck at the Japanese Teppan Yaki -we had Sukiyaki, which unfortunately wasn’t really very ‘us’. Cool experience though- and that meal only set us back about a tenner each.
We had one of our favourites meals of the trip on our last night, in the Tepi Laut which hosted a variety of Malaysian, Indian and Thai foods. As I’m a mosquito magnet and the TL is as ‘al fresco dining’ as al fresco could ever get, we’d avoided the joint for the whole trip- until we finally decided to take the plunge. The buffet cost around £23 each and was fulfilling, fresh and SO yum, and the best part- wasn’t bitten once! Sand flies/mossies 0- Laura- 1! We also sampled some of the snacks in the Internet Café (chocolate muffin and iced coffee? NICE)- and it was great to ditch the laptop for an hour and use an actual Apple Mac rather than a pesky laptop! (It’s the little things, right?)
Activities: The main selling point of the Rasa Ria is their stunning nature reserve, which was situated within a five minute walk of our room. If you want to hear bucket loads of praise, admiration and darn right loyal cheerleading about said location, then you can catch up with that one here.
Apart from our time in the reserve we did try our hand at a couple of watersports- I kayaked and (attempted to) surf, both free of charge- and there were jet skis on offer for those who felt a bit more adventurous. Us? We just wanted to lay by the pool when we weren’t in the thick of the rainforest! Happy Hour from 4pm-5pm was a real hit; one late afternoon we just chilled out, watched the sun go down and supped on our fruit punch (now that’s what I call a vacation!). The beach was phenomenal too- it seemed to stretch on for miles and it was always deserted.
Negatives? Being so far away from anywhere else did mean that apart from outside excursions (‘Fancy climbing a mountain? A river trip?’) then you were on the resort 100% of the time. I liked this as I loved the hotel and we’d spent days exploring Hong Kong from top to bottom, but realise that it probably wouldn’t suit a few. It’s also classed as one of those ‘very mild’ Malaria zones, so although all of the other British guests we spoke to hadn’t chosen to take Malaria tablets, we did.
David’s iPhone captured the sunset from our room perfectly!
Verdict? If you want more than just a bog standard beach break, then head to the Rasa Ria. In four days we were within feet of orangutans, sampled gorgeous Malaysian food, trekked through a rainforest and supped cocktails on the whitest of white sand. I wanted adventure with a dash of relaxation, and we certainly got that; perfect few days in a beautiful resort!
If you’d like to find out more about the Shangri La Rasa Ria, you can over on Shangri La’s website and on the ever reliable Trip Advisor.