Saturday, July 14, 2012

Where I Stayed: Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort in Kota Kinabalu

Ahh....Kota Kinabalu.  I was dreaming of my six-day vacay for weeks before I stepped onboard that Air Asia plane bound for Borneo.  And this postcard-ish photo below was everything I thought it would be.  Too bad the weather was a crap shoot throughout, although I have to say there were more good days than mediocre grey-skied ones.
View from Coast - my daily breakfast haunt that serves Prosecco, yes, sparkling wine
every morning.  What a brilliant way to start the day.
Of course, if you have to go to KK, opt for the slightly more "adult" of the two Shangri-La resorts - the Rasa Ria one in Dalit Bay over the Tanjung Aru resort that's closer to the city.  And if you do decide to book at Rasa Ria, splurge a little and go for the rooms in the Ocean Wing.  Opened only in 2008, the benefits of being in there means you can use the swimming pools that are exclusive for guests of the wing, there's a massive hot tub on your even more massive outdoor terrace, and you get complimentary daily breakfast at Coast that comes with a sizeable buffet in air-conditioned splendour with a 270-degree view of the beach and sea, free-flow sparkling wine, and a much less manic atmosphere and virtually no flying insects (unlike its sister outlet Coffee Terrace, where I'd made the unfortunate decision to breakfast one fine morning....never again.)
The blissful Ocean Wing swimming pool.
Pretty much the biggest selling point of this resort has to be the Nature Reserve with the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, the only one in the region.  Guests can go on a daily "search for the orangutan" where they can view the orphaned primates from a platform.  Strictly no touching allowed (unlike the pandas in Chengdu, where anyone may hug them for a fee.)
Tuaran Mee (Noodles)
There's no shortage of local food at the resort, but Malaysians and Singaporean may do well to note that KK is not Penang or Kuala Lumpur.  So while you can still order familiar favourites such as laksa, nasi lemak, Hainanese chicken rice and such, there won't be any nasi padang, Hokkien mee or prawn noodles on the menus.  What I would recommend however (..in Rome, do as Romans do, etc...) is to sample the signature dish of the town that the resort is in: Tuaran Mee.  It comprises of thin flat noodles specially made from batter of egg yolk and flour, and then stir-fried in high heat.  Local vegetables, seafood, and/or chicken may be added, depending on personal preferences and tastes.  The result is an eggier, lighter and tastier version of mee goreng (well, at least, it is to me.)
David, our genial and knowlegeable river cruise guide.
Activity-wise, I'm more of a pool- or beach-side lounger than anything else, but since I was with in the company of relatives who were toting around a 4-year and a 5-year old, I managed to check off bike riding, river cruising, a visit to Mount Kinabalu World Heritage Park, spa at the sister Tanjung Aru resort, ooh and ahh at a baby orangutan, and dine at two renowned local seafood restaurants from my bucket list.  All things considered, it was quite an eventful six days and nights in Borneo.
See ya later, KK.  Photo taken from Seat 25A.
By the way, I chose to fly non-stop from Hong Kong to KK on Air Asia over Dragonair, despite the former's budget status (and all the nothing-ness that goes with it) as it has waaaay better flight times than the latter's.  In the end, extended vacay hours - especially those at a luxe sunny beach resort -triumph over in-flight feeds (doesn't it always?)

Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort - Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.
Telephone +6088 792 888
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