RASA RIA - KOTA KINABALU
This hotel was luxury in the ultimate and the most luxurious we have ever stayed in. We had four days at the end of our Laos Borneo holiday in this hotel to chill and recover from all the flights before we went home and back to miserable weather in England. When my parents lived in Malaysia I remember the Rasa Sayang being built in Penang but this is another rung up from that hotel even though owned by the same company.
When we arrived at the hotel rather grubby and dingy looking as we had just been out in the rain forest and yet we were welcomed as though we were the King and Queen. First of all our driver took us to one part of the hotel which is where we were booked into and as we arrived we were told we had been given an upgrade to the superior Ocean rooms from the Garden room we had been booked into. We were very chuffed with this as not only are the rooms superior but you get to use other pools and also you can go to have breakfast in a special dining room too.
The first impressions of the hotel are fabulous - everyone smiles and the reception area is opulent but comfortable, a perfect representation of the rest of the hotel as it turns out.
After a bong on the gong to announce our arrival, we were shown to some comfortable chairs and given drinks and cold towels .The lovely tiny young ladies in their very slim fitting uniforms welcomed us and then asked us to come to the reception desk to complete a few bits and pieces then one of them escorted us to our room while a porter took our cases for us.
Wow and Wow! I have never seen such a fabulous room. Firstly it was enormous. The room itself had two queen beds which they rushed around and made into a 'double' so huge we had to wave to each other. This was really comfortable and the pillows were large but soft and just perfect for me after the odd ones we had enjoyed when in the rainforest.
Beside the bed was a chaise long with silk cushions. - I did try lying on here and looking elegant but somehow it didn't quite do it despite the setting, I think it was me that spoiled the effect.
A large round table with chairs was in one corner and on that table was a fruit bowl and also some chocolates to welcome us. These were refreshed daily and the fruit was something different each day.
Next to the table was a desk and inside the drawers we discovered everything you might ever need from glue to scissors, stapler to writing stuff and sticky tape. I have never had that in any hotel before. Internet access was available free.
Our bathroom had an enormous walk in shower, two basins and all the toiletries were all L'Occitane. I have seen these selling on Ebay for a lot of money and I di collect mine daily but gave them away to our children when we got back. The toilet was separated from the rest of the large bathroom by a sliding glass screen.
Between the bedroom and bathroom was a dressing area with wardrobe and drawers as well as a cupboard for shoes and a safe. There were soft cloth bags for beach stuff, flip flops and slippers also for our use and I think you could take them with you but we didn't.
The piece de resistance was the balcony which not only had a really comfortable sunlounger and chairs but also had a huge tiled bath. Seriously i could almost swim in it and there was plenty of room for two. This had screens you could bring down with the touch of a button so that you could enjoy you double romantic bath in privacy. You could ask for special aromatherapy oils and massage as well but they were not cheap so we just filled it and tried to lie back and enjoy the relaxation but in truth it looked more exciting than it was as it was not that comfortable and I kept sliding down and floating around rather than being able to just lie back and read.
GARDENS AND POOL
The gardens were stunning and even though there was some building work going on at the other end of the hotel we could still walk around and enjoy the gardens and there were several pools to sit around and enjoy in various places around the resort.
WILD LIFE RESERVE
There is also a special Orang-utan Sancturay within the hotel grounds and you can pay extra to go and see the Orang-utans being fed. We didn't do this as we had already seen Orang-utans in the rainforest in the wild and nothing could better that.
We did however go on a night walk which promised all sorts of nocturnal animals but sadly we didn't see anything much at all so we were a bit fed up that we had paid for a bit of a waste of time and were also glad that we had seen Orang-utans in the wild and in Sepilok Reserve which was much better .
the hotel organised many trips including to visit Kota Kinabalu, Mount Kinabalu and also a fire fly trip. We had already seen fire Flies on a river just outside Kuala Lumpur but I persuaded my husband to do this and it was fabulous. I have written a review on this previously on this site 'Twinkle twinkle Little fire Flies'. You are collected from the hotel and taken in small lepa lepa boats up the river and you do get to see these wonderful creatures up close.
COAST: Because we had been upgraded to the Ocean rooms we were able to have our breakfast in the 'Coast' dining room. This had the most sumptuous buffet I have even seen with champagne and Bucks fizz too. They also gave you a menu to select particular specialities such as eggs Benedictine , Malay specialities, salmon fillet and so much more. I was not that bothered by the cooked menu as there was so much to choose from on the buffet from sushi through to wonderful tropical fruit and the disgusting chicken porridge was there as well.
This was built to represent a Malay street market and so it was a buffet and you could eat as much as you like and the choices ranged from lots of freshly prepared seafood through to Indian options, Malay options and Chinese options. The desserts were better than they usually are in Malaysia and I was really so full whenever we ate there which was twice in the four nights!
This was not a cheap meal but as you really could eat as much as you liked you got your money's worth really.
One thing I was impressed with is that a 10% service charge is included in the price of everything, so tipping is not expected at all. This means that the service charge is equally shared between all staff which is a far fairer system that just waiting on staff getting the tips.
OTHER DINING OPTIONS
The choice and quality were both excellent. We ate twice at the Malay buffet restaurant which wasn't cheap but the choices were so many and you could eat as much or little as you wanted. There were other restaurant options from the more formal 'Coast' through to Japanese and Indian places. Breakfast was in served in two places but as we were in the Ocean wing we ate at the more formal option which had champagne as much as you wanted, a buffet and a menu of freshly cooked items as well.
The other thing was that as you sat around the pool which was specifically for the garden rooms the lovely staff brought you little tasters during the day and these were things like spring rolls so with a few of those that took care of lunch most days for us.
There was a great gym with shower and toiletries, water and fruit were also supplied in there too. In the cafe there were a number of Mac computers for guests to use, We made some use of these and also used the wifi in here on my laptop. They were happy to print off our boarding passes for us when we checked in for our flight and on the last day after we had checked out of our room we spent the afternoon in here relaxing before we were picked up and taken to the airport.
There was a spa but treatments were sort of UK prices so we didn't bother as we had enjoyed massages in Laos recently.
Golf on an 18 hole championship course designed by Ted Parslow but again this costs extra.
For adventurous types and water enthusiasts there were a variety of sports, including jet-skiing, kayaking, banana boat rides and windsurfing.
Although the setting is perfect with a beach of perfect white sand, lovely pools and beautiful gardens it is a long way out of town so this is somewhere you go and stay on the resort to enjoy what they offer so two stars off because of that.
It is a fair way out from the city of Kinabalu so you needed either a taxi or the shuttle ride to get there and that takes a lot of your day. So we chose not to bother as there was nothing much we desperately wanted to see in Kinabalu.
VALUE FOR MONEY
This was not so much more than some of the other hotels in the area but the difference in what you get is worth every penny. Food and drink was not cheap and you were pretty much forced to eat here as you were a long way out of town. I think that would be my major criticism in that you had to eat in the hotel or use most of the day or evening getting into Kota Kinabalu for an alternative.
A truly luxurious resort but it is some way from the city so if you want to visit Mt Kinabalu and the town then I suggest staying in town to do that then moving out here for a luxurious relaxation after that.
I could go on and on about this hotel but I think you get the idea, Total luxury.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
Strap yourselves in; this is going to be a long one! Anything less though would be an injustice to the fabulous service, amazing facilities and wonderful people that make Shangri La's Rasa Ria resort a five star destination. We spent part of our honeymoon here last month and I almost cried at the thought of leaving, it was that good. The currency in Malaysia is Malaysian Ringitts (RM in the shops or MYR on currency exchange), but I'll give a rough price in English Pounds for guidance using the exchange rate we got of 4.5RM to the pound.
==No, No, You Sit Down, We'll Bring Reception to You==
The first impressions of the hotel are fabulous - everyone smiles and the reception area is opulent but comfortable, a perfect representation of the rest of the hotel as it turns out.
After a bong to announce our arrival, we were directed to some comfortable chairs and given drinks and cold towels to combat the 28+ degree heat that greeted us in Borneo, whilst we waited for a member of the welcoming team to come and check us in. I thought it was a strange way of doing things since reception was just a few feet away, but it seems as though the staff at this hotel have been trained to never let a guest reach a counter - service was always with you before you got anywhere near, right down to returning your beach towels!
A couple of seconds later, a member of staff was with us, bringing our room keys, some paperwork to sign and a bellboy to take our luggage. As a standard procedure in these parts (it happened in Kuala Lumpur too) they take your credit card and pre approve an amount of money depending on your stay (for us it was 4000RM for 10 days, which to turned out to be a perfect amount). The whole process of checking in is simple and very relaxing.
==Fit For a King==
Before we went, I did a lot of research on the hotel and especially the rooms. The hotel is actually split into two parts; The Garden Wing and the more exclusive Ocean Wing. We spent the first eight days in the Garden Wing and as a treat to ourselves, had decided to upgrade for the last two days. I was a little worried about what to expect from the Garden Wing, as many of the reviews had said that the Ocean Wing was far superior and people had said that they wouldn't stay if there wasn't a premier room available. I can only say that I was blown away by the standard rooms and am not sure what the negative reviewers were expecting.
The Garden Wing rooms are huge and have all the facilities that you need and then some. They are split level and include a giant bed, a day bed, flat screen TV and more toiletries than you could ever need. You could say that the furniture is perhaps a little dated, but you'd really have to want to find fault and the rooms in this area are being upgraded this year anyway.
You can pay for an upgrade to a sea view, which I'd highly recommend for the amazing sunsets alone, but the standard 'Garden View' rooms actually look out over the rainforest - so not such a shabby option really - although you should bear in mind that the car park and kitchen areas would be directly below your balcony in these rooms.
During the first part of our stay, I found myself wondering what the Ocean Wing rooms could possibly offer that was worth £100 per night more than the standard rooms; such was the level of comfort offered by them. So it was with a certain amount of intrigue that we moved to our new room. I have to say that I was blown away for the second time. The Ocean Wing rooms are, without a doubt, the biggest hotel rooms I've ever seen. Square feet wise, they are bigger than my house! The bathrooms have two sinks and a separate room for the toilet (which has a remote control, would you believe it?) and the walk in shower. The bath is on the balcony. That's right; there is a bath on the balcony. And it's not just any old bath, but a six foot square, four foot deep bath, complete with privacy blinds that can be lowered at the touch of a button! When designing these rooms, nothing has been missed and every possible luxury is there. Gadget lovers will be in their element here, my husband certainly was - there are buttons and switches everywhere and all of them do something that will make you smile, whether it be warm the toilet seat or brew you an espresso.
The other benefit to staying in the Ocean Wing is that, if you ever do decide to leave the comfort of your room, you can head to the exclusive pool or restaurant. Breakfast is in the Coast bar, away from the main buffet hall and offers table service breakfast. The pool is large and quiet at the other side of the hotel grounds from the main pool. Since guests are paying so much more to stay in these rooms, the staff are very stringent on maintaining the exclusivity. On the first day we moved, we were checked by a couple of people to make sure that we were part of the club as it were! Once you're in though, the level of service is excellent; someone even cleaned my sunglasses for me whilst I was in the pool! They really do think of everything.
==Food Glorious Food==
We paid for bed and breakfast at the Rasa Ria and when we looked at the menus on their website before we went, we were a bit worried about blowing the budget because everything seemed to be so expensive. This turned out to be another unfounded concern though because the food choice is varied in both style and price so you can manage on most budgets. One thing to bear in mind is that a 10% service charge is included in the price of everything, from meals to recreational activities so tipping is not expected at all. They include the service charge because it is basically kept in a pot and divided between every member of staff (including gardeners, kitchen staff and cleaners) at the end of each month so that everybody gets something - a much fairer way of doing things in my opinion.
There are five restaurants at Rasa Ria: The Coffee Terrace, which is actually a buffet restaurant offering breakfast and dinner buffets as well as a la carte meals at lunch and dinner; Naan Taste of India; Kozan Teppan-yaki, which does show cooking in two sittings each evening; Tepi Laut Makan Street, which is a series of shop fronts that replicate the market stalls you'd find on the streets of Malaysia; and Coast, which is a fine dining restaurant with stunning views of the South China Sea.
The food was fabulous in all the restaurants, although I will say that they seem to be able to do a la carte food better than buffet food - the choice is more varied in the buffet, but they seem to struggle to keep things warm. This is true at breakfast as well, where you'll find a massive selection of cold and cooked Malaysian (anyone for fish porridge?), English and American dishes. Bear in mind though that Malaysia is a Muslim country so there is no pork - expect a lot of turkey bacon and beef and chicken sausages!
For your evening meal, you can get a lovely steak from the a la carte menu of the Coffee Terrace, served with a choice of sauces and cooked to perfection. The show cooking at the Japanese restaurant is fun and worth a visit - there are a series of set menus to choose from with poultry, fish and meat and they are cooked with a flourish and plenty of flames, right in front of your eyes. The set menus start from around £20 per person and include starter, main course and dessert as well as miso soup and green tea. The curries in Naan are delicious and generously sized. You begin with complimentary poppadoms and bindis for the ladies and then there is a good choice of familiar and not so familiar dishes. We tried a few of them and can heartily recommend the lamb korma - which is much spicier and less creamy than the version we have here. They ask you how spicy you'd like your dish and be warned - medium to them is what we'd call very hot! The Tepi Laut Makan Street is another fun experience where you dine outside and go to the counter and select the ingredients to put in your own soup, curry, noodles or rice - we really enjoyed this and it's not badly priced at £20 per person when you consider that you can eat as much as you like. During the day this becomes a snack bar offering sandwiches pizzas and the like all of which are priced around the £10 mark, but all of which are enough for lunch for two, so not too bad. The final restaurant is Coast, which is probably the only one you really need to book at. The food here is well executed and uses the finest ingredients and the prices reflect the higher standard - expect to pay upwards of £100 for a three course meal for two with drinks. Not ridiculous, but expensive in this part of the world. It's worth coming in here for the dessert tasting tower alone - 12 miniature versions of their popular desserts, including summer pudding, chocolate profiteroles, pumpkin brioche and a white chocolate mousse, all served in a huge towering construction!
For more information about all the restaurants and some menus, have a look at the hotel's website, which is pretty good - http://www.shangri-la.com/en/property/kotakinabalu/rasariaresort
==Whiling Away the Days==
The Rasa Ria has all of the facilities that you would expect from a five star resort and more and every one of the facilities is meticulously maintained. There are a couple of pools, one suitable for children and including water slides. There's the mile stretch of white sandy beach which is dotted with sun beds and has a beach volleyball and football court as well as a shack from which you can hire courtesy pedalos, kayaks and windsurfing boards as well as jet skis and banana boats for an extra charge.
There is also a championship golf course and driving range as well as a spa that the hotel is very proud of. Unfortunately, neither of these things appeals to me so I can't really comment on them. There is information about both in the welcome pack in your room. We did wander up to the golf course one morning to watch the sunrise over Mt Kinabalu (which I'd highly recommend) and my husband commented that it looked like a well maintained but fairly challenging course - plenty of water hazards!
The facility that sets this hotel apart from any other and the one that kept us entertained was the rehabilitation centre and the 64 hectare rainforest, home Borneo's most famous resident; the orang utan. The Rasa Ria rehabilitation centre works in conjunction with the main centre up in Sepilok and takes young orang utans for their first stage of rehabilitation and they currently have five here - four youngsters and one baby (who incidentally is the most adorable thing on the planet). You can go and see the older orang utans at feeding time for around ten pounds a person, although I'd recommend paying the extra £5 to combine it with the canopy walk afterwards which is a lot of fun. You don't have to pay to see the baby, they bring her out twice a day as long as it isn't raining. The older orangs are very playful and enjoy showing off making for plenty of great photos and the baby looks adorable in her little baby grow. They are very strict about having no contact with the orang utans although they do come and investigate quite closely.
There are lots of other activities in the rainforest - kids can become a ranger for the day and adults can take lots of guided walks, including the night walk. We did this and I'd highly recommend it, although I'd suggest you don't touch anything as there are tarantulas everywhere! As is always the case with wild animals, you aren't guaranteed to see anything, although we saw giant ants, even more giant millipedes, tarantulas and macaque monkeys. You can also take part in their adopt an animal programme, which costs about £30 and gives you adoption for a year, a certificate, a photograph of your animal and updates throughout the year as well as a place in the hall of fame! The orang utans are obviously the most popular choice (we adopted Reg and I was disappointed to find that it didn't mean I could bring him home!), although you can adopt any of the animals they have in the rainforest.
==Is It Worth It?==
The simple answer is absolutely. Don't get me wrong, it isn't cheap. We paid about £125 per night for our stay in the Garden Wing and £250 per night for the Ocean Wing, as part of a package but then you still feel like you are getting every penny's worth of your money back in service, which is absolutely exceptional and sincere. I wouldn't hesitate in recommending this hotel to anybody and if I could, I'd give it 6 stars. Meals are very cheap in Malaysia, so comparatively speaking it is expensive to eat at the Rasa Ria, but if you compare it to home, it is what you'd expect and we still spent much less than we'd budgeted. The staff are fantastic and do everything they can to make you feel special.
So, if you are looking for the perfect combination of luxury, comfort and jungle fun, the Rasa Ria absolutely has it all by the bucket load and is definitely worth a visit.
Absolutely fantastic resort.
You are greeted in the lobby with a non alcoholic coctail which is very refreshing after a long journey. Whilst you are being checked in you are able to sit down and unwind taking in the view over the South China Sea.
Your bags are taken to your room and when you get there you find an 8ft wide bed in a lovely room. There are steps down to a small lounge area where fresh fruit is delivered daily. If you step out onto the balcony you have a great view of the sea and beach and to the right you can see the hotels nature reserve which looks after orphaned orangutans. You can arrange to visit them with the hotel and can see them being fed in their natural environment - brilliant if you love wildlife.
The hotel has several restaurants, all lovely. There is an indian restaurant, Malay restaurant, A'la carte restaurant and pool side restaurant, the food is first class.
On site they also have a gym - if you feel inclined and its own spa which is out of this world. The prices are very reasonable and extremely cheap compared to the UK.
The staff are really nice and cannot do enough to make your stay memorable.
Would highly recommend this hotel if you love peace and quiet, wildlife and pampering.