Get The Feel-Good Factor At Shangri-la Rasa Ria
“Rasa Ria” is an expression in Malay to indicate a “Feeling of Cheerfulness”. When a resort is bold enough to call itself “Shangri-la Rasa Ria” it must be able to live up to its name.
A video impression of Shangri-la’s Rasa Ria Resort.
On my recent visit there, I totally found my “feeling of cheerfulness” in this gem that ticks all the right boxes for the perfect getaway – sun, sea, sand and superb service.
Stepping into the commodious lobby with the whisper of sea breeze humming gently in the air, a stunning vista comes into view. Nestled in a 400-acres of hilly tropical rainforest fringed by a sweeping swathe of white sandy beach washed by the South China Sea, the resort is built in perfect harmony with the lie of the land to capture the natural beauty of the topography of land and sea with a ringside view of the majestic Mount Kinabalu in the distant.
Crescent-shape building that houses the accommodation ensure guests can enjoy the garden and sea view. The food and beverage outlets likewise are strategically located in the vast gardens by the shore. It may be a fairly dated building, but it has the best asset that can give a swanky modern five-star hotel a run for its money. It has a team of efficient and friendly staff who excel in customer service and guest relations. We travelled with Ping Coombes, the Malaysian winner of MasterChef UK 2014 on a quest to discover Sabah cuisine. She is accompanied by her husband Andrew and their two daughters Alexa aged 6 and Luna aged 2. The warm welcome we received upon arrival set the tone of our stay there.
Where The Garden Greets The Sea
Amidst the rolling expanse of lush greenery in the fabulous garden, a Flamboyant tree has burst into bloom with a showy display of thousands of fiery red flowers lighting up the otherwise emerald green landscape. Other tropical plants add splashes of colours to the landscape while palm trees sway gently in the wind. Lawns mowed into neat lanes run smoothly towards a dazzling white sandy beach that stretches for miles along the shore. In the vast compound, the swimming pool area including a children’s pool is the centre of activity where guests can swim and top up their tan on the sun lounges or on the beach. Nearby is the Sampan Bar serving drinks and cocktails while the Ice Monkee kiosk sells yummy ice cream, a magnet for the kids.
There are plenty of activities for junior guests at the Kids Fun Club and Cool Zone Kids Club. Aside from the kid’s pool with water slides, kids can be a ranger for a day helping the rangers to prepare food for the animals and look after them in the resort care. Both adults and children can enjoy a jungle walk in the verdant rainforest at the edge of the resort or discovering the native flora and fauna at the Rasa Ria Reserve. The Rasa Ria like all Shangri-la resorts are very family-oriented so parents can relax and chill while the children enjoy their activities under supervision. Alexa had a field day helping the rangers to feed the animals and enjoying the children’s activities.
Food Glorious Food
One of the most enjoyable parts of a holiday is the food. Here guests are truly spoilt for choice with five main restaurants and other smaller outlets for snacks and drinks around the resorts. The most popular is the Coffee Terrace with a massive buffet featuring international and local cuisines. It is like walking into a cornucopia of Aladdin’s cave filled with food instead of treasure, all appetisingly presented. If buffet is not your thing, there is Naan, an Indian restaurant featuring flavours of India across the continent; Kozan a Teppan-Yaki Japanese restaurant and if Italian food tickles your taste bud, head down to Oceano by the sea where the menu is based on Italian Nonas’ favourite recipes.
Our favourite is Tepi Laut, a food court reminiscent of Malaysian heritage street food culture where the chefs in individual stalls prepare popular street food from satay, fried and soup noodles, roti canai, curry, chicken rice and rojak -a Malaysian salad, among the plethora of other hawkers’ fare. It is the perfect showcase of Malaysian street food and very popular with guests who want to experience Malaysian street food culture in an informal setting by the sea. The breakfast is sumptuous with a wide spread of international, Asian, local and healthy choices. With so many gastronomic temptations, any thought of dieting is futile.
Going Wild At The Golf Course
Adjacent to the resort is its stunning 18-hole championship Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club manicured to perfection with rolling greens and lakes and playground for the wildlife. It is heaven for golfers but for non-golfers like myself, a ride on the golf buggy was a delight surveying the beautiful golf course and if you are lucky you might spot giant monitor lizard sauntering across the green and otters swimming gleefully in the lake or spot tiny squirrels scurrying up the trees.
Ping Coombes and myself went for a cookery class at the Country Club under the watchful eye of the resident chef who taught us how to cook Beef Rib Rendang, a very popular curry stew and Drunken Chicken, an alcohol-soaked dish which we enjoyed for lunch. The Golf and Country Club is a perfect retreat if you want to get away from the crowd and dine here or indulge in a spa treatment at The Spa.
Beyond The Resort
Whilst it is very tempting to stay put at the idyllic resort to enjoy the many activities or just lounging out by the pool or beach, there are adventures beyond the resort to explore. Sabah is a playground for the culture vultures, nature and wildlife enthusiasts and adrenalin junkies.
The resort can arrange white water rafting at the Kiulu River for a thrill against the rapid; a visit to Mari Mari Cultural Village to have an insight into the lives of the indigenous tribes in their native dwellings and lifestyle; or follow a guided nature trail in the cool montane forests at Kinabalu National park to bathe in the splendour of the amazing trees, plants and orchids, many of these are endemic to this area. Sabah is also famous for its village markets called “Tamu” where villages gather weekly to sell their wares, handicrafts and produce to the locals and visitors. The famous ones are in Kota Belud and Tuaran Tamu.
Sabah is served by many international flights, some direct flights but mostly via Kuala Lumpur and Singapore with Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines to Kota Kinabalu, its capital. Shangri-la Rasa Ria is about 45 minutes from the airport. The hotel provides an airport shuttle at MYR30 (Malaysian Ringgit) each way. Downtown Kota Kinabalu is 30 minutes from the resort which provides a complimentary shuttle service daily.
There are two categories of rooms – the original Garden Wing and the luxury Ocean Wing with its own lobby and swimming pool and rooms with jacuzzi on the balconies.
This resort is ideal for everyone from single, couples, groups and family. Ping Coombes commented, “Rasa Ria is heaven on earth. As soon as we entered the vicinity of the resort, we were transported to a world of eco-charm and impeccable service. Love the way the resort embraces nature and culture that are both enticing and inviting for the guests. Certainly, one of the best resorts we have had the pleasure of visiting. It is a truly special place.”
For further detail and reservation go to their website and lookout for special offers. All pictures are courtesy of Shangri-la Rasa Ria unless otherwise stated. Music in Video courtesy of Sadabration; (Composer/Band: Sada Borneo). For further information on Sabah visit Sabah Tourism Board (https://www.sabahtourism.com/).