After a 13 hour journey from Heathrow to KL, running for a train to change terminals and another two and a half hour flight to Kota Kinabalu we finally arrived in Borneo!
Wednesday 15th June
Transferred by road to Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa. Approx 15 minutes.
Warm welcome from all staff singing and clapping (they do this for most clients). The hotel has 492 rooms located in two wings. The Tanjung wing has views of the South China Sea. We were staying in these rooms.
All rooms are well equipped and have great views. They are spacious, comfortable and decorated in a classic style. The rooms are definitely tired. They would benefit from updating. On this basis I would class the hotel more 4 star than 5 star.
The Kinabalu wing is better, in my opinion for Kuoni guests. The rooms have sea and mountain views. Kinabalu wing guests can have Kinabalu Club rooms which benefit from a separate check-in/out area, breakfast in the Club lounge and evening drinks in the lounge. The hotel has a Star Lounge which can be used by all guests. Here you can wait if your rooms are not ready, get coffee, use the computers for on line check in and wait for airport transfers. It has four restaurants, three bars and an ice cream parlour.
The hotel has a water play area for adults and children with slides, fountains, kids club and babysitting service. The Spa is tranquil and has eight villas so couples can have a very private experience.
Stacey and Phylicia hosted us at Coco-Joe’s Grill. This is set on the beach, a perfect place to view the sunset.
Thursday 16th June
Packed breakfast and very early start for a 1 hour flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. From here it is approx 30 minutes by road to Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre. The temperature and humidity are mega. 37C and 96% humidity! At Sepilok you visit the feeding station to see the orang-utans. In the morning the sightings were underwhelming and a little disappointing. We visited the nursery, where you sit behind glass in a raised amphitheatre style room. The babies are entertaining and cute.
We also saw the Bornean Sun Bears that have been rescued. some from distressing starts to life. They are small and have a unique sun marking on their chests.
For lunch we visited My Nature Resort. The lunch was slightly bizarre, especially desert. Cinnamon danish made with marmite and garlic powder, as they had run out of cinnamon! This resort is set in stunning rainforest with an amazing selection of flora and fauna. Snakes, lizards, birds, squirrels and bugs. The rooms here are not yet open to Western tourists.
We returned to Sepilok for a afternoon feeding session, which proved more exciting. One Orang-utan decided to attach itself to a ladies leg. Apparently they quite often do this as well as try to undress you. At the rainforest discovery centre, we took a walk along the steel canopy walkway to see the fabulous birds and trees.
We stopped at the beautiful My Jungle Resort for drinks, before heading back to the airport. A beautiful Riverside location with Monitor Lizards, birds and flowers.
Due to cancelled and delayed flights we had a very late return to KK
Friday 17th June
Breakfast in Cafe Tatu – a never to be repeated experience! Adults and children everywhere pushing and shoving. OMG! A rude awakening. We departed for Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal for our boat transfer to Gaya Island, approx 10 – 15 minutes.
You check in at Jesselton Point and when you arrive at Gaya Island all your bags miraculously appear in your room. Fabulous service. As you arrive at Gaya Island, you are wowed by how simply stunning it is. Gaya has 120 villas and 1 Suite. There are three restaurants with pool/lounge bar. The rooms are beautiful and huge. All of the villas seem to nestle in the tree canopy as if they were meant to be there, at one with nature.
We took a boat trip over to Tavajun Bay for lunch, but also to meet Scott Mayback, the resident marine biologist. Scott gave a talk on all of the marine conservation that is going on in and around the islands, from cultivating Coral for re planting, saving turtles and fish species, to supporting local schools and getting them involved. Tavajun has monkeys, squirrels, lizards and wild pigs. Bumping into a wild pig whilst emerging from the toilet is a different experience. Gracie hosted us for drinks at Fishermans Cove, this was my favourite dinner of the whole trip. Fresh seafood, great service and presentation as well as fab staff and location.
We were treated to a Spa treatment. I never enjoy Spa’s normally but this left me floating on air. The Spa is beautiful and the ladies are so friendly and funny. The Indigenous massage uses traditional Sabahan methods, herbs and oils.
Saturday 18th June
Some of the group went snorkelling with Scott. Ann had an unfortunate accident with Coral, resulting in stitches, crutches and wheelchair use. Early afternoon we transferred back to Jesselton Point for our road transfer to Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort and Spa. This should take 45 minutes but due to rush hour traffic, took two and a half hours. On Arrival we were shown to our amazing, large, beautiful rooms in the Ocean Wing. In this wing there are 173 suites all the same with a four person spa bath on each balcony – outrageously extravagant. All rooms are Seaview. Guests in these rooms can also use the hotel facilities. You also get breakfast in Oceano restaurant,a brilliantly civilised affair – Loved this!
The Garden wing has 326 rooms. Guests in this wing cannot use the facilities in the Ocean Wing. There are 6 restaurants and 2 bars. Lori, Olga and Diana hosted us for dinner at Kozan, Teppan – Yaki Restaurant. Basically Japanese show cooking. Great fun and good food.
Sunday 19th June
Today we went to Mount Kinabalu and Poring Hot Springs. Mt Kinabalu National Park is approx two and half hours drive and is a UNESCO site of huge importance. Here you can take different treks of different lengths and all abilities. We visited the beautiful Botanical Gardens. The flowers were stunning.
We drove to the Poring Hot Springs which took approx 1 hour. Here you are advised not to go in the Hot Springs due to the poor hygiene of some of the other visitors. We climbed high into the rainforest canopy to walk the fantastic canopy bridges. They are literally rope bridges with a plank of wood across. To make it more interesting it poured with rain. The bridges span approx 153 metres, 40 metres above the ground.
Back at the Rasa we had dinner at Coffee Terrace which was another buffet Restaurant with more pushing and shoving and more rude people. We were treated to a half hour Spa treatment. The Spa is located in the Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club. Alex and I were advised we could take the shuttle transfer our Dressing gowns, slippers and PJ’s – Very Random! We giggled like schoolgirls all the way.
Monday 20th June
Packed breakfast and early flight to KL……..oh wait, another delayed Malaysian flight. We eventually arrived into KL in the afternoon. The road transfer to Traders Hotel KL took approx 1 hour, due to traffic and a lot of toll booths. You cannot beat your first views of the Petronas Towers on arrival into KLCC.
All 571 rooms at Traders have spectacular views of the Towers. It is very much a businessmans hotel. Our rooms were given Traders Club service, which means you have a separate lounge area for resting, breakfast, light snacks and early cocktails. We had cocktails in the iconic Skybar, this has a fantastic view of the Towers and you can watch them changing as the light fades.
The Skybar also has the Hotel pool and frequent parties here turn into pool parties. At New Year tables here will cost you a small fortune of £5,000.00
Ivan hosted us dinner at Gobo Chit Chat, another buffet restaurant, with the facility of private rooms.
Tuesday 21st June
City tour today. This was fabulous and we had the chance to see some iconic sites. For me these were the Tudor style Cricket Club, as my Dad used to visit here when he was in the Royal Navy and the Tugu Negara – A war memorial. The Malaysian people are still very grateful to the British, Australian, Canadian and Malaysian troops who released them from the Japenses occupation during WW11.
We visited sites which were all iconic during British colonial times. Such as the railway station and court house. The Thean Hou Temple is a striking Chinese Temple. This temple has a collection of rescued Terrapins, which the chinese believe represent long life. The gardens house the Chinese Zodiac, great fun finding out what animal you are, and what it means. I am a Ram…..
The Petronas Towers during the day hold a fabulous food court, shopping centre and offices. There are live performances of traditional Malay music and dance.
We arrived at the Shangri-La Hotel KL. My favourite hotel of the trip. The decor, staff and location are amazing. Kit was a fab host.
662 rooms with city or tranquil garden views. Horizon Club rooms have use of an executive clubbed lodge area. 5 restaurants, 3 snack bars.
During 2 hours free time, Alex and I visited the Concierge for advise about visiting local shops and areas. He was fantastic. We took the hotel shuttle to LOT 10 and wandered the local market & shopping area called Sungei Wang. We walked back to the hotel, which took about 15 minutes, seeing lots along the way. Bartering with the locals and dicing death on the busy roads was great fun.
This evening Grace & Rachel hosted us at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel. A beautiful property, of a very high standard. The Mandarin has fantastic city views, views of the Towers and the KLCC park. There are 632 rooms over 30 floors. Club rooms are available. 5 restaurants, Spa & Wellness centre.The most amazing roof top pool with infinity section, overlooking KL.
After dinner we visited Chinatown, which was founded in 1857. A fabulous eclectic mix of stalls selling everything from bags to food. Bartering here is a must and great fun. We left the market about 2300hrs and taxis are readily available costing approx 35MYR.
Wednesday 22nd June
Lovely relaxing breakfast in Lemon Garden Cafe.
A visit to Melia KL hosted by the enigmatic Catherine Lui. Catherine is very proud if her hotel, and rightly so. The Melai is in a fantastic location called Bukit Bintang. All of the shopping is on your doorstep here along with easy access to the Monorail. The hotel is being totally refurbished at present, and will hopefully be finished by Sept 2016. The new rooms are spacious, light and airy. There are 288 rooms, many of which are inter-connecting, sleeping 4 – 6 people. The restaurant, The Kitchen@Melia offers International cuisine to suit all tastes.
Next we took in The Majestic KL, which has to be the most iconic hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Established in 1932 & the first hotel in KL, harking back to the British Colonial days and the Art Deco era. There are 2 wings, The Tower Wing, which is the new modern wing, but still with the Art Deco touches; and the original Majestic Wing.
176 rooms in total, 43 of these are suites in the Majestic Wing – they are all 24hr Butler service, with separate check-in area. Afternoon tea can be taken in the Drawing room or stunning Orchid Conservatory.
The Smoke House really is like stepping back in time to a Gentlemans Club, with original Smoking Jackets on display, a
champagne bar and barbers room. The Spa area is ok, but not as fabulous as Gaya Island!!
A quick trip back to the Shangdi-La, to change and Check-out, sadly.
We then had a date with the imposing Petronas Towers. A visit to the bridge and 86th floor, offered spectacular scenic views over Kuala Lumpur.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip, although the humidity in Borneo took some getting use to. I was under whelmed by the Orang u tan experience, but trekking in Borneo is fabulous, I would’ve liked to have done more of this and for longer. I can appreciate the Rehab programme at Sepilok and all the hard work that it entails.
I am not a city girl at heart, but Kuala Lumur totally grabbed me. I would like to return for longer, as 2 nights is not enough time to see all that it has to offer. The Shangri-La KL was by far my favourite hotel, I would definitely stay here again. Gaya Island is also memorable in its beauty.
Thank you Kuoni for an amazing experience.