Beaches of South East Asia: Introduction
Beaches of South East Asia: KLM World Business Class SIN to DPS
Beaches of South East Asia: Grand Hyatt Bali
Beaches of South East Asia: The Laguna Bali
Beaches of South East Asia: Malaysia Airlines Economy Class DPS to BKI
Beaches of South East Asia: Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu
Beaches of South East Asia: Shangri-la Tanjung Aru Resort Kota Kinabalu
Beaches of South East Asia: Malaysia Airlines Economy Class BKI to DPS
Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia is known as the nearest city to the tallest peak in South East Asia, Mt Kinabalu. And this small town is actually home to 2 Shangri-la resorts. The ‘better’ one is the Shangri-la Rasa Ria which is further away from the airport and the city centre. It is better in the sense for a resort and probably a better base point where buses depart for visits to the nature reserve and the mountains. However, since my main purpose of visiting Kota Kinabalu is for a friend’s wedding that was to be held at the Shangri-la Tanjung Aru, that was where we stayed at. The resort is very close to the airport and probably a 10-15 minutes drive away from the city centre. It is located along the coastline and can be quite a walk (probably 400 metres) to the main road. There is also a food centre akin to Singapore’s hawker centres located not far from the resort for those seeking some local cuisine.
When we checked in, the resort was quite busy in the lobby since it was peak season. Seeing that all the reception agents were occupied one of them directed me to the Golden Circle desk and proceeds to check us in. Due to 2 rooms being reserved on separate bookings it made for some confusion and the check-in took a while. One of the rooms was booked under the wedding event rate which was around RM540 (~US$170) and another room, which has club access, was double that at RM1,070 (~US$340), as I booked the second room at a much later time. A server provided us with cold towels and welcome drinks while we waited, and they seems to have packed Milos for kids which I asked for as well. Initially one of my booking was upgraded to the Tanjung Wing room which is considered the higher level room. However since we wanted our rooms close by, I declined the upgrade and was provided with one Kinabalu club room facing the mountain view and another Kinabalu seaview room on the ground floor.
The size of the room was good and there was not much difference between club rooms and standard rooms in the Kinabalu wing. There was a sofa and table on the corner between the bedroom and the bathroom which was nice for lounging. The rooms with mountain views have a balcony that has a partial sea view while the rooms on the ground floor opens out to a balcony with patio chairs that leads to the lush gardens of the resort. Definitely decline the ground floor room if you seek more privacy as the ground floor rooms also has windows on the bathroom that makes it easy to view out of the room. The bathroom features a separate shower stall and a bathtub that is similar in layout to the Sheraton Surabaya. I did like the bathroom at the Hyatt Regency Kinabalu much better though. The bathroom in the club floor also features upgraded amenities in the form of L’Occitane shampoo and soap.
The main bedroom itself is plush and very nicely designed. Though there was no welcome amenity or anything for the second room which I attribute to it being booked under the ‘special’ rate. There was a King bed in the room as well as comfortable resort slippers for guests. For the decor, the room definitely is more grand than the Hyatt Regency and due to the furnitures, it felt more welcoming.
During our stay in the resort, we were provided with breakfasts on both days and also had lunch on the first day with our friends in the lobby restaurant, Café Tatu. The food was not amazing but it was authentic and delicious enough for a hotel. However the weird part was that the taste to be expected from the dishes were slightly mixed up. Their assam gravy for the oxtail was not sour and spicy, instead it tasted like oxtail rendang while my friend commented his rendang was a bit sour. Some of their classic dishes like Nasi Lemak is actually served during breakfast as well.
As for breakfast, their selection was very good but it can get quite busy in the late morning. While the variety was good, I think it was lacking in terms of quality. This could be due to the busy period during the high season. While the breakfast buffet was not particularly special, it was filling and I enjoyed their variety over the 2 days I was there.
Compared to similar resorts in Bali, the Shangri-la was lacking in terms of the pool size and it is frequently noisy and crowded in the afternoon. However the pool is quite nice with waterfalls, seating areas by the side and a quaint infinity edge section overlooking the harbourfront. There was also lots of noise coming from children in the kids pool and play area adjacent to the main pool. While it is a very family oriented resort, this is definitely not one resort where travellers head to for peace and quiet. The most serene part of the resort is probably the Chi spa building at the end of the resort that juts out between the beach and the coastal waterfront walkway.
While we did not partake in any of the water sports and activities, I did go for a relaxing swim in the pool one afternoon and enjoyed a leisurely walk around the resort. There is also a bar to chill out with comfortable beach loungers as well as an ice cream bar that sells some fantastic sweet corn flavoured ice cream.
Since one of the room was booked into the Kinabalu Club category, there was access to the club lounge located on the Kinabalu wing. The lounge was a large space with an outdoor terrace section and an enclosed TV section. The outdoor terrace did have views of the sea and it is probably a nice area to enjoy the sea breeze in the evening. There was also a computer corner and a reception counter by the entrance.
However unlike the club lounges in Starwood Hotels, they did not have any soft drinks beyond the evening snacks time, though they were able to prepare tea or coffee and I had a nice glass of iced tea on one evening. While we did not try breakfast at the club lounge, I think it is a respectable lounge due to the space and there are various sections to the lounge that allows guests to spread out.
The Shangri-la Tanjung Aru is a nice beach resort and with the easy accessibility from the airport makes for an easy getaway for families. For the special rate of RM580, I would easily consider it if I desire a short weekend trip. However for the peak season rate, this is a relatively disappointing resort.