Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hotel Review: Gaya Island Resort, Sabah, Malaysia

Gaya Island Resort, a luxury resort by YTL Hotels is located in Sabah within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu and the shores of Pulau Gaya. Beautiful sandy beaches and lush rainforest paired with luxurious accommodation and great hospitality makes Gaya Island Resort a wonderful holiday destination for all.

Gaya Island Resort is ideal for families, couples or simply anyone looking for a memorable vacation.

A few months back, we were here for a family getaway and we had a truly amazing time. My kids were so mesmerized by the whole experience and we definitely made many memories which we can fondly look back on in future.

To get to Gaya Island Resort from Kuala Lumpur, you can either fly via Malaysia Airlines or Air Asia to  Kota Kinabalu International Resort. Private transfers via luxury sedan or MPV for families between Kota Kinabalu International Airport and Sutera Harbour Marina can be arranged. We were then escorted to the lounge and refreshed with a welcome treat (lovely sorbet) while being checked in to the resort. Then, it is another 10-15 minutes ride in a speedboat to the resort.

Sutera Harbour Marina

On the speedboat - towards Gaya Island Resort

We were greeted by a natural sanctuary nestled in the hillside of an ancient rainforest with a stunning outline of Mount Kinabalu on the horizon. Breathtaking! There are a total of 121 villas and suites, set amidst lush greenery. The resort's architecture respects local Sabahan elements, by using local materials and blending harmoniously with the natural environment while villa interiors are designed with a contemporary elegance.

We have arrived!

There are 3 types of villas here - Bayu Villa, Canopy Villa and Kinabalu Villa, each offering a different view (either the mangrove, canopy, tropical rainforest and the South China Sea). There is also a 188square metre 2-bedroom Suria Suite.

Luxurious, comfortable beds

Large bath tub and two vanity units in each villa

Mangosteen toiletries

We stayed in the Kinabalu Villa, which has the best views in the resort of the South China Sea, and on a clear day, Mount Kinabalu can also be seen. The 47 square metre villa is luxuriously appointed and features a spacious bedroom, a writing desk, a safe box, a flat screen television with satellite channels, a large open bathroom with an oversized bathtub and two vanity units, and an outdoor verandah with day beds. There is complimentary wifi in the resort, however in the villas, connection may be temperamental.

Outdoor verandah, perfect for chilling

View from our room

Our kids were very excited when they saw their beautiful room and the huge bathtub (which they spent hours in on rainy evenings!). We also love waking up early in the mornings (before 6am!) to catch the sunrise and on our last morning, we were rewarded with a view of Mount Kinabalu plus a beautiful sunrise.

Beautiful sunrise

As Gaya Island Resort is committed to minimise the carbon footprint within its environment, it is therefore a walking resort. From the resort lobby/beach front to our villa is a 10-minute leisurely walk.  There is a 40-metre lap pool with floating cabanas fronting the beach and a wading pool for the kids at Gaya Island Resort.  Every morning after breakfast, our kids would go down to the beach by the Feast Village and play in the sand or just run at the beach. So peaceful here! Do remember to bring your sunscreen and mosquito repellent.


Pretty girl by the pool

Happy moments

Beautiful, clean beaches

Jump if you're happy!

Other than the main beach, there is also another private beach at Tavajun Bay. This tranquil beach is a 5-minute boat ride from the resort. Lunch is available here from 12.00pm to 3.30pm or a picnic basket could be arranged. At Tavajun Bay you will also find the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre which main goals are turtle rescue and rehabilitation, coral reef restoration and conservation through education.

Picnic by the beach

There is also a Library located between the Gymnasium and Feast Village and several relaxation chambers for those who want some quiet time. Board games are available at the library. There is also a kids play room as well as KuRi-KuRi (meaning 'play' in the local Bajau language) Kids Club whereby half day programmes are available to keep young adventurers occupied with activities and games designed to nurture creativity and educate on the natural surroundings. 

In the resort, there are a myriad of dining selections. Feast Village offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, Pool Bar & Lounge offers a light bite for lunch as well as evening cocktails, and Fisherman's Cove serves fresh seafood for dinner (children under 16 not allowed).

Feast Village

Fisherman's Cove, serving fresh seafood with a view of the sea and Mount Kinabalu

There are also a host of interesting and unique activities to experience the cultural heritage of the region such as snorkelling explorations, guided nature walks, The Borneo Culinary Journey and Singgah Singgarung. Singgah Singgarung showcases the traditional Borneo life,thorugh native arts, leaf-weaving, traditional bamboo dance as well as trying local snacks and a local rice wine called lihing. There is also a Spa Village at the resort, a unique spa hideaway set in the mangroves which offer treatments that reflect the cultural healing traditions of Sabah's indigeneous people. 

Learning how to make local handicrafts from leaves

Tribal games

Guided nature walk

Our green friend

Daniel's first snorkelling experience

With resident marine biologist, Scott Mayback who was also our snorkelling guide

Kadazan Tribal Dinner, a private dining experience whereby we were treated to a tribal-style BBQ (moved indoors to Feast Village due to the rain) with live entertainment (Kadazan music, fire-eater and shooting with a blowpipe)

Fresh seafood 

The Borneo Culinary Journey - a fun cooking class which we thoroughly enjoyed

Spa Village Gaya Island - for a pampering, relaxing experience

Thank you to YTL Hotels for this wonderful experience.

See other posts related to Gaya Island Resort here:
Gaya Island Marine Centre
Feast Village
Pool Bar & Lounge
The Borneo Culinary Journey
Spa Village Gaya Island

Website: http://www.gayaislandresort.com/

Location: Gaya Island Resort, Malohom Bay, Pulau Gaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

English Afternoon Tea @ Punch Bar & Lounge, Best Western Premier Dua Sentral KL

During our staycation at Best Western Premier Dua Sentral, we had the pleasure of sampling the English Afternoon Tea at Punch & Bar Lounge.  The English Afternoon Tea is served every Saturday and Sundays only from 3.00pm to 6.00pm and is priced at RM47++ per set for 2 persons. 

English Afternoon Tea

Punch Bar & Lounge

The set comes with a 3-tier stand filled with open sandwiches, freshly baked scones, cakes and fresh strawberries served with cream as well as tea for 2 persons (you can order 2 types of teas). The selection were pretty good, definitely good value for money. The lounge is pretty quiet during the day, so you can sit back, relax and enjoy your afternoon tea.

The English Afternoon Tea is available on Saturdays and Sundays from 3.00 to 6.00pm. Priced at RM47++ per set for 2 persons.

Location: Best Western Premier Dua Sentral, 8, Jalan Tun Sambanthan, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Tel: 03- 2272 8888

Join their Facebook page here.

GPS Coordinates: 3.136185,101.693356

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Maruhi Sakaba, Faber Plaza, Taman Desa, KL

On a night out with my girl friends, we visited Maruhi Sakaba in Taman Desa. Maruhi Sakaba is one of the Japanese outlets owned by Seiji Fujimoto (of Sanuki Udon, Japanese BBQ and Lao Jiu Lou). This outlet specialises in kushiyaki / yakitori, skewers of grilled goodness. 

Maruhi Sakaba is located at Faber Plaza (look for Public Bank and it's a couple of doors down). Find this Chinese signboard and you're at the right place.

The restaurant is pretty big and can accommodate many tables. We ordered their signature cocktail called "Maruhi Sour" (RM45) which was served in a kettle. A mix of shochu, Angostura bitters, lime & soda water. One pot lasted us the whole evening.

The menu is a one-pager, consisting of chicken kushi, pork kushi, vegetable kushi, appetizer & rice as well as drinks. They also have a specials menu near the kitchen such as ramen, pork liver sashimi etc.

We just ordered lots of random items from the menu and to our delight, almost everything was really tasty. The meats were well-marinated and tasty, and they also serve two types of delicious dips to go with the meat. Our favorite of the evening was the pork belly (RM4 per skewer) as the meat was grilled til it was melt-in-the mouth, we kept ordering more of this.

The lamb skewers (RM5), chicken wings (RM5) and pig tongue (RM4) were also good. The only item which we didn't like that much was the chicken skin in mustard sauce (RM5) - not much taste and the texture is a bit weird for us.

Edamame (RM3), to fill our veggie quota

Tofu (RM5)

Chicken skin in mustard sauce (RM5)

Okra...aiyo so skinny!(RM3)

Eggplant (RM3)

A highly recommended dish here is the organ meat stew (RM10), a hearty comforting stew with pig's intestine. We all enjoyed this. 

Lost count of how many kushiyaki we had

Chicken wings and pork belly

We had a great meal here - the food is tasty, reasonably priced, and service is fast and good.

Opening times: 6pm-10.30pm daily. Closed on Mondays.

Price: Total bill RM150.

Location: Maruhi Sakaba, No. 6A Faber Plaza, Jalan Desa Jaya, Taman Desa, 58100 Kuala Lumpur. (closest landmark is Public Bank)

GPS Coordinates: 3.102737, 101.682849

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