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Playground by the Sea

There’s really nothing like starting the day with a glass of Prosseco while looking out on a shimmering expanse of water. I did consider fruit juice, but then I thought, why not leave that for guests under 21. At Shangri-la’s Rasa Ria Resort, guests range from toddlers to retirees, and the resort certainly knows how to pamper everyone in between. 

Words: Beverly Rodrigues

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Just 35 minutes from Kota Kinabalu, Rasa Ria along the crescent-shaped Pantai Dalit in Tuaran is a delightful retreat for the whole family. While children gleefully spiral down a slide that swoops from a Robinson Crusoe-like thatched roof hut into a warm lagoon, honeymooners lounge by the beach sipping cocktails. Water sports enthusiasts go hydro biking in the waves, while golfers take on Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club’s 18-hole, par 72 championship golf course. 

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     Here, activities abound. In Rasa Ria’s lush and beautifully-manicured tropical gardens, you can opt for a round of petanque, pretend you’re Alice in Wonderland as you try croquet, or checkmate your opponent’s king on a giant chessboard. 

     One of my favourite activities was the sunset cruise along the Mengkabung River. Gliding through the mangrove-lined waterway, I listened to my boatman talk about the lives of the fishermen who live there, as a spectacular sunset left a trail of amber in the water. 

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     But, what really impressed me was Rasa Ria’s commitment to conservation through its work with the State Wildlife Department of Sabah. Rasa Ria’s 64-acre nature reserve is home to juvenile orang utans who have been abandoned or rescued from poachers. Here, they undergo their first stage of rehabilitation and are given ample space to roam free. While on the viewing platform waiting for the orang utans to swing by for their daily feed, my guide explained that once the orang utans reach six years old, they are sent to the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary to continue their rehabilitation before being released into the wild again. The work done here is important; guests get to see these wild animals in their natural environment and learn about their plight, and through the resort’s kid’s club, children get to play at being a ranger for a day! 

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     Activities aside, Rasa Ria is a tantalising playground for the palate. Guests can savour local favourites like Tuaran egg noodles at the Coffee Terrace, decadent breakfasts with sparkling wine and fabulous sea views at The Coast, and hawker-style fare at Tepi Laut’s Makan Street where tiki torches and a strolling band create a fun setting. Buffet-style food stations here run the gamut from Chinese stir-fry, BBQ and noodles to Indian roti and curries, an Asian grill and a Sabah vegetable corner where your choice of local greens will be cooked to order! 

     Desserts range from ais kacang (shaved ice served with condiments, coconut milk, gula Melaka and rose syrup) to international delights like macarons and brownies. Not to be missed is the award-winning Naan – Flavours of India that serves up Northern Indian cuisine. 

     At the Japanese teppan-yaki restaurant, Kozan, I was served by Chef de Cuisine, Jimmy Lo, whose charm and hot plate theatrics made dining a pleasure. With some 26 years under his belt, he easily whipped up course after course, and threw in egg balancing stunts in between. Chef Jimmy even got me to try flipping an egg off the hot plate and into my hand! For dinner, I’d selected the Kozan set that’s meant for one person, but can easily feed at least three! This set includes such delights as fresh tuna, yellow tail and salmon sashimi, Australian halibut steamed with seaweed sauce, juicy king prawn topped with sea urchin and Aussie grain-fed beef tenderloin flambéed with brandy and sake. I’d added on Hokkaido scallops, and this was pure magic. Seared to perfection with butter, lemon juice and white wine, the scallops were served with sake-codfish roe sauce. Dessert was green tea ice cream in a paper thin egg skin drizzled in thick chocolate. 

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     For guests who enjoy a little TLC, there’s CHI, The Spa. Here, I experienced a traditional wellness massage with a Kadazan-Dusun touch. Using lemongrass, ginger and lavender essential oils, my therapist applied firm pressure and combined long strokes, as well as kneading and circular movements to relieve my tired muscles and improve blood circulation. 

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     At Rasa Ria, everything is designed to pamper guests, and this includes the resort’s gorgeous rooms that are split between the Garden and Ocean Wing. For the ultimate indulgence, stay in the sea-facing Ocean Wing that offers an exclusive swimming pool, as well as breakfasts at The Coast just for its guests. 

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     My 90 sq metre Ocean Wing Premier Room featured native selangan batu hardwood and was done up in earthy tones inspired by the lush surroundings and a palette of burnished russets and golds that mirrored the many beautiful Bornean sunsets I witnessed there. Its private terrace proffered a sexy daybed and hot tub for two, where guests can romp with a selection of bathing experiences that incorporate special touches like candlelight, flower petals, chocolate and champagne! 

     Translated from the Malay language, Rasa Ria means ‘a taste of happiness’, and there’s no doubt that this resort lives up to its name! 

SHANGRI-LA’S RASA RIA RESORT 

Address: Pantai Dalit Beach,Tuaran, Sabah, 89208 

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