A premier room at the Shangri-La. Courtesy Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort
A premier room at the Shangri-La. Courtesy Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort

Hotel insider: Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia



The welcome

At Kota Kinabalu, the closest airport, I’m met at arrivals by a red-uniformed Shangri-La staff member, who guides me to the waiting transfer car, equipped with Wi-Fi, chocolate and peanuts. All are welcome, because I arrive at rush hour, which means the 30-kilometre trip takes 90 minutes. It’s scenic, and the welcome at the hotel’s Ocean Wing is polished. Check in is fast.

The neighbourhood

The 499-room resort is on 162 hectares on a promontory north of Kota Kinabalu. It’s away from the city sprawl, and backs onto a beautiful mangrove swamp, the second-largest in the state of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. It’s well-located for trips to Mount Kinabalu, especially for recovering after the climb. The beach, comprising most of Dalit Bay, is large, sweeping and reasonably wild, though the dark-coloured sand means the seawater isn’t clear. The resort’s orangutan sanctuary, on one side of the resort in coastal jungle, works with the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

The scene

It’s a large resort split into two sections, the Garden Wing, geared towards families, and the newer Ocean Wing, which has a more-adult, exclusive atmosphere. Despite the titles, all rooms face the sea and a large, landscaped area in between, which contains four swimming pools and seven bars and restaurants. The main buildings rise to six storeys, but the mostly open-air design makes everything feel relaxing and spacious. There’s a golf course and country club at the back. Although the beach is technically public, it feels private. Most other guests are Asian or European.

The room

My room is on the fourth floor of the four-block Ocean Wing, which was completed last year, and now contains 173 rooms. The standard rooms here are exceptionally large: 90 square metres, with a huge outdoor terrace containing a hot tub, a spacious bedroom with work and dressing areas, and big bathroom. Everything works and feels fresh; the mostly beige-and-cream colour scheme is pleasantly neutral.

The service

The staff are lovely – warm, direct, caring and efficient. The room staff light beautiful scents and restaurant staff are attentive: lobby staff jump to attention. The only problem I have is when the transfer van from the spa, at the country club, takes off without me. In the spa, where I ask for firm pressure on my back, my masseuse tells me only when I’m in my bathrobe “I’m not strong, but let’s see how it goes” – yet the massage is perfectly good.

The food

The buffet breakfast in Oceano, the Italian restaurant, is good, with a dense collection of high-quality items, including juices, homemade bread, yogurts, fruit and hot items. The most impressive dinner experience is Tepi Laut – a fake street food market with surprisingly authentic food, including crispy fried duck, seafood curries and real coconuts (125 Malaysian ringgits [Dh104] per person). At Coffee Terrace, the all-day dining restaurant, the laksa, at 55 ringgits (Dh50) is good, but about 10 times what you’d pay at a local restaurant. The best item at Oceano seems to be the pizzas (from 45 ringgits [Dh37]).

Loved

The location and sense of relaxation.

Hated

The sea-swimming areas aren’t marked out both times that I go.

The verdict

A great place for a few days or a longer holiday, but too far from town and too spread out to make it worthwhile for one night.

The bottom line

Double rooms at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort & Spa (www.shangri-la.com) cost from 862 ringgits (Dh716) per night, including breakfast.

rbehan@thenational.ae

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The Africa Institute 101

Housed on the same site as the original Africa Hall, which first hosted an Arab-African Symposium in 1976, the newly renovated building will be home to a think tank and postgraduate studies hub (it will offer master’s and PhD programmes). The centre will focus on both the historical and contemporary links between Africa and the Gulf, and will serve as a meeting place for conferences, symposia, lectures, film screenings, plays, musical performances and more. In fact, today it is hosting a symposium – 5-plus-1: Rethinking Abstraction that will look at the six decades of Frank Bowling’s career, as well as those of his contemporaries that invested social, cultural and personal meaning into abstraction. 

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Credit Score explained

What is a credit score?

In the UAE your credit score is a number generated by the Al Etihad Credit Bureau (AECB), which represents your credit worthiness – in other words, your risk of defaulting on any debt repayments. In this country, the number is between 300 and 900. A low score indicates a higher risk of default, while a high score indicates you are a lower risk.

Why is it important?

Financial institutions will use it to decide whether or not you are a credit risk. Those with better scores may also receive preferential interest rates or terms on products such as loans, credit cards and mortgages.

How is it calculated?

The AECB collects information on your payment behaviour from banks as well as utilitiy and telecoms providers.

How can I improve my score?

By paying your bills on time and not missing any repayments, particularly your loan, credit card and mortgage payments. It is also wise to limit the number of credit card and loan applications you make and to reduce your outstanding balances.

How do I know if my score is low or high?

By checking it. Visit one of AECB’s Customer Happiness Centres with an original and valid Emirates ID, passport copy and valid email address. Liv. customers can also access the score directly from the banking app.

How much does it cost?

A credit report costs Dh100 while a report with the score included costs Dh150. Those only wanting the credit score pay Dh60. VAT is payable on top.

'Munich: The Edge of War'

Director: Christian Schwochow

Starring: George MacKay, Jannis Niewohner, Jeremy Irons

Rating: 3/5

Results

6.30pm: Maiden Dh165,000 (Dirt) 1,600m

Winner: Celtic Prince, David Liska (jockey), Rashed Bouresly (trainer).

7.05pm: Conditions Dh240,000 (D) 1,600m

Winner: Commanding, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar.

7.40pm: Handicap Dh190,000 (D) 2,000m

Winner: Grand Argentier, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

8.15pm: Handicap Dh170,000 (D) 2,200m

Winner: Arch Gold, Sam Hitchcott, Doug Watson.

8.50pm: The Entisar Listed Dh265,000 (D) 2,000m

Winner: Military Law, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi.

9.25pm: The Garhoud Sprint Listed Dh265,000 (D) 1,200m

Winner: Ibn Malik, Dane O’Neill, Musabah Al Muhairi.

10pm: Handicap Dh185,000 (D) 1,400m

Winner: Midnight Sands, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

Teams in the EHL

White Bears, Al Ain Theebs, Dubai Mighty Camels, Abu Dhabi Storms, Abu Dhabi Scorpions and Vipers

UAE PREMIERSHIP

Final: Dubai Hurricanes v Jebel Ali Dragons
Saturday, 8.15pm, Al Ain Amblers

Semi-final results
Dubai Exiles 20-26 Dubai Hurricanes
Dubai Tigers 32-43 Jebel Ali Dragons

Table
1 Dubai Tigers, 33 points
2 Dubai Exiles, 24 points
3 Dubai Hurricanes, 18 points
4 Jebel Ali Dragons, 14 points
5 Abu Dhabi Harlequins, 14 points

The biog

Nickname: Mama Nadia to children, staff and parents

Education: Bachelors degree in English Literature with Social work from UAE University

As a child: Kept sweets on the window sill for workers, set aside money to pay for education of needy families

Holidays: Spends most of her days off at Senses often with her family who describe the centre as part of their life too


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