The staff here at Abbotts Travel are always encouraged to widen their knowledge of travel. So when invites such as an educational tour to Malaysia are on the table, it’s not long before someone in the team jumps at the chance. This time, it was Julie who was lucky enough to experience a trip to Borneo and Kuala Lumpur courtesy of our friends at Premier Holidays.
“This was my first visit to Malaysia so my eyes were wide with anticipation for the wonders that lay ahead of me.
Myself and ten other agents flew direct to Kuala Lumpur, which took 13 hours, and then onward to Kota Kinabalu (another 2.5 hours). Both flights were operated by Malaysia Airlines and ran smoothly.
Because of the nature of the itinerary we stayed in four different hotels: Shangri-La Tangung Aru, Borneo Nature Lodge, Shangri-La Rasa Ria and the Royal Park Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. A very whistle-stop trip for this spellbinding destination.
On arrival at Kota Kinabalu airport in Borneo, we were met by our guide from Tours and Incentive, the ground handler Premier Holidays use for Malaysia, and transferred to our first hotel.
Located 10-minutes from the airport, Shangri-La Tangung Aru is a four-star hotel. It is family-friendly, with facilities for children including an extensive children’s club and a fun swimming pool with waterslides. It also has a great choice of restaurants and bars.
The hotel's main attribute is its marine park with five offshore islands. Guests can hop across by boat and enjoy snorkelling off one of the splendid white sand beaches.
The next morning we were given a breakfast box by the hotel before an early morning flight to Sandakan for our incredible rainforest experience.
We flew 2.5 hours from Sandakan airport to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in time for the animals’ 10am feed.
This just happens to be the same location that Judi Dench recently visited in her upcoming documentary, Judi Dench’s Wild Borneo Adventure. She says, “this trip has been the most extraordinary time of my life”, and I couldn’t have agreed with her more.
It was an absolutely incredible experience. Sepilok take in orphaned and injured Orangutans for rehabilitation and when guests visit, they get to see the incredible centre at work. We began with a visit to the nursery, before making our way to the feeding platform.
We then proceeded to the sun bear conservation centre to witness the care and rehabilitation of orphaned and captive sun bears. The Malayan sun bears are only found in this region and are among the worlds' smallest.
After a breathtaking and very informative tour, we were taken to our home for the night, Borneo Nature Lodge. Consisting of 13 wooden cabins, the lodge is the perfect place for a rustic-style night in the rainforest. It’s clean, comfortable and still offers hot running water and air conditioning… rustic luxury.
Lunch and dinner are included. Our humble lunch consisted of barbeque chicken, homemade soups and homemade cakes and biscuits. They also have a bar with a good selection of wines, beers and spirits.
We were then taken by our guide, Jamie, on an adventure in search of rare primates - including native proboscis monkeys and birdlife. A fantastic way to end an incredible day.
The following morning saw us on a city tour of Sandakan, where we looked around the Puh Jih Syh Buddhist temple and saw the fascinating sim-sim water village. The residents were warm and friendly and were more than happy to invite us in and show us their homes.
After lunch in Sandakan we then took a 45-minute flight to the luxury five-star Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort.
Set in 42 acres, this hotel has a real luxury feel. Dashing floral displays and signature fragrances, I knew we were going to be in for a treat.
We were located in the ocean wing of the hotel, which is the more superior of the two wings (although the garden wing is still beautiful).
The hotel has a championship golf club, award winning spa and superb restaurants, not to mention the superb nature reserve. It is from here that the hotel organise nature trails, including an early morning trek to the summit, with breakfast served alongside incredible views of Mount Kinabalu.
Our group participated in this activity, which was one of the highlights for me. As the sun rose over Mount Kinabalu, it was a very peaceful and touching moment for me.
I would highly recommend a week’s stay here. It is the perfect retreat to unwind and the hotel offers many activities to keep you busy.
After a brief two-night stay, we were relaxed and rejuvenated.
It was time to check out and head back to the airport, en route we paid a visit to the Nexus Resort and Spa.
This hotel enjoys a similar stretch of beach to the more opulent Rasa Ria and has very similar offerings such as daily activities, a spa and a golf club. It has a more local feel, the rooms have local linens and high-polished wooden floors. But it is another great spot for those travelling with children.
After a 2.5 hour flight on Malaysian airlines we are back in Kuala Lumpur, finding ourselves once again in the capable hands of Tours and Incentives.
Laurence was our city guide for the last 48 hours of our trip and he did a sterling job.
The whistle-stop tour saw us staying at The Park Royal Hotel, located in the central part of Kuala Lumpur amidst many shopping malls and other luxury hotels.
This is a 4.5 star hotel with a very corporate feel, however, the service is impeccable and the location is perfect for those wanting to see as much of the city as possible.
Kuala Lumpur is a real contrast to the rainforests and authenticity of Borneo. It’s fast moving and brimming with bright lights and tall skyscrapers. The futuristic feel hits you the moment you arrive and we were treated to a night of fun and laughter at the Sky Bar, located in the Traders Hotel (home to one of the best views of the city).
Our final day was busy and action packed. We started with a visit to the Petronas Towers, the 88-storey building is one of the tallest in the world, before heading out into the countryside to visit the Batu Caves. A popular tourist attraction, the large limestone cave was a very colourful spot and we got some fantastic photos. Be sure to keep your eyes on the monkeys that inhabit the area, as they’re on the lookout for scraps of food.
We were back in Kuala Lumpur and taken to lunch at the Dorsett Hotel. This boutique spot is a great place if you’re looking for a more corporate feel.
Next we got to witness the contrast between the Moorish architecture at the lake gardens and the ultra modern financial areas. Malaysia gained independence from the UK in 1957 and also played a huge part in World War Two. With such an interesting history, it was fascinating to observe the memorial gardens.
We had afternoon tea in the elegant tea lounge of the Colonial Majestic Hotel, this had a truly British feel and was very luxurious.
After a freshen up back at the Park Royal, we headed for another site inspection and dinner. It was our final evening, so we spent most of the night chatting about the wonderful experience we have had with memories to treasure forever.
I found the Malay people warm and hospitable and their land so diverse. From the humble forest lands of Borneo to the bright city lights of Kuala Lumpur, the country is full of contrasts. I found the rainforest mystical and magical and the Orangutans so heartwarming. They are such an endangered species, the experience really pulled at my heartstrings.
Malaysia is a fascinating destination and would be suited to adventurous families or nature loving couples and honeymooners alike.
I would to thank Tours and Incentives who made my experience in Malaysia unforgettable, the guides were professional and knowledgeable throughout.
And finally, our friends at Premier Holidays, who made it possible for me to experience this wonderful trip. Our group leader, Karen, was professional and kind throughout and I am honoured to have participated in such an incredible Journey.
If you have been inspired and would like any further details on the country - or the best ways to explore it - then please do get in touch.”