One of the best things about travelling to a city you’ve never heard of before is your lack of expectations. I had never heard of Sabah, I did not know of anyone who had been there and had absolutely no idea what to expect. As I sat on the plane (lucky enough to have gotten the window seat) day dreaming about my past trips to Malaysia I wondered if Sabah was going to be anything like what I had experienced. As the pilot announced our descent, my phone ready to capture my first sighting of Sabah, I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing. Clear blue skies, pristine emerald waters, green covered hills and what seemed like the perfect weather to enjoy it all, I could feel my excitement levels rising.
As we left the airport and headed to our hotel – The Sutera Harbour Resort– I was welcomed by the familiar clean wide roads lined with bright green landscaping. As we entered the lobby of The Sutera, the first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful view of the sea in the distance; I couldn’t wait to see what my hotel room view looked like! We were given the key card to our ninth floor room and as we (my aunt Mavis and I) entered, we let out an audible gasp. In front of us was a panoramic view of the sea with the harbor filled with boats and yachts of all shapes and sizes. The bar was set for the rest of my trip.
As the days passed, the bar kept getting raised. We travelled everywhere by bus and usually when I’m on the road for more than 30 minutes, I tend to sleep the whole way through, but this was impossible in Sabah. The landscapes were so stunning that I found it difficult to comprehend how could one city have so much beauty and yet be relatively unknown back where I come from.
The next resort- The Sabah Tea Resort– was (as the college students in our group put it) ‘next level’. We were in the middle of sprawling tea plantations, surrounded by the rainforest with the mountains as our backdrop. This was going to make for some stunning photographs. We woke up the next day, bright and early, to watch the sunrise over Mt Kinabalu. We stood in awe as the sun illuminated the peaks of the mountain with its golden rays as the clouds dispersed as quickly as our sleep. No camera could do justice to what our eyes had the honor of witnessing. Did we HAVE to leave this paradise so soon??
On our way to our last and final resort- The Shangri-la Rasa Ria– we made a quick pit stop at the Mt Kinabalu National Park. It was easy to see why this UNESCO World heritage site was one of the most popular tourist spots in Malaysia. The magnificent mountains surrounded us and the drop in temperature due to our altitude was just what we needed to refuel us for the last leg of our trip.
We were told that the best was being kept for last and they were not kidding. The Shangri-la Rasa Ria Hotel was one of the most beautiful locations I have ever been to. Without even talking about our stunning rooms and incredible amenities (I’ll need another couple of paragraphs to cover that), the Rasa Ria was the perfect amalgamation of all things ‘Sabah’. Like I said, the hotel itself is a thing of beauty but what blew me away was its location. With the ocean in front of us, the rainforest all around us and the mountains making a guest appearance on a sunny day, we were living in a postcard. Saying goodbye was going to be harder than I’d hoped.
For someone who had never heard of Sabah, I had never expected for this trip to have such a massive impact on me. Sabah went from not even being on my radar to now becoming one of my favorite destinations and one that I will recommend to anyone looking to have a travel experience like no other. I can’t wait to return to Sabah because I know that while I spent a whole week taking in all its beauty, I have just scratched its surface.