My wife and I, both Brits living in Kuching, decided to take a break and visit Batang Ai Longhouse Resort. Neither of us had read any reviews of the place (unfortunately) but had been drawn in by the website.
We booked our room online - RM181 per night, not bad for the location, I thought. I noticed that there was no mention of a boat timetable on the website (you need to get a ferry from the car park to the hotel) but did notice that they commenced running at 9am daily so assumed that they would be regular.
We drove up to Batang Ai Resort and arrived at the car park at 3:00pm. The car park is actually just an area of scrub land and old concrete but we were in the middle of nowhere so no real surprise there.
We parked and walked up to the lobby building to find out when the boat would be arriving. We were met by a chap who told us the boat would come at 4:15. I asked why there weren't more boats scheduled as the resort is only 10 minutes away but I didn't receive any sort of response, just a smile.
So we waited for over an hour, during which time we noticed that nobody else seemed to be arriving - naturally we assumed they were already at the hotel.
The boat arrived and we had a pleasant ride over to the hotel. We were met by a staff member who took our bags onto a golf cart and then disappeared. We then hiked up the ridiculously steep concrete slope to the first building we could see. There was no sign of the man with our bags and also no sign indicating where the reception was. We took some initiative and entered the restaurant from where we were able to locate reception. We checked in with no hassle and were then shown to our room by two members of staff!
Eager to get a drink and see what was happening in the bar area, we headed out of our room and back to the main building. The first thing we noticed was that it was dead! We were the only guests anywhere to be seen. There were staff milling about everywhere yet no one of them came and asked if we wanted anything to drink. When I decided to go to the bar and request a drink there was nobody to serve me. I went to reception and asked for somebody to serve us some drinks and then waited for the correct member of staff to arrive.
Then I looked at the drinks menu - it was more expensive than drinking in London! The cheapest beer available was Heineken draft at RM18 plus service charge and tax. I begrudgingly requested two of these and was then told that the only beer they had in stock was cans of tiger (despite there being about six different beers on the menu!). The cans of tiger for which I pay RM4 in Kuching were priced at RM24 plus service charge and taxes (about RM27 all in!). I proposed than since my choice was unavailable I should be offered the tiger for the price of the Heineken but was told "cannot". I wanted a beer after a long drive so, again begrudgingly, ordered two very expensive beers.
My next step was to buy some cigarettes from the hotel shop. I went over to the shop but it was closed. The opening times on the door said it should be open so once again I went looking for a staff member. Once I managed to collar somebody I explained that the shop was closed, he insisted it wasn't and sent me to check again. It was closed. I called the same staff member over to the shop entrance to show him that it was infant closed. He told me there must not be any staff available - unbelievable considering none of the staff I had seen had actually been doing anything! I asked if he could simply pop inside and get me a packet of cigarettes, he said no and when asked when the shop would reopen said "maybe later".
We then went for dinner. I opted for the steak as it was the only thing on the limited menu which I fancied - it cost me RM67 ++. My wife asked whether there was a vegetarian option and was offered the buffet at RM75++. She declined this as there was barely anything vegetarian on offer (plus it takes an awful lot of veggies to make up RM75!) instead she requested some mixed veggies and plain rice for which we were charged nearly RM30!
We went to bed early as there was nothing to do by way of entertainment and barely any guests in the bar area.
Our room was fine, air con worked, was a bit dusty but otherwise okay. The TV didn't work and there was a note explaining that this was the case in all rooms. The note was dated earlier than when I had made my booking so I wondered why this wasn't mentioned on the website...
We slept well until 8am when somebody started strimming grass not far from our room, forcing us to wake up.
We didn't wish to pay any of the extortionate rates for the provided excursions and also didn't wish to pay through the nose for food and drinks again that evening so decided to go back to our car and go exploring. The last boat back to the hotel was scheduled for 5:30pm so we figured we could have a day out.
We took the boat back to the car park and then drove to Sri Aman to buy some booze, cigarettes and food. We returned to the car park at 5pm. We went to the jetty to wait for the boat but there seemed to be no sign of it so I walked back up to the lobby to find out what was going on. The staff member there told me that the boat man had gone home! When I pointed out that the boat was scheduled for 5:30, he told me that I should have told the boat man if I wished to return to the hotel (this is obviously a secret rule as they do not publish it on any of their literature).
Eventually they managed to get a boat to come and collect us, the man driving the boat seemed particularly disgruntled at these dumb tourists not obeying the secret rule!
That evening we sat on the decking and drank our own RM10 rum!
We spent the next day in the pool mostly - it was completely empty like everything else there so we at least got to enjoy having it to ourselves. The pool itself was lovely, however it had not been cleaned and morning and was literally full of bugs! The pool is unattended so you have to go and find your own cushions and towels etcetera which are behind the closed pool bar.
That evening we had a few drinks and again were early to bed as there was nothing to do!
The location at the resort is beautiful, and under the correct direction could be a real winner. Sadly there seems to be no structure, coordination or management system in place. The place is expensive, empty, often boring and lacking maintenance. By the time we checked out I couldn't wait to leave. When asked if I would return again I answered NO. What's more I would not recommend it to anybody unless they wish to pay far too much money for tourist based excursions which can be enjoyed for free or for very little elsewhere in Borneo.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dear Valued Guest
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Warm greetings from Hilton Kuching & Batang Ai Longhouse Resort, managed by Hilton.
Thank you for posting your feedback on TripAdvisor website.
We are certainly disappointed to learn that your experience with us did not meet your expectations.
Whilst you have highlighted your experience, we will continue to work hard to ensure all our guests are made to feel welcome. We are looking into this with immediate effect in order to address this matter.
We thank you again and trust we get another chance to build on your Batang Ai experience in the near future.
With kind regards,
Hilton Kuching & Batang Ai Longhouse Resort, managed by Hilton
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.