My wife and I decided it was a good idea to spend a couple of nights at a private tropical resort straight after the madness and stress of our wedding, so we booked two nights at the Gayana Eco Resort. The idea was probably good, but the choice was completely wrong.
I was slightly circumspect about the resort given the mixed reviews on TripAdvisor. I only have myself to blame since although I take internet reviews with a grain of salt, I went ahead anyway despite the protestations against rubbish and this and that posted by other travelers. I should've heeded their warnings and chose the Shangri-La's Rasa Ria but didn't partly because that is a 40 minute drive from the city of KK. Gayana, of course, is a 10-15 minute boat ride away from Jesselton Terminal.
The check-in was done at Jesselton in the small, well air-conditioned reception/office where there was free wi-fi. Our luggage was helpfully taken from us and arranged to be transported to the island. We went to the cafes and outlets for a light lunch while we waited for the next shuttle boat, of which there are only about 4 or 5 each way at scheduled times throughout the day. More on this later.
We arrived on the island with another couple to clean, wooden boardwalks and huts built over the water, stretching out from the mangroves of the island. We were attended to by our personal assistant, Christie, who was welcoming and friendly. As she escorted us to our Mangrove View room, and on every other occasion as well, every staff member we passed flash warm grins and greetings at us. Our room was large and tastefully decorated, with an oversized bathroom and a private balcony with sunchairs leading straight into the private waters.
The rest of the resort seemed fairly quiet at the time, perhaps because it wasn't a peak period of holidays in Malaysia, which was good for us as we really needed a quiet and private place to unwind.
At 6pm we headed to the bar for our complimentary cocktail, which was of such a quality that we waived our rights to it on the second night. Basically, it was a tasteless, watery concoction of coloured liquid of some unknown specimen, with just a hint of alcohol. The only upside was the nice enough decor of the bar and front row seats facing out to the sea during the sunset. We abandoned the bar posthaste as there was no way we were sticking around for another drink, complimentary or not.
We made our way, somewhat hesitantly, to the Alu Alu Chinese restaurant. The entrance was adorned by many large fresh seafood tanks and given that the entire restaurant was empty, we wondered how long the seafood had lived in them. The menu was almost entirely made up of seafood and at reasonable prices given it was supposed to be a 5 star resort, but certainly many times more expensive than what you would pay if you dined at the outdoor restaurants by the water in KK. The food was lacklustre and especially more so considering we were in Malaysia. A somewhat nice touch was that during the dinner, two musicians with a guitar each came up to sing us a few songs. They seemed to be hotel staff so I wasn't sure whether tipping was required, but pulled out RM10 anyway. When I handed it over to the guy, the other musician, a female, happened to be looking away. The man, perhaps sensing this, quickly slipped it into his pocket with not a hint of gratitude, but seemed more intent on doing so without his partner knowing. Very classy.
Sometime during the middle of the first night, I was awoken by the sounds of loud scratching. My partner is a heavy sleeper so she slept through the whole episode, but I must've woken not long after it started. As it was dark and I was in a semi-conscious state, I was quite alarmed as I had no idea what it was or whether it was outside or heaven forbid, inside the room. Our assistant Christie had told us that some type of monkey sometimes made it into the resort during the night since it was right next to an island rainforest, so I was hoping it was outside, but nevertheless, it was a spooky sound to be woken up by. The scratching continued for what seemed like an eternity and ranged from what sounded like scratching against wood, to plastic, to paper and everything in between. In reality it was probably for around 20 minutes, during which time I had actually become quite scared and didn't dare to move. It finally went away, and after at least half an hour of lying in the dark, I somehow drifted back to sleep. A hopeless first night.
In the morning there was no sign of any intrusion or otherwise from the night before, so we headed off for an average buffet breakfast at the otherwise beautiful dining area right next to the infinity pool. The juices were super watery and the breads stale. The staff at least were polite as always. As it was low tide, the shore had receded quite and the bare sand was strewn with very rough and sharp-looking stones and seashells. Not a place you'd want to walk around on bare foot.
Afterwards, we took a stroll around the resort and discovered it to be near empty. There was a bit of construction going on in the new part of the resort, away from our room. There were indeed bits of plastic and rubbish, and very obvious layers of oil in the waters, as other TripAdvisor members had reported, and which was definitely very uninviting. We looked for the much-trumpeted MERC marine wildlife centre but when we got there, it was closed, despite it being during the 'opening hours' stated on a plaque right outside. What the?
We took a free boat ride back into town and spent the day roaming the streets and malls. We were given a small card which set out the timetable for the shuttle boat to and from the resort. I stupidly mis-read the car and thought that there was one heading back to the island at 6.30pm, when in fact, it was 6.00pm. The next and last one after that was at 10.30pm. So when we turned up to the terminal the staff pointed this out to us and we were told that there was nothing we could do except wait until 10.30pm. The only upside to this was we weren't forced to have another below-average, over-priced meal on the island, and instead, dined al fresco on the terminal jetty on a bench as the sky rapidly faded into darkness. At about 8.30pm, I'd had enough and decided to bite the bullet and pay the RM150 for a private boat ride back to the island. Way to make your guests feel welcome.
On that second night, the mysterious noise started again sometime during the night. This time, after a few minutes, I'd had enough and mustered the courage to get out of bed and flip the switch to confront whatever it was. My wife was also up and out of bed too. The noises stopped as soon as the lights came on. We were motionless for a while as I scanned the room for signs of something.. anything. Within a minute, something was scurrying in the room, and it seemed to be behind the bed. Then, a large, rat-like creature appeared from behind the bed head, leapt onto the curtain next to the bed and across onto the light fixture which was dangling from the ceiling, and crawled up and into the large cavity in the ceiling from which the fixture hung. After a long time feeling disgusted, we somehow managed to crawl into bed, no pun intended, and lay motionless for a long time. As the light fixture dangled right next to the bed, we were hoping against hope that we wouldn't hear any sounds again. Somehow we drifted off to sleep but didn't manage a proper sleep for the rest of the night.
In the morning we found our tube of Toblerone chocolate which we had left on the beside drawer had been attacked by the rodent. I took a photo of the clear claw/teeth parks left behind and showed it to our assistant, Christie, and told her about the rat, to which she replied, "oh, do you mean the shrew?" I frankly didn't give a damn what it was, but she certainly seemed nonplussed about it. I then told her that it happened two nights in a row and she had the gumption to ask why I hadn't mentioned it after the first. By this stage her tone had changed from very polite and friendly to antipathy, bordering on rude. I then told her that I'd had two nights of bad sleep to which she replied, "what would you like me to do about it?" Well, a simple apology for a start, and no attitude for a second, amongst many other things.
So there you have it. We paid near USD450 a night for two nights on a supposed 5 star resort, and what we received for our hard earned on our honeymoon, were two restless nights including a second where we were sleeping in fear of a rat or some creature crawling on our faces, poor food and drink, eye gouging in the form of completely inconvenient access without any alternative to and from the island and we were farewelled with belligerence when we dared raise our basic concern to our personal assistant.
I would never have expected a rat or animal in my room in the cheapest, most basic hostel dorm during my younger years, let alone at an expensive so-called 5 star tropical resort. Stay well clear from this place. There are many more to choose from on KK if you want a resort, such as the two Shangri-La options and the Pacific Sutera, amongst others.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Gayana Eco Resort rests serenely at the edges of Gaya Island off the coast of Borneo. 52 over water villas designed to enhance the soothing sounds of the surf, while capturing the enduring vistas of Mt. Kinabalu on the distant horizon. At its heart is about protecting and re-generating our precious Marine Ecology, and the only property to feature its own Marine Ecology Research Centre propagating Giant Clams and restoring damaged coral reefs. Striking the perfect balance of forward thinking ecology and indulgent luxury which pampers both the body and the enlightened soul. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Gayana Eco Hotel Kota Kinabalu
- Gayana Resort
- Gayana Eco Resort Malaysia/Pulau Gaya