Battle of the Beaches

2015 was an unplanned year of Malaysia beach breaks.

11-14 March – Gaya Island (Sabah)
Solo birthday trip.  Shortlisted a couple of beach resorts in Malaysia that includes Rawa Island, Pangkor Laut and resorts in Port Dickson but my heart and eyes were set on Gaya Island Resort.

You may think that it is sad to be travelling and celebrating my birthday on my own.  This was actually my second time.  The first was to Cairns in 2013, celebrating my 35th.  And I intentionally arranged for a sunrise hot air balloon ride on that day (the free and easy package that I bought included a hot air balloon ride).  I came to a hard realisation years ago that I should not depend nor have any expectations on others to make my birthday special.  And it is ok to celebrate on my own.  In fact, it is refreshing and quite revelating for it allows me the opportunity to reflect on the year that has gone by and what I want to achieve by the time I celebrate my next birthday.  This year, I just wanted to go to a beach resort where I can just chill and pamper myself.  And this year, intentionally arranged for the sunset tour on my birthday.  Was so glad that the weather permits for me to see one of the best sunsets so far.

Flew on SilkAir from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu.  It took about 15-20 minutes for the land transfer from the airport to the jetty.  And another 30 minutes from the jetty to the island.

Total costs:
SilkAir flight (SIN-BKI-SIN): SGD285.70 (promotional fare)
Full board at Gaya Island Resort SGD1,045.88 (Residents Package – RM2,677.72 inclusive of daily 3 meals, boat transfers, land transfers and guided nature walk)
Snorkelling & Conservation Fee: SGD30 (RM70)
Sunset tour: SGD150 (RM300)
Total: SGD1,511.58

18-21 May – Redang Island (Kuala Terengganu)
Been wanting to go back to this island for the longest time.  And when a friend whom regularly go back to Redang asked me along, immediately said yes.  The last time I was there was in 2004!

Thanks to AirAsia who stopped flying directly to Kuala Terengganu, had to take an 8hour overnight bus from Golden Mile Complex to Kuala Terengganu so that we arrive there on time to catch the scheduled 1hour ferry that departs at 0900hrs.  Had not done it for the longest time but kind of looking forward to it. Did have my fair share of concerns about travelling on the roads of Malaysia at night as most of the roads are not well lit and bus drivers tend to speed when driving at night.  We took AirAsia from Kuala Terengganu to return to Singapore (via KL).

Total costs:
Konsortium Bus (SIN-Shahbandar Ferry Terminal): SGD71
AirAsia (TGG-KL-SIN): SGD64.69
4D3N Fullboard at Laguna Redang: SGD486.35
Total: SGD644.04

22-25 Sept – Batu Ferringhi (Penang)
Ok, was not in Penang solely for the beach (read my other entry on Getting Lost on the Pearl of the Orient).  Since was there, wanted to explore as I had read a few blog posts and websites saying that Batu Ferringhi is a good spot to catch the sunset in Penang.

Accommodation: Gaya Island Resort vs Laguna Redang
Booked the Bayu Villa at the Gaya Island Resort but was upgraded to Kinabalu Villa.  Did make a request on the online booking form that I will be there for my birthday and requested for a villa on a second floor with a view.  Intention was not to be given a villa at the back which is too quiet and dark since I will be there on my own – my imagination can go very wild at such places and I may not be comfortable walking in such dark places on my own.  The upgrade was a total surprise and I was told that the room has one of the best view of both the sunrise and Mount Kinabalu, which I could not agree more.

As it is an exclusive resort, guests were assigned a personal guide upon check-in.  The guide will bring guests to the room and is the go-to person for any needs (eg reserving spa sessions, booking of tours, etc).  My guide, Jason was great and he checked on me daily to ensure I am enjoying my stay.  Find it interesting that each staff made an effort to know each guest name…I am so not used to it.

If not for the full board, the cost of the food is rather expensive or similar to the price of a decent restaurant in Singapore.  I only had my meals at the Feast Village as it was part of the package.  The serving was just nice and quality was not so bad (Hey, technically stuck on an island so can’t complain. Otherwise will need to hunt and build own fire to cook own food).  When travelling, food is the least of my concerns so I have no qualms given the same menu for the days I was there (different for lunch and dinner though).  There are more than enough options to try.

Stayed at Laguna Redang when I was there in 2004 and it has just opened then. It has not changed much except that now they have an arrival hall near the jetty where they conduct briefing, constructing new rooms and also added cafes that serves local food (an option for those who do not want to purchase their full board package). Glad to say that the management put in huge efforts in maintaining the resort.

Told my friend that we should just book the Deluxe Garden as don’t need the beach view as we will hardly be in our rooms and simply need to walk to the beach.  Kind of regretted that decision as it will be awesome if we had stayed in the Deluxe Sea View room as we could sit at the balcony at night listening to the sounds of the beach, staring at the stars or importantly (for me) catch the sunrise without needing to leave our room.

There are other cheaper resorts for divers located around Redang Island and also 2-3 high end resorts.  Will still go back to Laguna if I go back there again.

Was too excited to see the clear waters and also such a perfect weather to head straight to the beach, that I had totally forgotten to take a picture of the room.  The room still the same as I was there years ago – one king bed, two single beds and comes with separate shower and toilet.

The Beach – Gaya Island vs Redang Island
The monsoon just ended when I arrived at Gaya Island, hence the beach was not as clear nor clean as I hoped it was.  It was still a pleasant and a great beach to chill.  Batu Feringghi was just a beach to chill with a book, not for any water sports.  Redang is my favourite among the three, without any doubt.

Sunrise: Gaya Island vs Redang
It was a hard choice between the two, but my favourite is the sunrise at Redang.  Look at those colours!  Now I regret not catching the sunrise two days in a row like I did in Gaya Island, three days in a row.  And if I had stayed at the Deluxe Sea View room in Redang, I would’ve just do that! (Yes, still regretting the decision).

Sunset: Gaya Island vs Batu Ferringhi
I am not comparing apple to apple as I did took a boat out to the open sea to catch the sunset at Gaya Island.  It was a great way to celebrate my birthday, and with strangers for that matter.  Was on the boat with a retired British couple and a Korean couple.  The British couple was travelling Asia for two months and Gaya Island is their first stop before heading to other parts of Borneo.  Chatted with them for quite a bit and they are an adventurous travellers/explorers for their age (am guessing they are late 50s to early 60s).  Gaya Island is too slow for them but they did enjoyed their stay in Gaya.

I admit each beach has its own charms and it is not easy to say which is a favourite.  Beach break 2016 – where should I go???



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