For our third morning at Shangri-la Rasa Ria we booked a 6am summit trail and breakfast. We hoped for a gorgeous sunrise and romantic brekkie, with views of Mount Kinabalu. At the entrance to the Nature Reserve we joined two British couples and met our guide (and carrier of food). The climb to the top took about half an hour, and although it was all straight up it wasn’t too strenuous. Our guide was ready and willing to point out wildlife; on the rope bridge he showed us a stick insect, on the way down a giant golden orb-weaver, and in between a couple of squirrels and cicadas. At the peak sits a small wooden viewing platform. As we’d hoped for, there were spectacular morning views across Sabah, and the silhouette of Mount Kinabalu rose out of the mist in the distance (we were too late for sunrise, the sun was already high in the sky).
The breakfast table was set back from the view in a forest clearing. Packed breakfast was fresh fruit, pastries and yoghurt. Before coming away we’d had a frantic week of looking at a flat, making an offer and preparing for purchase. On Tuesday morning we got an email, our offer had been accepted. We celebrated with our new friends at the top of the summit trail, toasting with orange juice. Breakfast attracted a large shield bug, which flew towards us and around us looking for somewhere to perch. Unfortunately for Samantha it decided to suddenly land its big beetle body on her lips; with her lips pursed shut, Sam winced and flustered until it flew away. “I could feel it in my mouth”, she said. These are the romantic moments you don’t consider when booking such idyllic things.
Down at the hotel, breakfast walked off, sweat evaporated, still hungry, we headed to air-conditioned Coast for breakfast number two. That meant a couple of glasses of prosecco, some Nasi Lemak and a noodle soup, amongst all the other buffet breakfast treats we still craved. And no bugs in sight. The rest of the day was spent lounging in the sun, relaxing by the beach, drinking cocktails, swimming in the pool, swinging in a hammock, forgetting to re-apply sun lotion. All that sort of taxing stuff.
Monitor lizards are not an uncommon sight around the hotel grounds, they’re about two feet long and plod by without you noticing. From my hammock I watched one approach a rock, not more than a metre away, and start digging. I suspected it was making itself somewhere to rest in the shade. Its dig was slow, stopping every few seconds to look around and check for danger. Finally it climbed all the way in, and that was that I thought. But then it wriggled out backwards as fast as it could, and in its jaws it held a bloated toad. Like a dog with a toy it shook its head voraciously, and viciously smacked the toad to the floor until it was dead. Then up, jaws open, blink and you’ll miss it, the lizard swallowed the toad whole. The lizard resumed its innocent plod, nothing to see here, and it skulked away into the bushes.
After a dazzling sunset (and the inevitable photo taking of orange and purple skies), and happy hour orangutan themed cocktails, we found a table at Tepi Laut Makan for a sumptuous buffet of asian street food. Its design simulates a night market, and with your plate you can visit each open-fronted store for something different; stir fries, curries, stews. We took great delight in trying all the Malaysian desserts put out for us, even those that sounded or looked like something we’d dislike.