Gaya Island, Borneo

Photo Friday: Gaya Island, Borneo

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In the beginning, our sole purpose for spending the first week of our honeymoon in Borneo was to check out this new resort, Bunga Raya, that had recently open and with which I was obsessed. (Or so I thought.)

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I had the intention to write about it for some of my outlets—I know, I know, it’s my honeymoon, I shouldn’t be working—and had come across this place when the seed of an idea to jet off to Borneo was first planted by my friend and could not get the thought of staying there out of my mind.

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The thing is, on paper, everything looked really nice. The grounds were plush and verdant, decorated with every color of bunga raya—the national flower—under the sun. Rooms were brand new and outfitted with all modern gadgets and comforts—not like many of the other “rustic” (meaning basic) resorts we found in the area.

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The bungalows were perched high in the jungle, slightly apart from the other units, and had great views of the South China Sea.

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And yet there was something about the place that just wasn’t right. For one, we were the only ones there. Observe:

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Other than two other guests in the 47-bungalow resort, we were the only ones. (And they still stuck us in the basic villa. Most resorts will give you an upgrade if they have the room. A beachside perch and private plunge pool would have been nice!) That’s a bit odd for a place that’s just been open a year, isn’t it? Not only that, but it’s creepy to have an island to yourself more or less, yet have staff pop out of every bush and crevice to try and tend to your every need.

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Two, the food was terrible. As in frozen and reheated. Which is fine and all if you’re not paying FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS a night to stay on a secluded island. (Confession: We got a bit of a press rate for this one but were still forking over 300 bones a night.) Us being the only ones there got downright alarming. It felt as if something wasn’t right, like we were about to be the next to sacrificed up in some extreme Pagan ceremony. (Have you seen Wicker Man? That’s totally the feeling I got there.) Isn’t that why we’d come home late at night and find a hookah tent with billowing drapes set up in one of the dock pavilions?

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There is a sister resort, Gayana, located on the other side of the island. We took a day trip over there. Each of the two resorts offers routine free ferry services to the other.

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And other than the fact that the food was much better, all I have to say is: Damn. All Bunga Raya issues aside, I’m sure glad we didn’t opt to stay there!

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Though we did see a bearded pig, trailed by a handful of long-tailed monkeys, en route on the boat. That was freakin’ awesome.

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I won’t say all was lost. It wasn’t. We had a great time just being together and not interacting with others. We read a lot of books. We snorkeled off the coast.

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We watched movies and World Cup. We had the pool to ourselves.

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It was just far from what we were expecting, far less than what we paid for. But you know what? Sometimes that’s all part of the travel game. You learn as you go.

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What did we learn? Well, that property websites can be deceiving. Don’t be fooled by the lure of good photography. And always be sure to check out the Trip Advisor reviews before you go.

gaya island, borneo, malaysia, bunga raya, resort, tropical, travel, asia, photography

******

All photos taken with a Canon T1i, 10-20mm lens and 17-855mm lens.

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COMMENTS
  • July 23, 2010

    The place looks amazing, but I would have been completely freaked out by being the only ones there.

  • July 23, 2010

    “it’s creepy to have an island to yourself more or less, yet have staff pop out of every bush and crevice to try and tend to your every need”

    Kristin, my heart goes out to you :)P

    Glad you were able to have a good time despite the resort falling so far below your expectations. I’ve been romanced by slick travel photos a couple times, too. You’re right though. Live (and travel) and learn.

    And congrats on your new marriage! Where’s the next destination for you two?

  • July 23, 2010

    You look gorg in that last photo!

    Being alone on an island can either be totally romantic and fabulous or downright creepy and horror movie-ish and I think I would totally feel like it was the latter too. Ugh!

  • July 23, 2010

    It would be kind of creepy being at a “lush” resort all alone. Yet I think I could get used to it, if the food was good. Beautiful surroundings.

  • July 24, 2010

    ugh. trapped with frozen food. That might put me over the edge.

    thanks for joining in Photo Friday

  • July 25, 2010

    Just found your blog! love it!

    I’m sorry it wasn’t what you were expecting … but looks like you two made the most of it!

  • July 25, 2010
    mjb

    I went to Borneo once, and it doesn’t really surprise me that there’s not a huge market for luxury travel there.

  • July 25, 2010

    Ummm, I hate to disagree, but that place looks like paradise to me!!! Isn’t the whole point of being on a honeymoon to be alone together. πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

  • July 25, 2010

    Hah, I’m glad you’re honest! I felt that when on my last trip to Indonesia. We visited Bali and absolutely loved a cheap little spot called the Honeymoon Guesthouse that we stayed in in Ubud. But I wanted to get off the beaten track a bit as well, so we headed up to a new resort in the secluded north of the island. And it WAS nice, but we were alone, and something about it just felt empty. It was our anniversary, so I imagine you felt a bit like we did – like you’re meant to be romantic and celebrate, but you actually enjoyed other parts of the trip much more!

    I’ve discovered I don’t like the lonely secluded outpost thing. I like find a hidden gem in the midst of the city or usual tourist spots.

  • July 30, 2010

    Aside from the crappy food, what are you complaining about?! I would have loved to be the only one there, it looks gorgeous! I do hate deceptive hotel photography though. It seems like you guys made the most of it anyway!

    … and love the shot of the bearded pig!

  • March 3, 2011

    If I had to stay in KK for more than a few days, I think I’d stay at the Shangri-La. Have you seen how beautiful it is there?

    We were told that Gaya island is where all the immigrants from the Philippines live and that it is considered dangerous there.

    I guess although you sometimes dream of being alone on an island with the person you love, that alone time can seem like too much after a day or two.

    That bearded pig doesn’t look like it’s had enough to eat.

    • March 3, 2011
      Kristin

      Haha, you mean this one: https://www.camelsandchocolate.com/?p=3459?

      There are two Shangri-Las in the KK area and we went back and forth about which we were going to stay in (if we were going to splurge on an expensive stay like that, we wanted to make it worth it!). In the end, we went with Rasa Ria for the orangutans, and it was a good choice!

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