Outward Vacay: Four Points by Sheraton Hotel Sandakan

Exactly one week after my previous course at Semporna, I was yet again been 'ask' to go to another work related course in Sandakan, Sabah. After a minute worth of internal monologues that shall remain private (for now), I finally managed to dragged myself to the district by driving  a few hours from Tawau to Sandakan. I think it's my boss's way of 'cutting costs'. But since my boss promised me that the venue for this course is a so-called 'hotel with first class facilities' I relented (with a very sceptical thought of course - since the last time I went to Sandakan was when I was 10).

But thankfully this time around, he was right! An internationally renowned chained hotel managed by Starwood, the Four Points by Sheraton is a welcoming sight especially for somebody who'd just drove 5 hours non stop and in badly need of a comfortable place to crash. It's at the far end of the Sandakan's main town (as Sandakan is famous for its multiple towns) and is attached to the newly built Sandakan Harbour Mall, a somewhat high end mall in downtown Sandakan. Since it's at the heart of Sandakan, you'll find the place is surrounded by rows of old shops as well as a variety of local eateries nearby (yay!).

Now I'll try to keep my review as short as possible (or else I'll probably finished a novel by the time I'm done). Right from the start, their service were impeccable. The receptionists were really friendly and helpful. And I'm not just being polite here. I appreciate the fact that they actually remembered my name when I came back to inquire something from them the next day. The room was pretty good as well, what with its modern and elegant looking decor. It might be a tad small in size (as compared to other Starwood-managed hotel that I've been to before) but I still loved it. I got the Deluxe Room and I'm really happy with the partial sea view that I got from my window, since I love to see local people going on with their lives downtown. Unfortunately I did not have time to try out their restaurants (although I did visit their bakery/cafe - more on that later) since my 3 days course did not include food as well. I do however had stubbornly (I say stubbornly because I actually have limited time to spare and I decided to spend most of it there) wanted to try out their infinity pool (located on the 13th floor) and let me tell you, I kept going to the place every chance I get! The pool might not be huge but the view was just marvellous and very relaxing to watch, especially during sunset.  

A tip for anybody who're driving to the place - do use their very reliable valet parking. Since the parking spaces in front of the hotel are limited, you can just leave your keys with the valet and they will parked your car for you whenever a spot is available, with no charges at all. Or else you have to drive all the way to the 8th floor of the Harbour Mall (with 'nausea-tic' effect, believe me on this) and had to pay RM2 per entry just to park you own car as the hotel will not cover the cost if you parked there. And do be careful of your surroundings when sight-seeing in town especially at night since there seems to be a lot of local people 'lepaking' nearby all the time. There's even quite a few couples 'dating' at the sides of the hotel. 

For the ratings however...

Type - Deluxe Room
Room - 4/5 (the view was just breathtaking) 
Price - 4/5 (a bit pricey but you get want you'd paid for) 
Service - 4/5 (kudos to their well trained staff - especially their receptionists & valets) 
Decor - 4/5 (very modern and elegant looking)
Facilities - 5/5 (their infinity pool is a must try - the view's just spectacular!) 
Location - 4/5 (easy to spot but with confusing roads leading to the place) 

P/S: Sorry for the excessive picture taking (see below) as I got over excited snapping up pictures around the hotel ;-) 

These pictures are of the hotel's exterior & their lobby (or lobbies to be exact). Their reception area is on the first floor so you need to use the escalators to get there from the main entrance. 

This batch of pictures are of their room & its lovely view (mine's a partial view of the city & sea)

And these are pictures of their enjoyable infinity pool & its downtown Sandakan view

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Floating Restaurant (Semporna FoodieVenture #2)

Like I've said on my previous post, limited time equals limited materials. With my limited time in Semporna, I only manage to visit just one restaurant (yes, I'm frustrated myself) and it also happens to be the nearest to the hotel I'm staying there. So here I present to you the Floating Restaurant (aka Pearl City Restaurant). And no, I did not just made up the name, it's actually printed at the front of their menu (see below pictures).

I don't blame you if you're imagining a restaurant that's floating in mid air or something (heck, I'll probably will) but it's actually a very pretty little chalet inspired place on the shores of Semporna. The restaurant is situated not far from the town's jetty and it's within the Semporna Ocean Tourism Centre. I do recommend you to visit the latter, since it's a major tourist attraction (what with its restaurant, handicraft shops, sea creatures exhibit and chalets-for-rent collectively called Dragon Inn - and all within the area of the tourism centre).

Now onto the good stuff. Honestly, I didn't even know that there's a restaurant inside the vicinity. Me and a colleague were just walking around the area when we stumble upon what seems to be a restaurant resembling one of those old Chinese movies (you know, the one where the kung-fu hero makes a dramatic entrance before sending the bad guys flying - along with all the wooden chairs and tables nearby). Upon seeing the place, all logic says that the place must be expensive (hey, it looks like a expensive place to me) but my instinct still wants to go and try out the place. And yes, it is quite on the expensive side when we were given the menu but since we're already sitting down, we might as well try some food. We ordered their Fried Rice with Crab Meat (for my friend) as well as the Floating Restaurant Special Fried Mee Hoon (Fried Vermicelli). When our ordered came I was a bit disappointed because at first glance, the food looks uninteresting. I was thinking of giving a negative review should the food taste bad as well but lo and behold, I was proven wrong. The food were delicious and very satisfying. My colleague was very happy with hers since it contains actual crab meat (as oppose to one of those cheap crab sticks). Mine was also not too oily and the taste was just right, with lots of ingredients inside.

So without further ado...

Food - 4/5 (surprisingly very tasty despite the simple looks)
Price - 3/5 (a little expensive but we're satisfied with the quality of food)
Service - 3/5 (a little feet dragging doing on there with the waitresses - and we're the only customers there)
Decor - 4/5 (very old Chinese movie like restaurant feel with great sea view - I loved it!)
Location - 4/5 (it's pretty easy to spot as it's also at the far end of Semporna)

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Lepa Cafe (Semporna FoodieVenture #1)

Since the course that I've attended at Semporna was very short (only 2 days) and it's pretty jammed-packed, I do not have time to really explore the town as much as I'd liked. So do forgive me for not to being able to give you more reviews on the foodies in Semporna.

Now one such places that I would like to review was the Lepa Cafe. Situated at the ground floor of the hotel I'm staying at (yes, I'm that desperate for some foodie reviews), I got to try out their breakfast buffet since it's included with my stay there. Again, I've read not so favourable things about said buffet from Tripadvisor (it's like my go to reference site for places unknown) so I got a somewhat low expectation going to it. But then on a recent look, I've realise that most of those kind of reviews were from foreign tourists that are maybe not as adventurous to try out local dishes as others. Because quite frankly I was baffled coming into breakfast (that never happen to me before). The selection was quite big and there's a lot of things available there that I did not expected at all such as not so common local kuihs, heavy duty dishes such as grilled local fish (I know, and it's only breakfast) and the unique fried egg bread (yes, they fried the egg and bread together). All in all, if you're an Asian, you'll probably appreciate the local flavoured buffet more than the Europeans for example. Even the fruits are geared more towards the local variety. But there's also the usual cereals, American breakfasts and an omelette station available so I assure you that you won't starve at breakfast. 

And even though this is technically a 'side benefit' from my course, I'm still going to give my personal ratings...

Food - 4/5 (kudos to the management for trying something different) 
Price - 4/5 (not too sure about the real price since you'll usually get a free breakfast anyway if you stayed there) 
Service - 4/5 (I think I got lucky because it's not that crowded while I was there)
Decor - 3/5 (your typical hotel coffee house feel, would benefit from upgrades)
Location - 4/5 (you'll definitely see it, trust me) 

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Outward Vacay: Seafest Hotel Semporna

Yes yes... I know that I've gone missing again but I got a legitimate reason this time. I got called (more like 'force') to attend 2 courses back-to-back (and on different districts no less) so do forgive me. So for a couple of posts ahead, my entries are all about my Semporna and Sandakan foodie-venture (ahem, I mean 'courses' boss, sorry about that) back-to-back as well okay? Now who says you can't work and enjoy yourself at the same time right?

So first up lets take a look at my short stay at Seafest Hotel in Semporna, Sabah. I attended a 2 days course here so everything was provided. Now before I begin, it is good to note that Semporna is a relatively small place to begin with (and by small I mean really small, like fish pond small as oppose to a lake). But what's good (and somewhat popular) about the place are its beautiful islands surrounding the district. And yes, there's also that hotly debated matter of 'kidnap victims' right now but still, it's a top tourist destination in Sabah.

Now the hotel itself is big by Semporna's standards. And I'm not being condescending because it is the biggest hotel there is in the area. I've actually read some very fussy people talking negatively about the place on Tripadvisor so my expectation going to it was pretty low. But I like being surprised, and that's exactly what I got! Sure, the place overall looks a bit dated but I like the personal touches being thrown here and there that reflects Semporna and its sea legacy. Checking in went on smoothly (as it's not the school holiday season so phew!) and uneventful. The room I was given had a beautiful view of the village at the back (with first hand view of the hustle and bustle of a local fisherman's life) and partial view of the sea which is just what I would booked for myself. The bed was really comfortable and despite the old-fashioned TV it's sufficient for my short stay. The bathroom was clean and no signs of weird smells coming out of anything as stated by said negative comments by other patrons. Although I do hope that they put a light on top of the showers as it can be a bit dark over there. I did not have time to visit their swimming pool but it looks nice although maybe a tad small in size. The conference hall is also pretty standard but nevertheless comfortable. But one feature that stood out of the hotel was their indoor fish pond. I passed it a couple of times but did not gave it any thought up until the last day of my stay. The lovely looking pond is situated in the middle of the elevators space (there are 4 elevators all together, 2 on a lower floor while the other 2 in a slightly higher floor). And then it caught my eyes... ARAPAIMAS! I'm a fan of the fish so please excuse my unnecessary excitement over those pair (yup, it comes in a pair). The pictures below might not show it, but let me tell you that those babies are big in size. I'm still kicking myself for not seeing it earlier.

And do excuse my overexcited photography below since I think I got some time to kill and not many places to go while I was there...

Type - Superior Village Room
Room - 4/5 (a bit dated but the view's spectacular)
Price - 4/5 (fair price for what you're getting)
Service - 3/5 (the bellboy manning the front door was nice and friendly)
Decor - 4/5 (one word people... Arapaimas!)
Facilities - 4/5 (looking good for Semporna's standards)
Location - 3/5 (just drive along the main road until you find the pier and the ocean at the far end of the town)

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