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Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


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Photography – TGIF!

Dragonfly

Such a happy sunny day, even the dragonfly knows it’s TGIF! ;)

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Gaya Island Resort – Romancing Sunset

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

At a loss for words. For once.

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Best way to take in Sabah’s breathtaking natural scenes?
Go on board the Lumba-Lumba & catch the best sunset of a lifetime

One of the most memorable experiences Darren & I had at Gaya Island Resort was on board a yatch. No resort getaway would be complete without a romantic sunset cruise, so I determinedly pestered him to go on one. Our ‘ dream carriage’ came in the form of a private 64-foot Princess yacht, Lumba-Lumba (even the name sounds so whimsical!).

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Big bright smiles in anticipation of a gorgeous sunset

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

We had a majestic view of sunrise over Mount Kinabalu from the resort, so we had to go around the island to view the equally spectacular sunset just behind the hill. Doesn’t the resort look like a natural sanctuary nestled amongst the lush greenery?

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Interior of the Lumba-Lumba outfitted by Louis Vuitton
Melissa, seen in the photo, was ever-so-friendly and kindly showed us around this mini palace. It was so well-equipped it could pass off as a real living room!

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Can you think of anything more romantic than lying on your bed and gazing at the stars with a loved one? *swoon*
Lumba-Lumba has a total of 4 cabins that can accommodate 8 guests. The main suite comes with an attached bathroom and skylight for stargazing.

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Welcome to my living room! For 5 minutes. Duh.
It was so comfortable and cool I was reluctant to peel myself off the couch.

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Eagerly moving towards the golden sun
This was one of the rare times I forgot all about freckles and embraced the sunshine in front of me

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Greek God basking in the sun
Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it? What a sight for sore eyes, what a treat! ;)

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Meanwhile I attempted to masquerade as the figurehead maiden found on the ship’s bow
Lucky the boat didn’t tip forward from severe weight imbalance.

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Panoramic view of the horizon
Going on the sunset cruise is definitely one of the best ways to take in Sabah’s natural wonders, from the majestic Mount Kinabalu, untouched lush rainforests and the great expanse of the South China Sea. No words can do enough justice to the ethereal experience.

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Speechless. Brilliant. Jaw-dropping.

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Perfect setting for honeymooners
This intimate scene of a sweet pair of Australian newlyweds admiring the opulent sunset looked so surreal.

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

The sun transitioned into a warmer hue as it prepared to bow out for the day. And what cute cloud formations!

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Choose to admire the sunset on the upper deck if you prefer shade, or like us – laze on the deck and feel the breeze caress our faces. And cam-whore.
Free flow of drinks (wine, soft drinks) and nuts to nibble are served throughout the 1.5hour cruise. The sunset cruise is offered only on Tuesdays and Fridays, and strictly takes up to 12 guests at a time, so do book early with the concierge. It’s worth the RM250 per pax.
For an even more indulgent experience, you can charter the entire yacht for a private dinner and do some star gazing. Or negotiate with the owner to book it overnight and start procreating for the newly weds *wink*

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

The sun gets playful with peeka-boo!

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

As the sun hid behind the fluffy clouds, it looked as if a magical kingdom had materialised right before our eyes. I half-expected a dragon to fly out of it any time.

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

What a dramatic sky. Nature’s canvas was so opulent it’s quite impossible to take a bad photo.

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Transitioning into hues of pink and purple

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Dusk finally set in, and it was time to head back to the resort. I felt like I had just been to a theatrical performance, where the stage was the vast horizon and the sun the lead dancer, keeping me transfixed with every minute that passed.

Sunset Cruise at Gaya Island Resort

Definitely a day to remember for a long time to come
It was a short 1.5 hours, but to us it felt like eternity cos’ we simply lost track of time, wanting to prolong every moment. The sunset was just indescribable; it was so mesmerizing we could not take our eyes off it, just like a ravishing beauty. Its ever-changing hues and appearance kept us anticipating for more, ooh-ing & ahhh-ing by the minute. If only a man would describe me in the same way, I would die a very happy dame. Damn.

More on Gaya Island Resort:
Chasing Nature at Gaya Island Resort
Gaya Island – Private Paradise at Tavajun Bay
Gaya Island Resort – Finding Zen at the Spa Village


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Chasing Nature at Gaya Island Resort

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Brilliant Green Throated Lizards and more exotic creatures await you on Gaya Island Resort’s daily Nature Walk

Darren & I recently went on a getaway to nature’s paradise in the form of Gaya Island Resort, a newly opened five-star retreat located off the coast of Kota Kinabalu on the shores of Pulau Gaya, the largest island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Sabah/Borneo. Being nature lovers, this was the perfect location for us surrounded by untouched tropical rainforests and mangroves lovingly preserved for thousands of years complimented with the majestic view of Mount Kinabalu. Borneo is also home to many rare species including the orangutan, proboscis monkey and pygmy elephant.

We were thus naturally excited to go on the resort’s guided nature walks (9am daily lasting about 1hr; complimentary for guests) led by their in-house naturalist Justin Juhun – what an adventure! We couldn’t wait to discover the island’s distinctive flora and fauna hidden in the rainforest, and hear the stories he has to tell about them. We hear that a family of proboscis monkeys have been spotted in the jungle too, so we were even more eager to spot them on our walk.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Get wild with Gaya Island Resort’s Resident Naturalist Justin Juhun
Born in Tawau, a town located on the south-eastern coast of Sabah, Justin was raised in a family of wildlife enthusiasts who owned an animal sanctuary in their backyard. Justin’s thus no stranger to wildlife as he has been hand rearing orphaned infants from an early age.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

On our way into the rainforest just behind the resort

Tips for surviving a jungle walk:
– Beware of commando-trained mosquitoes: wear a long sleeved shirt (I brought detachable sleeves) and pants, or prepare to be human buffet for the mosquitoes.
– Slather on insect repellent especially on the uncovered body areas.
– Keep your mouth closed. You’ll know why later on.
– Talk softly else you will scare away all the animals and insects, and your companions.
– Wear proper shoes as there may not be proper walking paths (we are in a real jungle, not theme park).
– Try to stay with the group or you may become the next Survivor wannabe – by yourself.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

In awe of nature’s sculptures

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Justin’s pretty much a modern-day bushman
He prances like a nimble monkey, crouches to listen to nearby animals like a leopard and mimics the calls of birds. Darren tried to do the same bird calls later, but all he attracted were mosquitoes.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

A man’s favourite plant – Tongkat Ali
Nature’s aphrodisiac was aplenty on the island; we saw one of these every five steps we took. The Tongkat Ali root has been said to boost male virility, although Justin said this is not scientifically proven. Instead, he has been using this as a medicine for cancer.
I learnt a trick on how to identify  a Tongkat Ali plant – the leaf texture is velvety, and it doesn’t break when crumpled unlike other plants.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

A butterfly (to-be) did this
Justin taught us how to identify wildlife by the traces they leave – poo, foot trails, half-eaten leaves and in this photo – the larvae of a leafwing butterfly (so named because their wings mimic dead leaves) rolling itself up in a leaf which acts as a temporary shelter. They secure the leaf with silk they produce.

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

Husk of a molted cicada
Cicadas molt (shed their skins) on a nearby plant when they are about a year old and emerge as adults. The abandoned exoskeleton remains, clinging to the bark of trees or on leaves. There must be millions and millions of cicadas in the rainforest, cos’ they were noisy as hell.
And remember why I said not to open your mouths in the rainforest? Raise your head up and you will see romantic trails of water dripping from above. It is not morning dew. It is cicada pee.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Close-up of a cicada

Nature Walk at Gaya Island Resort

The rainforest flora is as fascinating as its fauna

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Green Pit Viper curled up in the tree
Snakes apparently make home at a specific spot – Justin knew exactly where to find this fella. I was filled with trepidation as we trekked towards its location. I was honestly scared to death as I had never seen one outside of glass enclosures. It was quite happy to mind its own business while we ogled – or shrieked – from below.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Termite hill

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Termite’s Recreation Centre
Termites do not stay in this ball-like structure – it’s sort of a recreation centre where they hang out to socialise and maybe date, and then move on to their housing quarters which is the giant terminate hill just below.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Mini termite hills – nature does have its own humour

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Bioluminescent mushroom
Something tells me I shouldn’t eat this. Perhaps I should ask Justin to conduct a jungle gourmet tour since the greedy me kept looking around for things to eat :p

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

A really pretty lizard well-camouflaged by the tree bark
We would have missed it if Justin didn’t point it out to us. It seemed that the urbanites in us were blind to many things around us despite being so enthusiastic to spot wildlife. This walk actually me to slow down a little in life, to just quietly observe my surroundings. I have come to realise I see more now, and am able to give more creative ideas when I invest in few moments to really listen and think, instead of scurrying through life.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Flying Tree Lizard

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

What a cutie!

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Banana Flower

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Fruit of the Nutmeg Tree
Finally something I can eat! Nutmeg is used for flavouring many dishes, in perfume and medicinal oils. An extremely useful plant to have around.

Gaya Island Resort

Reishi Mushroom, more commonly known as Lingzhi (ganoderma lucidum)
The jungle is full of medicinal treasures too! This tiny little lingzhi took about 2 years to grow, no wonder they are so expensive. Justin told us that he had spotted another piece nearby which is over a hundred years old, and its value would have been about US$45,000 a few years back.

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Even the birds came to sing

Gaya Island Resort nature Walk

Chat with the bushman
We were fortunate to have lunch with Justin after the walk and got to know him better. It was intriguing to hear him talk about his lifelong interest in wildlife, and about his ambition to start his very own wildlife reserve and conduct more research on flora and fauna’s useful properties as well as conservation.
While he was really serious and alert as a panther on the walk, he was very chatty during lunch, and almost like a little boy when talking about his future wildlife reserve. He was the one who set up the jungle walking paths at the resort, and I could sense his eagerness to get back into the jungle after lunch for more exploration. He shared that he is building an observation tower near a family of proboscis monkeys he discovered so resort guests will be able to see those precious creatures during future nature walks. I want to come back!!

Gaya Island Resort Nature Walk

Discover nature’s wonders for yourself
We had an enlightening experience – and an awesome good workout (Darren was dripping sweat and showing too much through his white linen shirt, not that I mind haha) during the nature walk. It is definitely an activity that I would recommend going for when you are at Gaya Island Resort (and it’s complimentary for goodness sake!) I think it may change the way you look at things.For a more exclusive exploration of the forest (or if you want to do a walk in the nocturnal evening), Justin can be booked via the resort at RM150 per person in the group, and the walks can tailored to varying difficulties and distance to suit one’s ability and interests. And I am looking forward to the day the bushman finally has his very own jungle. 

More on Gaya Island Resort:
Gaya Island Resort – Romancing Sunset
Gaya Island – Private Paradise at Tavajun Bay
Gaya Island Resort – Finding Zen at the Spa Village


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DBS Marina Regatta 2013 – Row, Row, Row your Boat!

DBS Marina Regatta 2013

T’was a happy day at the DBS Marina Regatta 2013 – obviously :) With a very friendly pair of Canadian rowers
I popped by the dragonboating event to visit my photog friends who were there in full force capturing the action armed with their ‘bazookas’ – super big camera lenses. As my camera was sent for servicing, I didn’t intend to take any photos – until I saw the dragonboaters. I promptly whipped out my trusty Casio ZR200 compact camera and started shooting, erm the boats I meant. While I felt so inadequate beside all the huge professional cameras holding a puny white cam, but it was definitely a good opportunity to have my first try at sports photography. And I think my little compact did pretty well too :)

DBS Marina Regatta

DBS Marina Regatta 2013

DBS Marina Regatta

Say a little prayer before the races

DBS Marina Regatta

If flooding was reported at Marina Bay today, it gotta be my drool.
I thought I had walked into hunk heaven, and unconsciously blushed beetroot. Oh the pecs…Oh the arms…Oh the six-pack…Oh what a lecher I am! I seriously considered taking up dragonboating – well, as the drummer in front, not the rower as I have come to realise I have zero sense of limb coordination.

DBS Marina Regatta

Close fight to the finish

Also learnt to do a high-resolution video to document the action in slow-motion, that was fun!

DBS Marina Regatta

As the drummer increased the speed of the drum beats, so did the rowing and our shutter clicks

DBS Marina Regatta

Love the splashes of water

DBS Marina Regatta

“Come on you! Row faster!”

DBS Marina Regatta

Dragonboating is definitely a team sport – every member plays a part in getting to the finish line. And I couldn’t take my eyes off the well-toned arms…I totally had the wrong focus for the races, hahaha

The ladies’ teams were pretty exciting to watch as well:

DBS Marina Regatta

Giving the team a thumbs up

DBS Marina Regatta

Someone flew a camera mounted onto a remote-controlled helicopter for close-up action

DBS Marina Regatta 2013

While some won, others capsized, oops

DBS Marina Regatta

DBS Marina Regatta

The Filipino team didn’t forget to have fun during the races
It was definitely a memorable first time for me at the races, and sports photography didn’t seem as daunting now. I will try it again once my beloved camera is back from the service centre. And yes – dragonboating is now my favourite sports to watch *WINK*