Shangri-La Rasa Ria Kota Kinabalu Launches New Initiatives That Celebrate And Uplift The Local Community

Staying at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Kota Kinabalu affords you more than just a beachside vacation in an idyllic location within a sprawling nature reserve by the South China Sea. It is also an opportunity to get acquainted with Sabah’s indigenous culture. 

For starters, you’ll be able to sample indigenous dishes such as hinava (lime-cured fish) and fried chicken wings that’s been marinated in pungent tuhau (wild Bornean ginger) at the Tepi Laut restaurant. You can also join the Land of Linangkit Tour offered by the resort, which includes a pit-stop at a cultural centre where you’ll learn about the colourful traditions of the Bajau Samah ethnic group, the predominant group in the town of Tuaran where Rasa Ria is located. 

Efforts such as these are designed to celebrate and uplift the local community. In fact, the resort’s new initiatives have recently been expanded to include collaborations with advocacy groups such as Sabah social enterprise Changgih Designs as well as Tuaran’s seamstresses, most of whom are stay-at-home mothers and grandmothers looking to supplement their families’ income. The seamstresses produced two items for Rasa Ria—the Sarimpak Robe for in-room use in the resort’s Suites and Family Rooms, and drawstring bags repurposed from the hotel’s discarded linen for the Junior Naturalist programme (both items are also available to purchase). Changgih Designs also helped kickstart the batik canting activity offered at the resort. 

Women artisans from Tuaran were involved in the crafting of the Sarimpak Robe.

The impetus to work with Tuaran was inspired by the turbulent times of the pandemic, according to Fiona Hagan, General Manager of Shangri-La Rasa Ria Kota Kinabalu. “We asked ourselves how we could add value to our local community, particularly as we come out of Covid, as well as how we could bring our guests closer to the community and the community closer to us,” Hagan says.

The Sarimpak Robe is made from soft cotton fabric featuring an exclusive print designed by Changgih Designs founder Bethany Dawson. The print’s artwork reflects the rich tapestry of the Sarimpak headgear, an iconic ornament in the shape of water buffalo horns worn by the Bajau Samah as part of their ceremonial costume. “At Changgih, we’re ethnically inspired and community driven,” Dawson says.

Hagan adds: “Here is something we could give our guests to interact with. We should be putting things in our guest rooms that have a meaning and a story, and that ties back to the local community. When people come on holiday to this destination, it’s not just about the beautiful beach and the experience. We really want people to walk away with a little piece of who we are that’s from our local community.”

Shangri-La Rasa Ria Kota Kinabalu

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