The hotel is located within the massive 1Borneo development some 7 kilometres to the north of Kota Kinabalu. It is accessible from the city centre via the Sulaman Highway which connects Kota Kinabalu to various points north via Likas Bay, the Sabah Foundation building, various government administrative centres and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS). Driving from Kota Kinabalu should take no more than 15 minutes depending on the time of the day (hint: try to avoid afternoon rush hours). Hailing a taxi from Kota Kinabalu should set you back anywhere between RM20 - RM25 per way.
Alternatively, you can opt for the free shuttle service that runs from 4 popular spots in Kota Kinabalu to 1Borneo. The shuttle service runs from Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort, Sutera Harbour Resort, Promenade Hotel and Warisan Square every 30 minutes to the hypermall. The air-conditioned shuttle service is available at Warisan Square from 0945hrs to 2145hrs, Promenade Hotel (0955hrs to 2155hrs), Sutera Harbour Resort (1010hrs to 2210hrs) and Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort (1030hrs to 2230hrs) at 30 minutes interval. Please note that the schedule is subject to change.
Grand Borneo Hotel lies in an imposing 16-storey tower block at the front section of the massive 1Borneo Hypermall. When the whole shopping complex was in the planning stage, the Accor group penned down an agreement with the developer to operate two of its signature hotel brands here, namely Novotel and Mercure. While the former is still standing pretty in the form of Novotel 1Borneo located right next door, Mercure 1Borneo was only in operation for less than a year. Opened for booking starting from September 2008, Mercure 1Borneo was subsequently renamed to Grand Borneo Hotel after the 27th of May 2009. Watchers of the local hotel industry could not help but wonder if the Mercure had been twice unfortunate as its plan to operate Mercure Waterfront Hotel in downtown Kota Kinabalu also did not pan out when the hotel owner decided to operate the current Imperial International Hotel on its own.
Enough of the not-so-long history of name changes. At the writing time, it is Grand Borneo Hotel and that's what malaysiahotelreview.com intends to write about. In overall concept, the hotel spells out a modern, chic and stylish embodiment which is well-presented throughout. A quick walk into the main lobby should suffice the talk. It is done in a minimalist concept with lots of empty space. On one corner lies a waiting area done in a stylish fashion with eye-catching lounging sofa, bold-coloured rugs and overhanging floor lamps. Opposite the waiting area is the reception desk built with typical frosted glass wall and laminated wood paneling with hundreds of glass crystals overhanging right above. In short, if it doesn't spell stylish blings to you, we don't know what does.
Next up: the accommodation. In total, Grand Borneo Hotel offers a whopping 325 rooms and suites. Why did we say "whopping"? Well, 300+ rooms and suites are often found only in expansive beachside resort or skyscraping city hotel. This hotel is only 16 storey in height, so what gives? The answer lies in the room sizes that the hotel offers. Assuming that most city hotels will carry the lowest room category size at 35-40 sq-metre, one shall notice that most rooms offered in Grand Borneo Hotel are significantly smaller than industry average and yet just about similar to any newly-opened city hotels in Kota Kinabalu anyway. So here it is: the room categories are Standard, Superior (22-24 sq-metre), Deluxe (26-30 sq-metre), Grand Deluxe (37 sq-metre), Executive Suite (60 sq-metre, only available on Level 15 and 16 of the hotel) and Grand Suite. By default, guests staying in Grand Deluxe, Executive Suite and Grand Suite will be able to patron the Borneo Privilege Lounge which offers typical club floor benefits such as free-flowing drinks, hors d’oeuvres (pardonnez-moi, its French for appetisers or finger food), evening cocktails, morning breakfast, free internet access and meeting rooms. That being said, we note that the hotel also offers club access to patrons in the lower room categories via chargeable upgrades. For the purpose of this review, we are presenting the write-up on two variants of the Superior category, namely the Superior Twin room and the Superior King room.
Before we pursue further into the detailed review, here are the standard amenities that should be available to each room or suite, regardless of category: complimentary broadband internet via wall socket (not wi-fi), Toshiba LCD TV with cable channels, electronic safe, mini fridge, hair dryer, IDD phone, coffee/tea making facility, writing desk, built-in wardrobe, et cetera. As indicated previously, the Superior room size varies between 22-24 sq-metre and from our observation, the Superior Twin and the Superior King rooms are distinctively different in more ways that one. Let's begin with the former. In term of overall design, we really like the Superior Twin room. At the room entrance lies a modern 3-feature bathroom consisting of a stylish wash basin area, a water closet and a standing shower stall. The deal breaker from our perspective is the rain shower head as one can never go wrong with such heaven-like shower experience. The two twin beds speak of comfort with quality bed lines and pillows. Added to the bedding arrangement are soothing brown decorative pillows to complement the colours (some hotels use bed runners, some do both). The flooring is done from laminated wood floor to ensure free or minimal maintenance. How often we have noticed timber floor strips being scratched by irresponsible patrons? Many times in our case. The laminated wood ensures a neutral, earthy tone to the room without head-scratching maintenance to worry about, pun intended. As often the case with other newer hotels, extensive laminated wood paneling is also applied throughout the room e.g. at the LCD TV stand, the writing desk, the bed frame and others. Some credits should also be given on the two-layered curtains the really complement the room colours. Now, let's move on to the Superior King room. It is somewhat bigger, albeit slightly. Some differences can be noted from the bedding area although not by much, mainly to cater for a plush king bed to be in its centre. It is more or less a reconfiguration exercise to place the mini bar at one place, not the other, or what goes where. Another notable difference is with the bathroom features; the standing shower has made way for a bath tub. Interestingly, a rain shower head is not fitted in the Superior King room but rather a regular one is installed instead. Perhaps, that was only our major beef for the day. The rest of the Superior Twin and the Superior King are well within our expectation. In short, we like both very much.
Business and leisure facilities at the hotel are fairly standard. The hotel offers a business centre and a number of conference rooms, not to mention free wi-fi hotspots at the main lobby and inside the Bubble Bar which ensure seamless internet connection from in-room broadband access to the public areas. Leisure facilities include a semi-indoor swimming pool with embedded jacuzzi bubble jets and a fitness centre, all located on Level 3. Due to the integrated hotel-cum-hypermall design, placement of the swimming pool is none too surprising. Nonetheless, a collection of sunning beds and pool umbrellas are placed under the open sky amidst an adequate amount of greenery by way of common tropical shrubs along the perimeter.
As for F&B outlets, the hotel currently hosts two, namely the Soul Out Coffee House which is an all-day dining restaurant on Level 2, and the Bubble Bar which is a relaxing lounge on Level 1. During our visit, the hotel seems to be renovating a section of the main lobby for another outlet. The Soul Out Coffee House bears a typically modern dining look with centre-spread serving platforms, a made-to-order beverage bar and a cooking stall. Design-wise, the Bubble Bar is just as impressive. The lounge features countless seating configurations in an expansive and stylish setting. The lounge provides cocktails, beverages and light snacks throughout the day. As a specialty, the Bubble Bar offers fresh oysters and prawns on ice during its happy hours.
As for our overall experience in term of guest services, some brushing up needed to be done to the reception personnel. For example, we were standing for 5 minutes before being attended to while a concierge staff some inches away was gleefully assisting two prospective customers for various tour packages. Other than that, our intended Superior King room was not available even in that evening and we were temporarily placed in a Superior Twin room for a good one hour with numerous attempts to get an update on when we can move into the booked Superior King room. On a brighter note, our stay at the hotel went smooth sailing after the earlier mixed-up.
Location wise, it is debatable as it is not located in downtown Kota Kinabalu. Great and modern hotel design overall. Small yet stylish rooms. Acceptably good hotel facilities and pricing. Minor concerns on guest services.