Update: NAK Hotel Sandakan announced in June 2020 that it was ceasing operations, seemingly a victim of the impact of Covid-19.
On my recent trip to Sabah I stayed at the Nak Hotel Sandakan. I had read good reviews on TripAdvisor and the rates seemed reasonable for what I would call a premium budget hotel.
NAK is a strange name for a hotel. What could it stand for? Nice And Kosy? Noisy And Knackered? Actually it was named after its founder, Mr. Ngui Ah Kui.
I contacted NAK Hotel Sandakan directly via email to make the booking and they responded promptly and efficiently.
They offered me one of their Classic Single rooms at the rack rate of RM 88 per night, inclusive of tax, service charge and breakfast.
Efficient and polite.
Average size for a single room with modern wooden flooring and bamboo blinds over the windows.
The bed was clean, comfortable and queen sized. There was TV and airconditioning. No Wi-Fi in the room but it was available in the roofgarden.
They have tried to update the bathroom with stylish touches like dark stone tile flooring, a bamboo towel rack and a Chinese blue and white pattern sink.
The shower had a water heater which worked.
The windows in the room were angled, a style which must have seemed futuristic when the hotel was built in the 1960s. They provide a degree of privacy but are quite annoying in that you cannot see out in all directions.
My room was on the second floor and there was a lot of noise from the street despite a primitive form of double glazing on the window. Fortunately the streets empty quite early in Sandakan.
The most attractive feature of the hotel was the roof garden which was where they served breakfast and other meals. Built around and on top of a giant water tank, the roof garden was on two levels and provided excellent views over the town of Sandakan and the Sulu Sea.
There was cosy seating and plenty of corners to read books, catch up on some social media or enjoy a cool beer.
The free welcome drink was refreshing, like a mojito without the alcohol.
Breakfast consisted of a choice of two sets: pancakes with banana drizzled with Nutella or eggs (fried or scrambled), a chicken sausage, beans, salad, toast and jam. Tasty local coffee or tea was available for self-service.
The staff were friendly and efficient (in fact better than in most Malaysian hotels).
I did not eat any other meals in the hotel but from the menu I saw that they served a fairly standard selection of international and Asian dishes.
The hotel was conveniently located right in the heart of Sandakan with all the shops, restaurants and attractions (such as there were) within easy walking distance. You can find the location marked on the interactive map on my Sandakan Heritage Trail page.
Jalan Pelabuhan Lama
Sandakan (Town Centre)
• Tel: +6 (0)89 272988
• Fax: +6 (0)89 272879
• Email: email@example.com
I get the impression that this hotel is well managed with friendly and efficient staff. The management has tried to upgrade the establishment to a modern boutique style with some stylish touches and use of Asian furnishings and handicrafts. But the fabric of the hotel is still old (plumbing, electrics and design) so there is a limit on what they can do. However that is all reflected in the price which, in my opinion, offers good value for money.
The newest and smartest looking hotel in town is the Four Points Sheraton located on the waterfront next to the central market and the new Harbour Mall.
Next door to the Four Points is the Swiss Inn Waterfront which looked OK.
The Hotel Sandakan is probably the nearest competitor to the NAK but perhaps slightly more upmarket from the outside.
The Sabah Hotel has more of a resort feel with lush gardens and a swimming pool.
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