Report Cards

This item appears on page 78 of the May 2009 issue.

On MALAYSIA & SINGAPORE, February-March ’09. . .

• On flights between Los Angeles and Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia, Feb. 25 and March 4, I was very favorably impressed with Malaysia Airlines’ business class, which, at $4,100, cost much less than other airlines’ business-class seats (low of $6,600).

The planes were squeaky clean; the bathrooms were cleaned every hour! Up in the “hump” of the 747, it was quiet and I slept quite well; the seats reclined to nearly flat. The food was mostly Asian and very, very good.

The flight attendants were pleasant and extremely attentive — so much so that the minute I opened my eyes and sat up, an attendant appeared wishing me a “Good morning” and offering coffee, juice or whatever I wanted. Especially friendly were the three KL-based attendants on the Taipei-Los Angeles leg of my journey.

I booked through Travelocity, and the ticketing was by Air India. I will definitely fly Malaysia Airlines again, though next time I may save money by flying business class from LA to Taipei and then economy the four hours from Taipei to KL.

Grassland Bus Company — located at the bus depot area in KL. A bus ride between KL and Singapore cost about US$20 one way, Feb. 28 and March 2.

While this company bills its buses as “super nice,” I would have chosen the company called Five Star instead, as their buses (in the same area) looked so much nicer for a similar price. This one, however, did have seats that reclined, video screens at each seat and plenty of space between the seats. The interior was clean but worn.

On this 5-hour trip, the bus stopped every couple of hours for a bathroom break, with a 30-minute lunch stop midway. I looked into the other buses at the stops, and it appeared that none, no matter how nice, had a bathroom on board.

Royal Peacock Hotel (55 Keong Saik Rd., Singapore; phone [65] 6223-3522, e-mail or visit www.royal — located in Singapore’s Chinatown.

On Feb. 28 and March 1, a room cost US$76 single or US$120 double, with a good full breakfast included. Other meals at the restaurant were kind of expensive and nothing to write home about.

Quite basic but comfortable, with pleasant and helpful staff, this is a very clean hotel though somewhat worn. Be sure to get a room on the back side of the building, else the street noises, charming during the day and early evening, will keep you awake till 4 a.m.! Once I changed my room, all was well.

I would definitely stay there again.

• I paid US$12 for wooden cookie molds at Tong Mern Sern Antiques Arts & Crafts (51 Craig Rd., Singapore; phone 62231037) — off Neil Road, in Singapore’s Chinatown.

Run by a hyperactive elderly Chinese man, this shop is a rummager’s paradise. Stuffed into every available nook and cranny on three floors are antique, vintage and not-so-old items from Asia, the US, Europe and every place else that has ever been. From furniture to books, vases to silver pieces and paintings to tools, this guy has got it all.

His good humor and slightly crazy manner is worth a visit in itself!

— Florence Drake, Readfield, ME

From HONG KONG, China, Feb. 23, 2009. . .

Kowloon Hotel (19-21 Nathan Rd., Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong) — in a great location, right behind the famous Peninsula Hotel. A home away from home, it cost about $131 per night for two.

• Money changers’ rates varied. Most were offering HK$7.0 to US$1, but HK$7.7 was available, often in the same building.

• When you get a little tired of Asian food, the Spaghetti House ( serves great pasta. Spaghetti with Bolognese meat sauce cost HK$66 (US$8.50). The menu says they simmer the sauce at least three hours. These restaurants are everywhere, including the airport.

• Hong Kong now has at least four Shakey’s Pizza Parlors, and I had to see one for myself. Unfortunately, the taste doesn’t come close to what we used to have back in Sacramento. An 8-inch pepperoni pizza cost HK$128 (US$16.50), and three of us split a good-sized salad for HK$38. A chocolate mousse cost HK$30.

In the Hong Kong chain, there are even lobster, crab and other seafood dishes on the menu. Shakey would just shake his head in disbelief.

— Bruce Eastley, Sacramento, CA

From PENANG, Malaysia, Feb. 18, 2009. . .

• Made a lucky and good choice to stay at the Evergreen Laurel Hotel (53, Persiaran Gurney, 10250, Penang, Malaysia; phone 60 4 226 9988, fax 9989), Feb. 17. From the Internet, the cost was $93 per night, double or single, including buffet breakfast.

Had a nice room on the 10th floor with a full ocean view. Would have no hesitation to stay here again.

• While Penang Hill is a popular site to visit, the funicular train to the top or back takes 30 minutes (RM4.50, or about $1.20, one way), has limited seating and was jam-packed, with people standing. Views at the top were quite hazy — not worth the trip.

— Bruce Eastley, Sacramento, CA