No mess on MAS, just superb service
Most of us who have flown a lot, long-haul especially, probably have now come to accept the vast difference in the level of service one can expect flying in economy class compared to business or first.
Actually there's no comparison. So not expecting much I recently flew (my choice just based on the price of the ticket) economy class with Malaysia Airlines from London to Jakarta (via Kuala Lumpur).
When checking in, outbound from London, the staff although very busy with the morning check-in queues still took the time to juggle things around and cancel my pre-booked request for an aisle seat (already printed out on the boarding pass) for slightly more leg room in the emergency exit row. Being quite a large six feet tall chap and having probably purchased one of the cheapest seats at the back of the aircraft, online, I can't say enough how grateful I was for that.
On the return journey on the section from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur, as we were boarding the aircraft, the person in front of me picked up the last copy of a complimentary Jakarta Post. Seeing this and the disappointment on my face, the chief purser pleasantly surprised me about 10 minutes into the flight by bringing to me a spare copy of the same newspaper.
And finally, back on the big A380 from Kuala Lumpur to London again in economy class, on remembering serving a glass of wine to me a crew member made a point of asking me my opinion of the wine.
These are the little things that matter when it comes to customer service. Thank you Malaysia Airlines.
Jonathan Smethurst, UK
Having looked through many online sites, your wonderful magazine finally gave us the information we needed for a Bali wedding
A wonderful Westin wedding
I wish to congratulate your wonderful magazine for helping me choose the venue for my son's wedding in Bali. Having looked through many online sites, your magazine finally gave us the information we needed for Bali.
Westin Nusa Dua was our choice of venue and we were especially impressed by the family-friendly nature of the hotel as described by your magazine. This proved invaluable as we had some young kids and elderly people who needed a tad more care.
Caught in the heat, we were also thankful for Westin's air-conditioned lobby, which I am told is one of the very few in Bali. The warmth of the staff at Westin played an especially important part in making the wedding a fabulous event. Thank you Smart Travel Asia for pointing us in the right direction.
Minni Menon, Hong Kong
Getting Cathay out of its shell
We were hoping to fly from New York to Hong Kong, but Cathay Pacific said their new economy class seats are not in yet. The reviews for the shell seats are really horrible. Can you tell us which airline will have the most comfortable economy seats? Is United better?
Barbara Paul, USA
More monkey business please
That little monkey on your front page is simply adorable. I want one. Is it a monkey by the way? Well, every home should have one. And yes, I do agree it's more fun in the Philippines. We have visited the country several times and despite the traffic and general chaos my family has rarely been disappointed. We are not divers but we love the beaches.
Alice Yew, Hong Kong
The Editors say,
We like that bug-eyed tarsier too, featured on the Department of Tourism Philippines ads. It is a distant relative of the monkey along a separate family tree. Enjoy your Philippines adventures.
A wedding too far?
Your [Asian resort weddings] report is really helpful! I've been thinking about destination weddings in Hong Kong as my father is there and I really love the place. The only problem is that I want to get away from the whole Chinese banquet thing. Doing the wedding in HK may pose a bit of a problem as a lot of the family from my dad's side still resides there. The other options were Malaysia or Japan, but it is more difficult to get the legalities sorted in Japan.
Any advice you could provide on these destinations would be appreciated massively as I'm trying to plan ahead after seeing the tears and stress my sister is going through for her UK wedding. It has turned into exactly what she and her fiance did not want – a chinese banquet and hotel wedding.
Tanya Pang, UK
The Editors say,
You are right, it's hard to get away from Chinese banquets in Hong Kong but options for getting out of the city include the new Auberge resort on Discovery Bay (Lantau Island) and the two Disney hotels. You can check our other stories on the site for Penang and Langkawi for more alternatives on Malaysia. Japan is a wonderful spot too. In most of these cases though it would not be a legal marriage. Best to have a civil wedding "legally" in your home base and then do a wedding ceremony or blessing in your dream spot. Bali is a great choice too.
Even thieves have a code
I read your article on hotel thefts. There is a simple and cheap way to prevent this. Print or stitch an interactive QR code on each high value item. When an item disappears with a guest, update the information in the code to say something like: "Hello - thanks for visiting our hotel. We hope our hairdryer, which you have not paid for and are using at home, will remind you of your stay at our hotel."
Bernd When, Cambodia
Sick and tired, after travel
I travelled in Vietnam and Cambodia in Nov 2012. I became sick with violent diarrhoea (no nausea, no fever) in Cambodia. After four months of tests and treatment in the US and Mexico, there is no change. I am wondering if I should return to Southeast Asia for a diagnosis? And if so, where would be the best medical facility?
Nancy Dusseau, Mexico
The Editors say,
We have detailed some medical tourism options that include Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok and good choices in Singapore. In Hong Kong Dr John Simon is a specialist in tropical infectious diseases. Contact details on the page.
Maldives detail just the ticket
Great website, very informative and invaluable detail [for Maldives] on each resort. Really enjoyed reading and learning about the varied choices on offer and will use again for research. Thank you.
Debbie Newman, Luxury travel consultant, UK
TripAdvisor can be misleading
I'll definitely be looking out for the new Maldives article! The thing about Tripadvisor reviews is that almost everyone who goes to the Maldives for the first time thinks it's absolute paradise - which it is, but depending on what you're looking for not all resorts are created equal.
My husband agrees with many things you have mentioned in the article as points of interest, such as the sting ray feeding at Banyan Tree, orange juice at Kandooma (lovely modern rooms there!), and the Thai restaurant at Anantara Dhigu/Velli. We have been trying to find a resort with as much marine life (that doesn't require a boat snorkelling trip as our three kids are under six) such as Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru/Angsana Ihuru, but so far have been disappointed with many resorts. So after reading your article confirming that they have one of the best house reefs, we will probably try Angsana Ihuru this time (or maybe take the chance with the Angsana Velavaru).
Edlyn Giam, Singapore
Maldives price hikes
I've been to the Maldives six times now, and I still found your Maldives guide very informative (not to mention well-written) and extremely useful in helping us decide on our next resort!
Only thing is, you might want to check the prices for transfers as the price range is not accurate. Last year I enquired at the Hilton and their transfer rates are US$500, and Angsana Velavaru said their rates are US$400. Six Senses Laamu is US$360. So a price range of US$100-$200 is terribly optimistic!
Thank you for a great article anyhow.
Edlyn Giam, Singapore
The Editors say,
Thanks for that very useful feedback. We've updated some transport information and Maldives, which remains one of our most popular stories on the site, will be overhauled before long.
Shellacking for that eco shell
The "shell" seats that Cathay Pacific has [on several of its economy class routes] are criminal! I will never fly Cathay Pacific again.
Can air safety be measured?
It was interesting to read Verghese’s comments on airline safety in his monthly column, which I always enjoy. It is witty and informative. There some interesting facts on the safety breakdown but can airlines be accurately measured statistically in this manner? I agree that Air India got a bad rap for a tragic incident that was not of its own making.
John Hazelhurst, Hong Kong
Fake hotel reviews are misleading
Kate Springer's article on fake reviews is so well written and researched, I applaud you for putting this out there. Being from the travel industry and a travel professional, I am always surprised at how much people depend on these reviews. Since Smart Travel Asia conducts its own inspections of hotels, it would be great if you could make that available in a more concise manner just for the travel professionals so that we can then share it with our clients.
Usha Rao, USA
The Editors say,
Thanks for the feedback. Our stories in general get used a fair amount by travel professionals and agents who need to further inform their clients. Each featured destination on our site has a specific hotel review story.
That was a rude awakening, sir!
How offensive and unprofessional to read about “Grand Canyons” and bankers [in your check-in column]. How utterly rude.
Vivien Faye, Thailand
The Editors say,
Our check-in column on body enhancements is irreverent and satirical and not to be taken literally. No offense intended.
Your article on fake [hotel] reviews is well written and researched. I am surprised at how much people depend on these sources
Sri Lanka holiday cancelled
I have just finished reading a book written by former BBC reporter Frances Harrison called Still Counting the Dead. She speaks to the readers of the dark heart of Sri Lanka and the unbearable suffering of innocent civilian population during the civil war. In pages 53 and 54, she lists the names of 44 journalists killed since April 2004.
Furthermore, the ruling party politician, who [allegedly] murdered a British tourist and raped his girlfriend, has not been charged because all local eyewitnesses including the holiday resort manager cannot recall what happened on the night of Christmas, 2011, in the holiday resort of Tangalle.
I have cancelled my Christmas holiday in Sri Lanka.
P Kalchelvi, UK
Some people fear catching colds or flu on aircraft, where many passengers are confined in a relatively small space for hours at a time. Research, however, shows that planes are pretty safe, with high-quality air filters designed to catch 99.999 percent of airborne organisms. Cabin air is replaced about 20 times an hour – far better than in many homes or offices.
The problem with air travel and disease, it turns out, is airports. A study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has found that the constant flow of passengers throughout airport has an unfortunate side effect. It causes pathogens to be “deposited, picked up again, and ferried elsewhere at an incredible rate, without the procedures that keep aircraft interiors clean”, the Atlantic magazine reports.
Some hubs are more conducive to spreading illness than others. The MIT study looked at US airport and created a ranking of the top 40 US airports in order of their ability to spread a disease that started there. Leading the list are: New York JFK International, Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Francisco, Newark, Chicago O’Hare and Washington Dulles International Airport.
Honolulu might seem isolated in the middle of the Pacific but all sorts of traffic from a very wide area heads through it, increasing the risk of disease transmission. The MIT study aimed to find which airports would spread disease most rapidly during the first 15 days of an outbreak. To illustrate their findings, the scientists arranged a gripping visualisation. It describes JFK and LAX as “global super-spreaders”.
Graham Hornell, Australia
Drooping tulips in Taiwan
I rarely read about KLM but once or twice I caught a reference on Air France (both were amalgamated for some years back). KLM Asia is based in Taiwan and it flies to many Asian cities. Its seats and planes and service are simply sub-standard. Is this worth mentioning?
Sam Rudin, Malaysia
The long and short of Lombok
This is best commentary on this area [Lombok guide] I have read.
Norma Little, Australia
The laughing “eyes” have it
I've been cruising the Net for Peter Barter and arrived at this site. I am trying to put together a trip to New Guinea and then jump to Australia for a family wedding. But enough of that. Where did I land but your "essay" [Ain’t no way to hide your prying eyes] that had me laughing from beginning to end. Thank you for a glimmer of fun in an otherwise rather dull day. Now I will head out to lunch on the streets of Manhattan, enjoying the warm weather and looking for a man who is not only pleasing to look at, but has a shining soul.
Gail Dubov, USA
Best Phuket guide I have ever read
I was sent your Phuket resorts article by a friend. At first glance it seemed long and tedious so I put it back for the weekend. Having been through it in more detail I simply had to write and congratulate your writer. This is perhaps the best guide to Phuket I have ever come across and my family shall definitely be referring these pages in future. The article is well written, well presented and detailed enough to help us select an appropriate hotel. A sense of humour is evident throughout. The Phuket guide was fun too. Perhaps you have design limitations but more photography would be the way to go. Your website is a refreshing change from TripAdvisor. How can I subscribe? Do you have a print version? Do you do bookings?
Jeremy Broad, Singapore
The Editors say,
Thanks for the thumbs up and the brave trawl through what might amount to 8,000 words on a single page. We are a pure online magazine and do not do bookings. Our pages are easy to print out though. Make sure you have enough ink.
This is perhaps the best guide to Phuket I have ever come across and my family shall definitely use it in future
Skip the kip chaos in Laos
There is now a 100,000 kip note that is in circulation in Laos, apparently only available through bank tellers, but it should be in the ATM's soon.
Less kip to carry around. I enjoy your website and will be be back to Laos and Thailand soon.
David Tucker, Canada
Cranky crackpots in the cockpit
I read your recent [editor’s rant] with interest. An amusing column about a less-than-amusing subject. If pilots are falling asleep in the cockpit because of over rotation or lack of sleep for whatever reason, then why worry about hairline wing cracks on A380s. That’s all academic surely?
Myers Croft, USA
Singapore mall of fame
Thanks for all your info on Singapore shopping. I have visited Singapore several times, and I thoroughly enjoy browsing at Singapore’s shopping malls. Maybe you can expand your coverage of other newer malls?
Kwee Cheng, Malaysia
Great reviews and recommendations
Thanks for all the Taiwan recommendations. Your website is great. It is good [to see] so many reviews and comments – and it saves us the bother having to copy and paste from Trip Advisor etc.
Irene Young, Hong Kong
Ring, letters, disappear in the sands
My CEO of Thomas Air where I work, Buren-Erdene, stayed at Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore in November 2011. His wife and daughter accompanied him. During the stay his wedding ring – an irreplaceable and priceless item – vanished from the room.
When he contacted the front desk to enquire about lost and found items no one even showed up. He went downstairs and asked for help from a manager. Her response? “Sir, you should check your bag."
I sent a complaint letter, four times, but received no reply. No apology. Nothing.
Magie Sanchir, Mongolia
Boeing, Boing, gone
As I read through the Airbus vs Boeing story I could not help but get the feeling that either this was a press release given by the Boeing company or that you may have been on their payroll. [Don't] tell me that there were no mishaps on the B787. It would help if your article was more objective and fair.
The Editors say,
"It's an interesting perspective. Boeing feels we're writing for Airbus while Airbus feels we're slanted towards Boeing. Neither is an advertiser so we can safely say this is an independent report. We have also mentioned lengthy B787 delays and mishaps. Each aircraft will have its loyal following and in time we'll know which claims were true."
I get the feeling that you were either given a press release by Boeing or are on their payroll. What about mishaps with the B787?
Six feet is no small feat on transpacific
I have read all I can possibly read in your economy class seats review and written down the pitches, seat widths, and reclines. We are planning to go to Singapore from Las Vegas, Nevada. However as we will be flying with a nine-month-old baby, I wanted to know which airline was the best for this longhaul flight with space for me and the baby. My husband and I are both six feet tall so...
Angela Gooden, USA
The Editors say,
"A good bet may be SIA (Singapore Airlines), which has an A380 flight from Los Angeles to Singapore. Other choices could be Korean Air (via Seoul) and Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong). An interesting option could be THAI Airways via Bangkok. Try its "Premium Economy". The seats are a tad roomier, the leg room is greater and the recline a bit more than for normal economy seats. As with several Asian airlines, THAI tends to be good with kids."
In India, no smoke without ire
I stayed at the Jaypee Palace Agra, India, on 18 October, 2011, for one night. I had heard it is one of the best hotels in town apart from The Oberoi Amarvilas, and I was very excited. We arrived after 9pm and the hotel spa was closed, so I enjoyed a massage in town. I came back around 11.30pm. My parents were sharing the room with one extra bed but there were no extra towels or extra amenities.
I called housekeeping around 11.50pm, asking for a towel. After 15 minutes I called again. Another 15 minutes passed and the towel had still not been delivered. I decided to take a shower as I needed to wake up early in the morning. After fifty minutes or so, at about 12.40am, my towel arrived. I was in the shower and my mother who was sleeping was woken up.
Around 1am security staff rang the bell and asked to inspect the room as [a smoke detector had sounded the alarm]. It was an error. This was determined after five male staff came into my room in the middle of the night to check. I asked if it was an error. There was no response and no apology was extended. Again, my parents were woken up by all the noise.
I wrote a detailed letter of complaint and handed it to the front office staff at checkout the next day. There has been no response. Needless to say, I am very disappointed.
Sachi Yamamoto, Hong Kong
KL jeans sport US genes
I would like to commend Sharmila Rajah for a very comprehensive piece on Kuala Lumpur shopping. She was thorough, spot-on, and highlighted all that is worthy of mention. I wish to highlight that the jeans displayed in 'On A Cloudy Day' are made-in-USA premium wear brought in by The Jeans Bar KL.
Yvonne Lau, Malaysia
Visiting the Andamans by yacht
I have always been fascinated by this line of islands. I may get the chance to sail to them some day but am really worried about being blown over to one of the many restricted areas.
Is it dangerous due to armed tribes? Or is it secret for military reasons? Or is it just a case of the authorities wishing to keep full control over all visitors?
I would be very grateful if you could give me some idea of the subtleties and politics of dropping anchor in the wrong place.
John Hansen, UK
The Editors say,
"The Andamans would make a worthy yacht stop. The best persons to talk with will be local travel agents. We have listed a few. Some offer yacht charters or may be in a position to plot a safe course. Several islands are protected simply to prevent the crossover of modern ailments into what is a primitive eco-system. Simple colds have eliminated sections of the population before."
Seeking the comfort of linen
I thoroughly enjoyed the article on Bishkek. Is there any way that you could have your writers include comfort ratings of beds at hotels? Next to safety and food, I need to know about decent beds where I might get a good night's sleep.
Alexey Ingle, USA
Bumped for complaint about delay
I have had a terrible experience with Finnair on business class.
I was removed from their flight, after boarding, while holding a business class ticket worth 2,800 euros. Now you will think that I probably behaved like a drunk but that is not at all the case. I complained once about the flight delay to an attendant.
It was the third time I was on this Finnair flight experiencing the same delay. The two previous times my luggage got lost. I have been travelling on business for 20 years, in all continents, flying more than 100 times a year. I am a gold member in three alliances and I have never been removed from a flight.
I had to pay for a new ticket at the full price of €3,400 and no refund was forthcoming despite complaining to the airline. Finnair just said that it has the right to remove any passenger if he makes any staff or other passenger feel uncomfortable.
Tim Degrote, Thailand
I have flew on the A380 and was shocked at the lack of legroom in economy - it is nowhere near to what is advertised
The A380: where big is less
I have just flown the Qantas A380 from Melbourne to Los Angeles and back and am disgusted at the legroom in economy. I am only five foot one so normally this isn't a problem for me. I found the experience claustrophobic. As I got up I grazed my arms on the fabric due to the tight space. I will never book a flight on this plane again. I find the extra $1,400 you have to spend on premium economy is ridiculous just to get that little extra legroom. I flew some American airlines, which had older planes but far more room. I found you could not even bend down to find your things on the floor. This is how I lost my glasses on the A380. I think the airlines should be exposed to the way they are treating passengers like cattle. All of the seat advertising is misleading because the photos usually show the exit aisle row, which has plenty of space.
Jodie McNamara, Australia
Luang Prabang lost in translation
When was your destination guide for Luang Prabang last revised? I travel there every two years or so and my last visit was in March 2011. Things there change rapidly and several comments [in the story] are quite out of date. Tamarind has had a cooking course sited in a very pleasant location out of the town and of late the restaurant
itself has moved. A great many half day and full day walking, canoeing and elephant tours are available through a variety of agents. The morning market near the Mekong River is a must for travellers as are visits to the weaving and paper-making villages nearby. Your review makes it all sound quite mundane. Yet so many people keep returning.
Diane Schudmak, Australia
The Editors say,
"Thanks for the insights. Luang Prabang is in the queue for an update."
Baggage theft and scams at Bangkok airport
Bangkok Airport should rank as the WORST in the world. Yet it continually wins awards. The airport employees steal, rob, and scam tourists. The bathrooms are dirty. The couches are dirty. My luggage was broken into and money and jewellery was stolen, I assume by airport workers on 8 April 8, 2011. I still cannot get over it and feel violated.
According to the Bangkok Post newspaper, the airport authorities have been urged to crack down on petty crime and will install 320 surveillance cameras (www.bangkokpost.com/news). Even the prime minister has weighed in and urged the authorities to act.
Jay Chan, USA
Nearing those far pavilions
Great write up on [Ladakh]. Despite being an Indian I have never been there (there are thousands like me I suppose). But, after reading the article, I am more determined than ever to go. Thanks for an interesting read.
Karan Srinivasan, India
Bali, including naughty monkeys
I really liked your Bali guide write up. It tells it just like it is. After spending many holidays in Bali, owning a business there and trying my hand at a bit of export (just for a laugh), I could relate to the concept you were selling.
I'm off again on a trip (visit number 50 or 70) with about 25 other family and friends. Some have never been to Bali so I imagine I am in for a trip to a volcano, a water slide and my favourite Mexican restaurant, TJ's – I might even get to go see a naughty monkey or two.
Colin Bayman, Australia
Footfalls in troubled Japan?
We cannot let natural disasters deter us from enjoying and appreciating the best of nature. Japan is not a tourism based economy but at this stage needs visitor footfalls to get back on track as a tourist destination.
Indra Chopra, Hong Kong
The detailed research you supplied has helped me make some tough choices
You helped me make some tough choices
I thoroughly enjoyed your articles on Sri Lanka and India and found them to be a veritable treasure trove of information. Why didn’t I become a travel writer?
I particularly like the humour that is evident throughout. The detailed research you supplied has helped me make some tough choices and when I eventually head to Rajasthan for a spa blitz, your pages (quite a few of them actually) shall be safely tucked into my handbag.
Margaret Meade, UK
Jokes apart, Palawan was a good read
Re your article on Palawan by Vijay Verghese, the information is good. The every other line attempt to make a joke is annoying.
Eric Seamon, Philippines
This survey has an economy of class
Your economy class survey is pretty hopeless – presumably your staff do not spend much time in this part of the airplane. The biggest problem with some airline’s B-777s is the 10-across seating which means the aisles are too narrow, seats are too narrow, service is slower, and washroom queues longer.
Your preference for Singapore Airlines is obvious – but its A380s do NOT fly nonstop to LAX or to JFK. So your statement is simply wrong.
Robert Scott, UAE
The Editors say,
"Thanks for the insightful feedback. You are absolutely right that seat configuration is a major issue. We have corrected the SIA routing information."
Not quite flat out on Finnair
I have just completed a journey on Finnair's business class - via Helsinki to Tokyo. The longhaul aircraft were A330-300s. On the trip to Tokyo, indeed the airplane featured the 180-degree-recline seats. However, on the return, the seats were only modestly angled and nowhere near flat. This was a tremendous disappointment. Your article should reflect the condition of the Finnair fleet more accurately. I chose the ticket largely on the basis of your business class seats review.
Jonathan Stockhammer, Germany
The Empire strikes back
The information you have regarding the Empire hotel in Brunei [featured in your child resorts article] is out of date. The slide has not been open for nearly a year. Staff at the kids’ club are uninterested and unhelpful. Food selection is good, but expensive, and generally the children’s area is in need of a revamp.
Elizabeth Kershaw, Brunei
How the West can be won
I recently had guests from Europe who came in for some Singapore shopping. They were driven to desperation as the largest female fashion sizes were still too small for them.
Why don’t Asian retailers offer larger sizes in special sections catering for Western women?
Albert Tan, Singapore
Tips for Bishkek: oh-me, Umai
I visited Bishkek in spring 2010 and stayed in a very comfortable guesthouse, near the centre of town at a very good rate. Umai hotel has good services, clean rooms and good breakfast, Internet, plus English or German-speaking staff.
Berta Sweerts, Netherlands
Suvarnabhumi third on Poll? Who bribed whom?
I was in Suvarnabhumi Airport and went online to see where it ranked. I was shocked to discover you have it listed as third. As a frequent traveller, once or twice a week throughout Asia and the Middle East, it has to be the worst.
Have you ever travelled through it? I checked in on business class on ANA and took me an hour to get to the lounge through immigration and security. AN HOUR. That is insane. And it's always like this.
The design, in terms of functionality is bad. Think extremely long walks, ramps, and noise. And then the heat. The jetway ramp now has ugly portable air-conditioners. Finally I made it to the THAI Royal Orchid lounge.
So who bribed whom to get this airport up to third? Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and Seoul are all 100 percent better.
Jeffrey Wilkes, Malaysia
This is a Boeing-inspired report
I have just read your piece [Airbus vs Boeing] on the Airbus A380 problems and the Boeing 787. The story reads as though it was paid for by Boeing, as it highlights real and imagined shortcomings of the A380, while ignoring the B787's massive problems (not just an engine fire as reported). The story looks inspired by Boeing press releases and does you no credit as a reliable commentator.
Ralph Kyte-Powell, Australia
The Editors say,
"Thanks for the feedback. The article looks at issues plaguing both manufacturers. Interestingly, Boeing believes the story is too slanted in favour of Airbus. It depends on your perspective. Ours is down the middle."
Scenic Vietnamese teahouse in Hanoi
Have you ever delved into Vietnamese tea in Hanoi? I strongly recommend OCHAO teahouse at 25 Xuan Dieu near West Lake. It is a wonderful scene and the tea is excellent.
Hien Le, Vietnam
American air travel worst in world
Another indication the USA is falling behind the rest of the civilized world: aircraft comfort. A report from the land of the Tea Party and the uninsured: air travel is the worst in the world. After reading about all these airlines in your economy class seats story (including Vietnam, for goodness’ sake!), let me tell your worldly-wise travellers what we put up with. Surly, overworked flight attendants with hair hanging down like Marie Antoinette's ride to her final visit to the "barber". We are packed in worse than sardines. We are sardines packed without oil. Our shoulders nearly cause fires from the friction of rubbing together.
It is amazing that we, the worst treated travellers in the world, are as nice and polite as we can be, considering we are constantly avoiding each others elbows, buttocks, and cruelly reclined seats by those in front of us (forgive them, for they know not what they do). Passengers clamber to shove over-stuffed carry-on into undersized overhead bins. Then they gamely do their best to create personal space where none exists. You are better acquainted with your neighbour in the adjoining seat than a blushing bride with her groom on wedding night.
Folks gamely try to stifle groans as they slide into the 19th century, coffin seats. And at the end of each flight, people leap upright, but not to get a jump-start on leaving the aircraft. This is to allow blood to return to limbs and pinched pelvises.
I read your article and see that the future is coming, but it's not coming on US carriers domestically. Our transportation systems are an insult to the human race. The UN should declare American air travel a gross violation of human rights under the Geneva Convention.
Steve Smith, USA
Dubai duty free exposé: Johnnie Walker walks out
We wish to expose a racket at Dubai Duty Free (DDF). After recently flying British Airways from DXB to LHR and connecting within Terminal 5 on BA to EDI the two bottles of liquor we purchased at DDF were confiscated by an apologetic BA security staffer due to the fact that, according to them, Dubai has implemented restrictions in line with the EU liquids policy for ALL departing passengers: If you are transferring through Dubai, duty-free goods containing liquids can be carried on the plane but they must be packed in a Secure Tamper-Evident Bag (STEB).
However, DFF doesn’t have warning signs or alerts posted anywhere. Down the drain for nothing and UK£15 stolen from our pockets!
We sent an e-mail complaint to DFF (which came back undelivered) and also forwarded a copy to the marketing department. We did not receive any communication back. Surely we cannot be the first world travellers to experience these shenanigans?
Colin Medlock and Fiona Mackechnie, UK
To cut off [all inspiration] with some inward-facing herringbone isolation is typical of the most bankrupt worldview
In search of a classic window seat
I don't like the new herringbone seating fashion on some business class flights. I am human, I think, and I much prefer to have the opportunity to look out of the window. Vistas are important for thinking humans. Vistas inspire. They also inform. They remind you of the wondrous variety on the planet, and the romanticism engendered by every different kind of passing topography. One of the great benefits of air travel is that it can afford you so many different and inspiring dreams in just one journey. To cut this off with some inward-facing herringbone isolation is very typical of the most bankrupt worldview. Not to be able to look out on the world is a distinct disadvantage compared to former times and surely analogous of early 21st century diffident navel gazing. Bring back windows! The hours you don't see through them are easily made up for by the sheer beauty of the days you do.
Roy Harper, Ireland
A380 economy crush not for me
I flew Emirates from Sydney to Amsterdam. The Airbus A-380 to Dubai was a crush in a rear economy class seat (not the one I had booked). I had great difficulty getting in or out and complained bitterly due to a leg injury and eventually was given the seat I had booked, or very close to it. It was far better in an aisle seat. The flight from Dubai to Amsterdam in a B-777 was much better with more room. Maybe I’ll try Qantas next time.
Anthony Chaunavel, Australia
Coming out of my shell on Cathay
Have you ever actually sat in a Cathay Pacific shell seat on a long haul flight? You extol their virtues, but I would venture to guess that the answer to the question is "no". Overnight (a very, very long night, thanks to these seats) I have been transformed from a Cathay lover to a Cathay avoider thanks to these "forward thinking" seats. They are an abomination and Cathay will not be getting another dime from me.
Tom Mulroney, USA
Another site for roadies
In your Best Travel Sites for Asia story you missed one of the best sites for SE Asia – Travelfish.org (www.travelfish.org, really one of the very best).
John Wagner, USA
Touch the clouds without clammy palms
Just in case you'd find it useful for your visitors to your fear of flying page. We have the Internet's biggest Web resource for fearful flyers – free audios, videos, tips and hundreds of pages of help. Our free social network for fearful flyers has more than 1,000 members at www.flyingwithoutfear.com.
Captain Godfrey Keith, UK
The demise of big brands
Great Check-In editorial on the big brands losing their influence. We started a boutique resort called Nikoi Island three years ago and have not had to do any print advertising. In 2009 we ran at over 90 percent occupancy and that was after putting our rates up midyear.
Andrew Dixon, Singapore
Held captive by Lufthansa seat recline
Recently I survived a horrible flight with Lufthansa from Berlin to Singapore on a B747. There was no TV in the front seats at all (I think you advised us differently on your survey).
Although I'm German I will never book such a nightmare with Lufthansa again. Due to the seat recline angle I was unable to open my laptop or even stand up!
Regina Mischeff, Singapore
Myanmar musings were timely
I just want to say thank you for the fine article on Myanmar. Your information has cleared up many questions for me.
Per Kristensen, Greenland
Big is beautiful for me
I am a regular Emirates customer, and a Silver Skywards member. I am originally from the UK and my airline of choice is Emirates, mainly because I can fly Auckland to Dubai on the A380. What an amazing aircraft the A380 is, such a difference from the B777. I have never travelled on the Dreamliner but it has a way to go to beat the luxury and comfort of the A380 even in economy class. As an airplane enthusiast I hope the B787 does well, but for now I'm sticking with the A380 and Emirates.
Claire Crawford, New Zealand
Long distance flying can be a big pain
Thank you for the most informative and easy to read site I have come across so far. I have a travel companion who is big and wanted to find him the most comfortable seat with maximum legroom. Your [economy class survey] has been most helpful.
Vanessa Naidoo, South Africa
The greening of Vietnam
Your article on golf courses around Asia gave me lots of useful information. I would like to recommend one other good course in Vietnam: Sea Links Golf & Country Club. This is a really challenging link-style golf course, and it has great views from almost every hole. A must-play golf course.
Robert Bricknell, Portugal
The Editors say,
"Thanks for this useful feedback. Sea Links is actually already featured in our Vietnam Resorts guide."
I need more time to shop in KL
Thank you for such an informative Kuala Lumpur shopping story. The information is well laid out and makes we wish I was spending more time in KL than I currently am to explore all the shops and tastes.
Trevor Mitchell, Australia
How to take a shower on Sentosa
I booked my stay at the Siloso Beach Resort, Singapore through Agoda at a fairly high rate. As we were attending a conference in Resort World we wanted to be on Sentosa Island. The hotel was nowhere near the standard it advertises. There were many shortfalls. The most glaring issue was the management's non-caring attitude towards their guests and the unhygienic condition of the rooms and public areas.
The room I booked was so small it made me feel like the hotel rooms in Tokyo are enormous. Maintenance was non-existent as fixtures were falling off the walls. Whereas a normal hotel would have a good-sized mirror at the desk, this hotel gives you an adjustable tiny round cosmetic mirror. It came off the wall when I tried to position it.
The shower holder on the wall was missing a screw with the result the showerhead spun around every time the flow was on. There was mould in the bathroom, especially around the sink. The public ashtrays and garbage bins were very dirty.
Upon hearing my complaint, the hotel offered me a suite – for which I would have to pay an extra S$100 per night. I declined. On the way out, the bellman was courteous and caring. The one plus at this hotel.
Andrew Cornelio, Thailand
So I can get over fear of flying?
I would just like to thank you for your [Fear of Flying story]. I have found it extremely helpful. I have a fear of flying. It involves panic from the second someone says let's go here or there. I immediately think of the length of the flight and the kind of plane. Can we go with the best airline or is there a fast train or boat to get there?
Then when boarding the plane I have increased heart rate, nausea and nervousness. Mentally I'm excited to travel but physically getting on a plane makes me sick. I'll watch television shows see people flying. They’re fine. I’m sure I can do it too, I think. I don't want to be scared. But it's going to take a lot of work.
I found your article by searching for “fear of flying”. I’m glad I did. This is the article I needed to tell me that I can get over it.
Mia Roditis, Australia
No more airport bashing: why Hong Kong is tops
We all love to complain about travel – and it can be an incredibly frustrating experience – but sometimes things go right too and I'd like to offer my praises to Hong Kong airport.
I think it has to be the best airport in the world. Nowhere else in the world can you be sitting in The Peak Cafe drinking coffee with a friend at 11.30am and be strolling through duty free at HKIA less than an hour later.
I don't know of any airport which offers the same great combination of being able to check in your baggage up to 24 hours before your flight AND an airport express train service that gets you from the centre of the city to the terminals in under 30 minutes AND an efficient and reasonably swift immigration and security procedure. The airport has plentiful shopping and dining options so that you don't need to beg or pay for airport lounge access.
Yes, Changi Airport [in Singapore] has a lovely orchid garden and KLIA [Kuala Lumpur] is cute, Bangkok offers nice architecture but, for me, none offer the total package that HKIA does.
Katherine Anthony, Hong Kong
United we stand – what happened to lie-flat seats?
You need to update your seat information on United. I recently flew SFO to Hong Kong, then Singapore to Japan and on to Seattle. The business class seats were terrible. They did not fully recline – it seems they may be at 150 degrees or so. Also the pitch was so small that if you had a window seat and the seats in front of you were reclined you could not get out without literally climbing over the aisle passenger. Since I was on a trip were I was expected to work the morning after arrival, it was terrible. I arrived tired and stiff.
W Lebing, USA
Finding useful outlets in Hong Kong
In your story on Hong Kong shopping the writers have failed to mention any of the excellent fashion outlets that have been operating in the city for years. There is no mention of places for instance in Pedder Building – yes, I know they change, but just walking the floors can be useful for cashmere or even used designer items in small sizes etc. Why only Blanc de Chine and Shanghai Tang? I rarely pay full price for any garment bought in Hong Kong, having had a long relationship with several outlet owners since my days living in that city. Are we keeping these all to ourselves?
Sue Ebury, Australia
The Editors say,
"Excellent point. Pedder Building is an occasional trove of whimsy. Thanks for reminding us."
The big vs small debate continues
A very nicely written piece on [Airbus vs Boeing]. This is exactly what I was looking for.
Debashish Roy, India
No Delta dawn: bye USA, hello KLM
Sitting in a cramped aisle seat on Delta flight DL234 from Detroit to Amsterdam on 13 May, 2010, I remembered why I always used to avoid taking US airlines: delays, bad service and rude aircraft crew, among other things. The flight took off more than an hour late because the incoming flight apparently had been delayed and the plane was still being cleaned. Various conflicting announcements about the delay were relayed to irritated passengers.
We were eventually boarded, and in the air. Time for a beverage and snack. I found a packet of nuts had arrived unannounced on my lap, complete with napkin. Maybe I didn’t hear the steward as I was watching a movie. I was actually waiting for him to finish serving the lady next to me. Who knows? The steward sure didn’t care.
Many fellow passengers were subjected to the same attitude (let’s call it what it was, rudeness). One complained to the head purser. That exercise ended with a terse assurance that the complaint had been noted. I wonder if she was reassured by his tone; I certainly wasn’t.
I know this was not a one-off Delta experience. On an earlier Delta US domestic flight, DL1821 from Detroit to Phoenix on 3 May, an elderly lady struggled to find space in the overhead bin for her admittedly largish cabin bag. The steward was indifferent to her need.
I was glad to get off the transatlantic flight. And into Amsterdam airport for my Amsterdam-New Delhi connection on code-sharing DL9574. It was heaven. Polite KLM ground staff, clean aircraft and, good gracious, smiling stewards and stewardesses. When the steward who served me didn’t have my choice of meal, he sounded genuinely apologetic. I didn’t mind. I took the other meal. And decided I would fly KLM again. Small gestures make big impacts. You can assume my inclination towards Delta.
Bina Jang, India
I like your website's sense of humour. I also like the fact that it is well written and packed with useful information
Measuring CEO bottoms in cm
Well done – two interesting and informative pieces on business class seats. However, could you please give the measurements (seat width, etc) in centimetres?
Peter Saalmans, Australia
Tickled pink and better informed
I like your website’s sense of humour. I also like the fact that it is well written and packed with useful information. Too many travel websites these days are intent on wowing viewers with visual gymnastics. They miss the point. We go online to look for information. Valuable surfing time is wasted on pretty but irrelevant artistic creations and music. Let’s get to the point.
Judith McAverty, Hong Kong
North Laos worth the bone-shaking trip
I just returned home after spending one month in northern Laos and Luang Prabang. Some tips – I had the best massage anywhere in Asia at the Luang Prabang Red Cross. It was just US$5.
I travelled and volunteered in Nong Khiaw. This place was breathtakingly beautiful with memorable day trips (100 Waterfalls and Hat Sao among them). It was worth the mini-van trip north.
Anne Rawson, Canada
Small step for prose a giant leap for A380 and B787
Your article "Is Small still beautiful?" [comparing the Airbus A380 with the Boeing Dreamliner B787] was exactly what I was looking for. Very well done.
Steven Sudderth, USA
The best cup of Joe in Phnom Penh
I've just read the fantastic review of Phnom Penh's highlights. Another great place I would like to add is Coffee Korner on St 155 near the Russian Market. I've stayed here for both long-term and short-term stays over the last two months and cannot recommend them more highly. Narin, the owner has excellent English ability and has been very supportive in helping me successfully manage my relocation to Phnom Penh.
Caron Margarete, Cambodia
Denied boarding on AirAsia
On 16 February 2010 I checked in at Yangon for a flight on AirAsia to Bangkok, from where I had booked a connecting flight on AirAsia to Bali. In both airports I showed counter staff my valid one-year multiple-entry visa for Indonesia. All Indonesian visas carry the same text and the airport staff should be aware of these visa formats and wording.
In Bangkok I was denied boarding to Bali because the AirAsia staff there did not understand that my visa was valid for 12 months. I had to purchase a ticket back to Yangon. Thus far I have not been compensated for this segment or the inconvenience caused. I keep getting told my complaint has been forwarded to the head office.
Zaw Lin, Yangon
Have info will travel to Sri Lanka
I read your travel article on Sri Lanka resorts. It was very informative and helpful. I will be visiting Sri Lanka and shall use this as reference. Keep up your good work.
Robin Mathew, UK
The airline's attention to safety is just shocking. On business class there was no final safety check at all
Jet Airways needs to smarten up on safety
Why do you give Jet Airways [business class seats review] such a positive review? I've flown Jet several times on international routes and the attention to safety issues is just shocking. On my most recent trip, on business class there was no final safety check and as we landed a passenger had his pullout video screen open. On other flights, baggage has been left in the aisles and passengers invariably stand to get luggage out of the overhead bins while the plane is still taxiing toward the gate. No one bothers to say anything. And, by the way, the business class seats, at least from India to Southeast Asia, are dreadful.
Frederick Asher, USA
Legroom: is it a dream(liner)?
I have read a couple of articles on the new B787. The question that countless numbers of us want to know is if the 787 economy seats are larger than say the B777 or A380 and, if so, by exactly how much? I am not all that interested in the other highly touted features. I fly 65,000 miles a year, much of it in economy class because my profession (academics) is not a wealthy one.
Jim Markusen, Colorado, USA
The Editors say,
"Seat size is determined by the airline. Manufacturers can provide various options. The airline decides seat pitch, legroom, spacing and seat width based on budget and the number of bodies they wish to pack into the cabin."
Saved by the decibels
I would like to know if the Boeing 787 will offer the same level of cabin noise as the Airbus 380 or is it quieter? I usually fly long distances and the level of noise in the cabin is a very negative factor.
Julie Past, USA
"The 787 Dreamliner uses a number of new technologies to reduce community noise. The most important are acoustically treated engine inlets and chevrons, as well as special treatments for the engines and casings. These improvements ensure that sounds of over 85 decibels (a little louder than a busy intersection) never leave airport boundaries. The noise footprint of the 787 is more than 60 percent smaller than today's similarly sized airplanes."
How fast is too slow?
What happened to all the hype from Boeing during the development stage that the 787 would be 20 percent faster, shaving substantial time from long-range flights?
Charles Andrews, USA
"The cruise speed for the 787 Dreamliner family is Mach 0.85, as fast or faster than today's Boeing twin-aisle airplanes."
No worries for weak bladders on A380
[Thanks for your Boeing vs Airbus article.] I think the A380 will ultimately be considered the more significant aircraft. It will be excellent on increasingly dense sectors and will grow from an efficient aircraft into an extremely efficient aircraft as the fuselage is lengthened to match the wing. Neither Airbus nor Boeing can be proud of their handling of the development of these aircraft but both will be successful I am sure. No worries about toilet queues in the Airbus A380 – the ratio of toilets to passengers is similar to other aircraft.
John Hogan, Australia
To be or not to beleaguer
Please leave the “beleaguered” United Air Lines comment out of your [economy class seating] article. Please just state the facts. I just flew UA and really enjoyed its economy plus legroom back to the US. It was much nicer and roomier than most airlines across the Atlantic. By the way you can purchase economy plus for a reasonable fee even on a restricted, cheap ticket. I paid US$101 extra for the seat. I would call Qantas beleaguered after a recent trip to Sydney.
Eathen Garcia, England
There’s more to that idyllic sand
Your story on the Andamans does not mention the sand flies that plague some of the beaches on Havelock. They eat you alive making lying on the sand impossible!
Emma Wares, UK
Bumped family ire at No.2 airline
Your 2009 reader poll rated Cathay Pacific No.2. I think not. I would rate them at the bottom of the list. My wife and son have flown Cathay Pacific twice now from the USA to Malaysia and both times have had problems reaching their destination on time. The latest episode saw them being bumped off of their flight with boarding pass in hand while the plane was being loaded. No more Cathay Pacific for us. Malaysia Airlines have always treated us better though they are a bit more expensive.
William Gillis, USA
Where has Jakarta disappeared?
Where is Jakarta in all of these [BEST IN TRAVEL] reader polls? Is Jakarta really that bad, that it didn't make it to the top ten of the best cities for shopping in Asia? I've been to Jakarta and I know the transportation infrastructure is bad but, in terms of shopping, Jakarta has more variety than, say, Kuala Lumpur or Hanoi.
James McDougal, Toronto, Canada
Do you work for Boeing?
What a disappointing and totally biased article [comparing Boeing vs Airbus]. Does the author work for Boeing perchance?
John Morillo, UK
The Editors say,
"An interesting question as Boeing seems to believe we work for Airbus."
Why am I still choking on fishbone?
I have said this before and will say it again, herringbone, fishbone, whatever-bone seats on [business class] are a disgrace. When I travel I wish to converse with my companion. Isn’t this part of the charm of travel? Is it too much to ask for?
Cameron Floyd, UK
Slim chance to earn fat miles
Your article on economy class seating in airlines was well written, thank you. However I did not see where you touched the growing (excuse the pun) "American" problem of obesity, and the lacking accommodations for the extra space needed for this population. What airlines in the US have seating that will handle a wide load?
My point: An obese person who is required to purchase two seats, only gets air mileage credits for one seat. Even though I’m a very infrequent flyer, I think it’s unfair. What are your views on this?
Wide Body Traveller, (Name witheld), USA
The Editors say,
"You raise an excellent point. We agree, it is entirely unfair – the mileage issue that is. Let’s see if any airline cares to comment. In general, per capita weight has been going up worldwide for some time while cabin weight limitations etc were put in place decades ago when planes were practically pedal-powered. The new generation of aircraft are capable of handling heavier loads quite comfortably."
An obese person who is required to purchase two seats, only gets airline mileage credit for one seat. Isn't this unfair?
Thanks awfully US$1,000 times
I wish to thank you for your wonderful input and information on the web. My partner and I are going nuts trying to find affordable transport between [various] Asian cities. Your wonderful articles allowed me a broader range of search and, in doing so, saved BIG bucks compared to the usual Travelocity.com...etc. Thank you approximately US$1,000 times.
Homer Gardin, USA
The Editors say,
"Thank you for your kind comments. Yes, online search can be a hair-pulling experience dominated as it is by retailers, which makes it hard to access real info, or talk directly with hotels and airlines. We're glad we could be of assistance.
How best to budget the Annapurna Circuit?
My wife and I are heading to Nepal to visit and trek the Annapurna Circuit. I was looking to better understand what we should expect to budget while on the trek. How much should we expect to spend each night at the teahouses for lodging and for meals?
Alan Bowes, USA
The Editors say,
"Unfortunately we have no reporter currently in the field and cannot provide accurate prices for stops on the circuit. Any readers in the know?"
Spaced out and still laughing
Happy to discover your website after reading a piece [the editor] wrote for the Weekend Australian about space travel. I can’t remember when I last read an article, laughed really hard, and then had to look up who wrote it. It’s not that I am interested in being a space tourist. I haven’t seen all I need on this orb yet, plus I have already thrown up all over Russia and that got me nowhere. It was just the sheer fun in your story telling. I think I am going to be a regular to your site.
Nadine Kay, Australia
Climb every mountain
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your descriptive and engaging travelogue on Ladakh. It has been on my travel map for some years now but the time hasn't come as yet. Hope I will make it soon. Thanks for the great feature.
Karan Srinivasan, Bahrain
I travelled to the Leh sector a couple of years back. It’s truly a unique destination. A very nice account in your article on Ladakh. It refreshed my memories of the place.
Punita Singh, India
No blankets on my flights
I flew on THAI Airways TG431 to Bali on 2 July, 2009, and back to Bangkok on TG432 on 7 July. I am sorry to say I was disappointed with the service. There was no hand wash in the toilets (economy class), just antiseptic hand gel.
During the flight, the staff ran out of blankets. I was told there were just 20 pieces on board. I gave my blanket to a Japanese passenger next to me who was clearly unwell. Later a stewardess kindly found a spare blanket for me, but it was a used product. Normally blankets come sealed in plastic. Surely in these days of the flu pandemic this is a basic hygiene issue? I encountered the same problem on the flight back to Bangkok.
Anchalee Chamroontaneskul, Thailand
I choose to fly Boeing
To Hell with the French Airbus “technologie”. Boeing has been building aircraft long before Airbus arrived on the scene. It has a long established reputation [for safety and technology]. Airbus has had some questionable incidents during the past years. When I fly it will be in a Boeing aircraft.
Steve Kelly, Canada
Why MAS seats are simply first class
As president of the local kidney foundation I am in search of the manufacturer of the first class seats for Malaysia Airlines. I want these chairs for patients post dialysis while they are waiting for transport home. These are fantastic chairs. Perhaps no one thought about this possible use?
Alex Roose, Curacao Neth, Antilles
Visva Sabaratnam, Malaysia Airlines says,
"Our first class seat is a flatbed and we have had patients post surgery in various parts of the world travelling with us. We have had good feedback from them."
The right way to book a PNG holiday
Children in village schools [in PNG] are desperate for relevant reading material, writing paper and biros. As a goodwill gesture and in return for the wonderful hospitality of these places tourists should be encouraged to give parcels of schoolbooks and stationery when they visit a community. Postage is very expensive and unreliable. Get the satisfaction of handing it over yourself to the principal or headman.
Susan Cruttenden, Australia
I am worried that I will fall into the hands of bad doctors. Do you know of any travel agents specialising in cosmetic surgery packages?
Cautiously peering at the cosmetic cosmos
I am looking to get some cosmetic work done this summer and read your Medical Tourism feature. I am worried that I will fall into the hands of bad doctors in Korea. Do you have any recommendation for travel agents that specialise in packages for cosmetic surgery?
Jenny Le, USA
The Editors say,
"It is usually safest to talk directly with a quality hospital like say Bumrungdrad in Bangkok that has acquired a good reputation in cosmetics, or perhaps hospitals in Singapore. This is not really an area that travel agents in Asia have specialised in. Korea of course has an industry based on cosmetic surgery but you might need to explore quality of post-op care and level of personal interaction with doctors. Best not to be in an assembly line situation and ensure your language is understood."
Staying on a budget in Singapore
Reading your excellent outline about Singapore business hotels I would like to point out that there is also plenty of good budget accommodation in this city and not only 5-Star hotels. Explore small hotels around Bukit Pasoh Road. And in Little India people are able to stay for S$20 a night at the Prince of Wales.
Thorsten Hillebrecht, Singapore
Since when has Melbourne been ‘dowdy’?
I just read your article on Melbourne. Since when has Melbourne been 'dowdy and early to bed?' Your shopping information is also seriously lacking. Have you even been there?
Fiona Lawrie, Australia
The Editors say,
"Melbourne is certainly in need of a revisit. Shopping was not our priority on this first write-up but we shall extend coverage in the updates."
Hotel rooms rates are totally misleading
I read in your Shanghai hotels article that there is a 15 percent surcharge on room rates in Shanghai. How can this be justified? Government tax is one thing, but adding a service charge? For what? To provide the service that you are paying for anyway? Service charges should be optional. In the case of a Sheraton I stayed at recently I certainly did not feel any charge was justified. I aim to pursue this further. I feel that quoted room rates are completely misleading and fraudulent.
Mike Sanders, Hong Kong
The Editors say,
"There are various irksome charges that often apply to hotel as well as airline bookings. Hotels do normally clarify whether they are offering a rate inclusive or exclusive of service charge and tax, even if in small print."
Like to see more hip hotel reviews
I recently discovered your website and have been researching it constantly. I would like to compliment you on such a complete, informative, and enjoyable site. Just fantastic. I love the hotel and spa reviews and would like to see as much as possible on new luxury hotels and resorts. I am especially keen on “hip” new modern properties. Keep up the great work.
Anne Payumo, USA
Will the A380 change the business class product?
Your first and business class seat reviews are very good. The stories help quite a bit when you wish to make a decision on whom to fly with. I hope you will be doing an update now that United has completed its upgrade to its first and business product and several airlines now have A380s flying.
Kym Friend, Australia
Hanoi printout in my back pocket
I loved your Hanoi guide and shall print it out to use on my forthcoming trip. I have been tearing my hair to find good information on Vietnam. Travel agents do not have a clue and there does not seem to be a “service” ethic in much of Asia. [Agents] simply take bookings and suggest ever cheaper prices. I would be happy to get a cheap deal. But I would be even happier to get the best value – whatever the cost – and that means having information I trust. Thanks again for rescuing my holiday.
Susan Price, Hong Kong
What about seat width on US airlines?
I see you focus on [international airlines], but for those of us more big-boned it would be nice if you had a domestic US comparison [for economy seats]. And the width of the seats is the real comfort factor. Since the planes are full this is the only way to get space. Elbow room and pitch means nothing if you can't move anyway. What about Frontier Airlines? US carrier comparison would be a great addition.
Vanessa Vogel, USA
The width of the seats is the only real comfort factor. Elbow room and seat pitch are immaterial if there is no space
I have flown into a dead-end on Krisflyer
I am frustrated and annoyed. I have had no Krisflyer statement or updated account information, not even e-mail, since 2007. The card states I should log in to Krisflyer and then “my account” then “statement”, but I can find no trace of any log-in under any of the headings, only a lot of waffle regarding news and flights. How do I get a statement?
Derek Brown, Australia
The Editors say,
"Perhaps a low-tech solution might be best. Call SIA in Singapore and they should be able to sort out your account details swiftly and offer log-in advice."
"Mr Brown called our KrisFlyer Membership Services hotline on 25 February 2009, seeking clarity on his account balance and expiring miles. We provided him with the relevant advice, and also guided him on the navigation on our website. At the same time, we have also helped Mr Brown to include his preferred email address into his account details. This will enable him to receive e-statements in future."
Kuala Lumpur shopping, recycled...
Your Kuala Lumpur shopping story carries excellent information and has given me all I need to know for my trip. I am particularly interested in the recycled clothes, which you have covered in your article. I will see if I can find all these places.
Jan Denn, Perth
Bangkok shopping for bozo billionaires
Your article on Bangkok shopping simply isn't true. As a seasoned Thailand tourist I can tell you that your report is filled with tourist traps. Unless, of course, you wrote your article for billionaires.
Waqqas Hanafi, USA
Saigon is no laughing matter, but...
I'm a real Saigonese, born and raised there. None of this [your Saigon guide] is new to me but still, I laughed so hard reading your article. I've never read anything about Saigon that is so true – and you have a wonderful, wonderful sense of humour.
Bella Le, Saigon
Contemporary resort ill suited to Bali
The Anantara [Seminyak, re Bali resorts] was a massive disappointment. There are structural flaws everywhere – it looks like it has been slapped up really cheaply with a few nice fittings to make it look expensive. The so-called rooftop bar no longer exists (it was not there when we visited) because apparently they didn't receive planning permission. The hotel is overpriced and the architecture is dull – not suited to the Balinese style regardless of its contemporary thrust.
Kathleen Stiles, Australia
Guides might include vegetarian restaurants
The Sabah guide article by Libby Peacock and Vijay Verghese is very comprehensive. I would appreciate it if you can include some restaurants that offer Indian vegetarian or any other vegetarian food. It will be very helpful for vegetarians that are travelling to this part of Asia as this sort of information is not available on the Web.
Your story on child-friendly hotels helped us decide which place to choose. A big thumbs up for this article
Your story helped us choose a child-friendly resort
We liked your article about child-friendly resorts in Asia. It helped us to decide which hotel to choose for a vacation with our toddler. A thumbs up for this article. I was wondering, why is it only Bali is covered as a destination in Indonesia?
Farid Saifuddin, Thailand
The Editors say,
"We do indeed need to provide more extensive coverage on Indonesia. More is on the way."
Your stories show a passion for travel
I have been about five times to Bangkok and even read a book about travelling to Thailand, but I must applaud your fantastic writing style and the amount of information you gave me that I didn’t even know of. Your passion is a God given talent. Thank you.
Maria Deen, South Africa
Dogged by parasite since Langkawi trip
I have been terribly ill since eating sushi in Langkawi, Malaysia in September 2007. I have a chronic pain in my upper stomach that is there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am desperate to see an infectious diseases specialist in Asia who may be able to identify and remove any parasite I may have acquired.
Kate Whalan, Australia
The Editors say,
"Sorry to hear about your tummy bug. One of the best persons we've come across is Dr John Simon in Hong Kong who we quoted in our story on Travel Health Risks in Asia. His telephone number is  2521-2567."
The big squeeze continues aloft in business
I read with interest your seat comparisons for the much-heralded upgraded business class on various airlines and have to agree that the new Cathay Pacific seat is simply dreadful. You’re quite right in describing it as a “coffin”. I travelled with my wife and we were unable to converse the entire journey. The partitioned enclosure was very restricting and played upon my latent claustrophobia. I did however take in the views of socks the entire way. Cathay was a great airline in its heyday and needs to find its way back.
J Saunders, Hong Kong
Oz spas a good read but why the clichés?
I'd love to try some of the places [written up in your Australia Spas feature]. I've been to two – the Adelphi Hotel (it's true about the amazing pool above the street), and Lillianfels. The descriptions are really good and very accurate.
But surely there must be more than one upmarket spa in Sydney itself? Lillianfels is an hour-and-a-half into the countryside. The story is very slanted towards Melbourne, which is a smaller city.
One criticism. I really hate the phrases, "fair dinkum tucker" and “shrimp on the barbie”. I know travel writing has to use clichés but these are almost meaningless and no one alive would use these expressions from the mid-twentieth century. Just too corny.
Meaghan Morris, Hong Kong
The Editors say,
"Quite right. Hence the headline intro to the story – “There’s more than just fair dinkum tucker and shrimps on the Barbie Down Under.” None of these phrases are in the story itself. But those Paul Hogan adverts do tend to stick.."
Why not mark Singapore shops on a map?
This is the best info so far on the Net for Singapore shopping. We are going for the first time to Singapore and your information means a great deal to us. One suggestion if I may: it would be much easier if all these places were numbered and marked on a map.
Fuel charges come out of the closet
Why do you call fuel surcharges and ticket levies "hidden charges" when they are clearly displayed on the ticket? All increases in fuel levies are notified well in advance, as are all airfare increases. It seems to me you are just jumping on the bandwagon with all the rest of the media to sensationalise a worldwide problem.
The Editors say,
"Fuel surcharges are not commonly quoted by travel agents when mentioning the best ticket price. The custom is to quote for the ticket and say “without taxes”. This is the issue. We are very sympathetic to the airline cause. But ticket prices must be displayed, at the outset, in their entirety."
Waiter, there’s a fish on my fly
I have always wanted to go to the Andaman Islands. This combined with the keen sense that there must be incredible potential for flats fly-fishing makes it even more so. Most of the information on the Internet refers to sport fishing and deep-sea fishing. I would rather fish white sand flats. Do you have any information as to where to go and whom to contact? Because this journey is so far away from California I would hate for it to be a bust or poorly planned.
The Editors say,
"Certainly a wonderful adventure. Our Andaman Islands guide lists a few travel agents who might be able to offer advice. Also talk with Ibex Expeditions in New Delhi."
Time to loosen up the security in Cebu
Yours is such a nice and informative article on Cebu resorts. I grew up in Cebu and you are absolutely right – getting to any place, including resorts, is such a pain. Kudos to you though for mentioning it and I hope that as officials read [your story] they loosen up a bit on security. I love my city and am glad you enjoyed the most part of your stay.
The Editors say,
"We always enjoy Cebu, from start to finish. Even the traffic. It’s street theatre at its best."
Cathay business class is for sardines
Last December  I flew J class from Johannesburg on CX748. The new Cathay Pacific business class pod is a complete disaster. It is like a coffin, which prevents air circulation. The bed space is too narrow. You cannot hold up a newspaper so you have to stand up to read. British Airways has a cocoon double pod type enclosure with a sliding window partition. With the new Cathay business class seat layout you cannot talk to your family or business colleague or see your kids – the seats are facing inwards so you cannot see out of the windows either for takeoff and landing, the sun shines on the TV screen so you have to close the window blind too.
The poor hostesses have to struggle to pass the food over your TV and god knows what happens when it is a bumpy ride. The food tray cannot and does not swivel so once you are served you are stuck in there till the tray is taken away. There is an awkward car seat triple belt system with a cross strap that seems redundant given that you are wedged in like a sardine already.
Whoever designed this disaster should be seconded for the next 20 years to Cathay’s competitors to help bankrupt them. This is the most uncomfortable flight I have ever had on Cathay in 30 years. It was an unmitigated disaster. Five businessmen from South Africa who were opposite me said they will be flying on SAA in future. Rip out these seats immediately.
James Middleton, Hong Kong
The new Cathay business class pod is a disaster. The food tray does not swivel and you cannot look out of the window
The Boeing 787 is a new generation aircraft
Looking at [Boeing and Airbus], the two aircraft and the corporate strategies employed by both companies, Boeing appears to be in a superior strategic position. Consider this. Should a general recession strike internationally the huge cost of the A-380 plus its extended breakeven point may mirror the problems with the Concorde – a great technical success, but not commercially viable in the long run.
Secondly, from a design perspective, the B-787 is the first commercially designed composite aircraft that shows the way “to the future” for design and operating efficiency. The Airbuses A-380 is the last of the mostly metal airliners so the two designs are on either side of the technology watershed. Just as the DC-3 rendered wood obsolete with its aluminium structure, so will the Boeing 787 Dreamliner surpass the A380. Lesson: National governments are the kiss of death to any money-making enterprise.
Jon Lawrence, USA
Scared of flying? Meditate on this
Kudos for your article on the little-talked-about but quite prevalent fear of flying. After years of terror-free flying, I developed a severe phobia with regard to air travel in my early 20s. This condition escalated to the point of uncontrollable tears, panic attacks and completely irrational, and morbid thoughts any time I had to fly. I banished myself to continental USA, and resorted to travel by trains and gruelling cross-country road trips.
At the height of my phobia, I convinced myself pre-take-off that my flight to Hawaii was doomed and threw a fit to get off the plane, which I did.
It wasn’t until I immersed myself in yoga and meditation that I was able to completely rid myself of my fears. These practices teach deep discipline, calm, mind control and, most practically, effective breathing techniques. During my early stages of "recovery" I had to take a 19-seater prop plane across Colorado‘s Rocky Mountains – the flight was about an hour and I sat meditating the entire time, free of tears and sweaty palms.
Pua Mench, Hong Kong
Turbulent travels and sweaty palms
I have been scared of flying ever since I can recall. It does not matter what airline or what kind of aircraft – I cannot take turbulence. I seem to have gotten over mild turbulence issues but bad weather coupled with the aircraft dropping takes my breath away for all the wrong reasons. My husband is from the travel trade and he has been counselling me for 15 years but this is the only aspect that he has failed to help me with.
Even as a young girl I do not remember ever going on a ferris wheel or merry-go-round. But how to get over this [fear of flying] because I love visiting new places and I would like to accompany my husband on trips? Maybe I need to learn the art of teleportation.
Meena Srinivasan, India
Your tagline [comparing first class travellers with first class idiots, at page top] is the least "smart" marketing I have ever seen
Crash test dummies on new Cathay seat
I don’t know what genius at Cathay Pacific approved the new "fixed back" economy seats, but I suspect they are short and need to stand on a box to brush their teeth. The seat doesn’t "recline", it slides you forward into the seat in front. Now if, as I do, you start with your knees touching the seat in front, then the sight of me reclining must look something like a slow motion video of a crash test dummy in action.
Dummy probably sums it up. Cathay are dummies for installing such a contraption and I’d be a dummy if I ever fly Cathay again.
Stephen Robinson, Australia
Miles or metric? It’s time to choose
Your [Airbus vs Boeing] article is beautifully written. I have only one suggestion. When discussing the range of competing aircraft it is perhaps better to use just one measure. Your article uses kilometres as well as nautical miles. Still, a thoroughly enjoyable read.
S J Cullen, USA
Who the heck is calling me a moron?
“The only difference between first class travellers and first class idiots is the price they pay. So which one are you?” This tagline is the least “smart” marketing I have seen on any travel site and I am sure that any other company would be well challenged to come up with a more demeaning phrase. It’s a great way to chase away us customers with more than 14 brain cells. Smart? I think not. Were you drinking at the time?
Craven Morehead, Indonesia
The Editors say,
"Well, the joke’s on us. The editors are restocking the fridge with better lager."
Back door to Boeing computer
It would be worth finding out from Boeing whether or not their B787 is fitted with the "back door" into the flight computer called Home Run, which enables the powers that be to control the aircraft remotely in case of terrorist hijackings.
Peter Dell, UK
It behooves me to write
I’ve always wondered why Indian writers feel the need to be overtly dramatic in their literary endeavours? You’ll find an unnecessary number of adjectives. Then there is the over-use of archaic British expressions. Verghese no doubt thinks he has impressed readers (Airbus vs Boeing) with his excessive use of ridiculous expressions, for instance “Boeing's Small Wet Dream proceeds apace...” Quite the contrary. Perhaps the editor should proofread articles more carefully before publishing them.
Ram Kumar, USA
The Editors say,
"Thanks for the cogent comments. All true. Vijay Verghese."
Keep the Airbus vs Boeing story going
Vijay Verghese is a fantastic writer – he’s entertaining, sharp, educative, and forthright. I want the [Airbus vs Boeing] story to keep going.
Barbara Berger, USA
The A380 is impressively large but I'm not keen on evacuating from the second deck with several hundred people...
You want me to deplane with 799 others?
A B747 is bad enough at the luggage rack with 400-plus passengers deplaning. Don’t expect me to deplane with 799 others and wait for luggage, customs, taxis, etc. Not going to happen! I will stay with smaller aircraft for my business and personal travel.
Richard Coffy, USA
The B787 will usher in a new era
The B787 Dreamliner will revolutionize air travel because of the advanced technology behind it as well as the economy of operating it. Just as the Boeing 707 and B-747 opened new chapters in air travel, the B-787 will usher in a new era.
A S Mathew, USA
Bali stories are spot on
I have lived in Bali 12 years and know the place well. I write guidebooks and articles. I just want to say that Vijay Verghese’s piece on Bali is excellent. It is well written, well informed, and opinionated to a perfect degree.
Susi Johnston, Indonesia
There appears to be a flourishing bag pilfering racket at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and no one cares...
Baggage theft at Kuala Lumpur Airport
I flew Malaysia Airlines to Bombay via Kuala Lumpur on 30 March, 2007 (MH73) in business class. I opened my bag upon arrival in Bombay to find the contents in disarray. The bag was still locked when I opened it, the lock did not seem as if it had been tampered with. A proper search of my bag revealed a slew of missing items - a pouch containing gold and diamond jewellery, and all the perfume bottles that I had carried as gifts. The empty cartons of the perfumes were left behind in my bag.
This is the second time we have had such an experience. The first one was in December 2006, when my husband travelled on MAS to Bangalore but again via KL and had a mobile phone stolen from his bag in exactly the same way. The lock was intact when he opened it, but item was missing from inside.
I have complained to Malaysia Airlines and I have not even received a reply.
As for my husband's complaint, they said they were not responsible for “valuables” packed in checked-in luggage. If, [as a fare-paying passenger], I lock a bag and hand it over to an airline, why on earth is it not responsible for handing the bag back with everything intact? Are perfume bottles not to be checked in any more? They can't be carried as hand baggage either.
The fact is there is a flourishing [and seemingly professional] pilfering racket at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. [Any bag in transit may be a target.] The sooner the airline does something about it, the better.
Isn’t this supposed to be Visit Malaysia Year?
Mohyna Srinivasan, Hongkong
Medical treatment for all
While I appreciate the benefits of affordable medical treatment [at the new Asian facilities], I can’t help but ask the question, “But what about the locals?” Are their medical needs being met or are they pushed aside every time a foreigner turns up with US dollars? I would personally consider it a moral issue to ascertain how this influx of foreign patients is affecting medical treatment for the local communities and how my participation [in medical tourism] contributes to this, be it beneficial or detrimental.
Rick Farquharson, Australia
I’m still seeing stars in Asia
I travel for work through Asia and am challenged with various [hotel] star-rating systems. Sometimes there’s even no star system. Can you shed some light?
Dax Kiger, USA
The Editors say,
"Yes, standardisation is a problem in much of Asia. Some countries follow star ratings strictly, some not. Places where you might find the rating somewhat in line with expectations include Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, India metros, Korea, and Japan. Several of our stories focus on hotel reviews and you should get a fair idea of what each is about."
I travel for work through Asia and am constantly challenged by the various star ratings. Can you shed some light on this?
Bollywood blather has me in a lather
The following statement in your Bhutan story stinks of racism, and that coming from an Indian, too. What a shame. I quote – “Fortunately for Bhutan, a billion Indians are too busy watching B-grade Bollywood movies to consider levitating north.”
Suneel Sule, India
The Editors say,
"The sentence you quote is in lighter vein. It casts more light perhaps on how the author feels about B-grade Bollywood movies rather than India, Indians, and Bhutan. The author is Indian and proud of it."
In Cebu, head for an apartment
Being an old hand at visiting Cebu – and having stayed in almost all the 5-star resorts – I wanted to let you know that I recently took a gamble and stayed in a serviced apartment (booked over the Net) called SDR Apartments.
Whilst the outside of the building is not much to speak of, they have wonderful rooms (equal to most four and five-star resorts in Cebu) with free Internet, cable TV, kitchens and so on. The apartment was US$699 for the month.
This may come in handy for frequent travellers. The website is www.sdrapartments.com
James Walter, Cebu
Your guide beats Lonely Planet
I just wanted to say I have been to Hong Kong three times and I have the latest Lonely Planet guide but I still found your shopping tips incredibly helpful. I love all the ideas and I’ll be shopping in a lot of the places you recommend. Thanks a lot.
Chantelle Taylor, Australia
You saved our lives in Hong Kong
I would like to thank you for your story on Hong Kong shopping. Without it our holiday would have been a disaster. We arrived with our three children tired and exhausted after touring around Europe and narrowly escaping terrorist activity in London. We found it very difficult to find the great bargains and shopping experiences that we thought Hong Kong offered. After two days of wandering around, maps in hand, and being disappointed by the huge shopping malls that offered endless prices just as expensive as Australia, I began searching the Internet for someone to tell me where to go shopping for bargains and great places to go to.
Your advice was brilliant. Without it we would have gone home very unhappy. I only wish I had found your website sooner. I have to say that what I did find in the markets is that unless you can speak fluent Chinese or you are Chinese don’t even bother trying to bargain. It was just a waste of time. I found that it was a matter of looking around and finding the items with the price I wanted to pay. Food was fantastic and at very reasonable prices. The sandwich bars are a great place to take the kids. Thanks again
A great hotel recommendation
I accidentally came across your web page in my hunt for a Hong Kong hotel. I am so glad I did. I had a wonderful vacation in Hong Kong because of you. I stayed at the Gold Coast Hotel. This is a beautiful hotel, far from the city but almost everything can be found in their shopping complex. The staff are friendly and the rooms pleasant, and with a view. It’s a pity we could not stay longer. Thank you again.
Roshan Porobo, UAE
Qatar Club give it a miss
My husband and I have been members of Qatar’s Club for over two years and wonder if it is worth all the stress. We fly to Cebu in the Philippines twice a year and are silver members. Not once have our miles been added to our account without sarcastic e-mails and phone calls to the London office. We hand in the card at check-in, ask for the miles to be added, yet it has never happened.
They ask for proof of flight on our return, I send them boarding passes, still they refuse to add the mileage. As for family members, forget it. They refuse to add the miles then add them to the wrong account then deduct the wrong amounts. When trying to redeem mileage it is a nightmare. How can they say Silver Club can redeem within 48 hours? It took us nine weeks as they sent us a sector at a time, and then only for one of us. They claim to give you preference on seating – again a fallacy. Don’t bother.
Lynne Whitbread, UK
Where in the world is Burundi?
I was reading your article on small airlines and noticed that you included Burundi in Asia. Burundi is an African country and the local population is quite large, although their population has been reduced by civil wars. Perhaps you were thinking of Brunei?
Mike Walker, Japan
The Editors say,
"Thanks for the spot Mike. Actually the Burundi mention on Small Airlines is a lighter aside and not related to geography."
Laughing till I cried
I have just spent almost 30 minutes to finish reading your [Editor’s Page Check-In] article “Passage to India”, including about 15 minutes to just wipe the tears from laughing so much. Thank you for sharing your great sense of humour with such a positive attitude. After spending time in grey and snowy Berlin, followed by clear blue sky with a sharp, cold wind in Brussels, your stories sure warmed me up. Thanks again.
Angie Boonpramote, Thailand
You’re so vein 30,000 miles aloft
Due to the lack of legroom in economy class and the real risk of deep vein thrombosis (I have a previous history), I have found a way of minimising the risk. Before each flight my family doctor prescribes enoxaparin sodium injections. I give myself the injection about an hour before flying. This is a blood-thinner. My doctor also provides a letter for the airline stating why I need to carry [the equipment] in my hand luggage. While it isn't an ideal situation, it does substantially reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis.
Sharon Quirk , United Kingdom