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Best in Travel Poll 2018 - Asia's top airlines, luxury hotels, destinations


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No sleep without ire

I have experienced the Sanya airport lockout. Believe me it's a bummer in summer.

Letters may be edited for clarity or space. Correspondence must bear the writer's full name, city, and e-mail address. Writers' opinions do not reflect the views of SmartTravel Asia. Mail: Dancing Wolf Media, Room 2802 Tung Wai Commercial Building, 109-111 Gloucester Rd, Wanchai, Hongkong. Send Letter to the Editor

No sleep without ire

As a traveller who shuttles to the USA several times a year on hopping flights, I enjoyed your article on Sleeping at Airports and laughed aloud in parts. I have experienced the Sanya airport lockout. Believe me that's a bummer in summer. You left out the best bit though though. Or I suppose I should call it a tip. The best place for sleeping at airports is a couch if you can find one and many airports have flat seats or massage chairs that are pretty comfy. I look forward to chuckling more. Keep up the great work.

Lorraine Seeuw Shanghai

The long and short of Samui

Our family is planning a trip to Samui and I was researching the place when I came across your excellent article with A LOT OF STUFF. I enjoyed the reviews but is it possible to present something like this in a more concise manner with fewer hotels? I suppose you need to cater for varied tastes and therefore touch upon a broad range of hotels. Just a thought. I think we shall use one of your suggestions for our stay. Very helpful. Thanks again for this and the patient advice via correspondence with your magazine.

Grace Lau Hong Kong

Editors - Thank you for the suggestion. We have long considered briefer stories but then others are upset we've left out luxury properties, or value options, or family hideaways. It is a work in progress. We're glad our suggestions were of help.

Incontinent across an entire continent

I recently flew Bangkok to London in economy. I would describe myself as a patient and accommodating traveller. This was put to the test, believe me. I had an aisle seat and the two middle passengers next to me chatted loudly almost all the way, gesticulating, spitting, hacking, waving their arms. All this ceaseless activity interrupted my sleep, movies, and meals. One developed a tummy bug of sorts and attempted to climb over me every few minutes to rush to the washroom. I sympathised and got up to let him pass once, twice, thrice... and then I offered to take the middle seat. He refused. Someone tell me I am not alone in wanting to vigorously swat inconsiderate travellers aloft.

Trevor London

Your Poll - if I might drop some names

As a frequent reader of your excellent magazine I have been through the winners on the award list and while I am familiar with many but of course not all of the places and hotels mentioned I am surprised that there are not more offbeat destinations like Bhutan, Andaman Islands, Pondicherry, Central Asia, Mongolia, Palau and so on. Over the years your readers appear to have selected the same big names over and over. Does the voting universe need to be broader?

Trevor Fontayne UK

Editors - Thanks for your feedback and yes it is true that many bigger destinations fare better than small ones. The reason is quite simple. Access. Smaller places are harder to get to and therefore acquire fewer, even if very dedicated, fans. But budget carriers and regional airlines are opening up Asia as never before so do expect to see the tables turned. We do not have a finite voting universe and readers are welcome to vote for whomever they wish.

I really hope Old Macau does not disappear

My husband and I spent a wonderful weekend in Macau after a conference visit. And when I say Macau I mean what people might now call 'Old Macau' with its cobbled streets, food stalls, and shopping alleys. In the old days we used to drive Mokes here, some sort of small converted Jeep it was. It is something, call it nostalgia, that I deeply miss when I visit the casino strip of Cotai where our company conference was held. I realise cities need to develop and grow and earn money for their residents but the charm of Macau's churches and walks is unrivalled in the east. We took some tips from an article you featured and enjoyed the walk from Senado Square to A-Ma Temple picking up eats along the way. Keep up the good work.

Mary Tibbens Hong Kong

The Shanghai Bund is incredible

I have just returned from Shanghai and had a chance to read your article before I left. As we were staying on The Bund we had a chance to explore some of the [new 45km] extension for joggers and walkers. The city planners have done a fantastic job in visualising and executing the plans for development along this extended walkway with museums and art and interesting stopping points. I think this could be a more detailed article later. I love your magazine and am an avid reader. Needless to say Shanghai is one of my favourite cities. Yes, I have voted.

Evelyn Yap Singapore

Poll commentary needs space

I voted in your poll and look forward to the results. I wanted to leave a few comments about different hotels and airlines but noticed you have just one comment box. I combined some comments in a single note. I'm not sure how this could be managed but would it be useful to allow more flexibility on comments? Congratulations on some great content.

Warren Miller United Kingdom

How about 'value' hotels?

My husband and I were trying to select our main picks for the various categories on your poll and ended up a bit confused as they seem to overlap. For instance, a luxury hotel could also be a business hotel or a family hotel. Is it possible to clarify some boundaries? Also would it be possible to include cruises and value hotels that offer a bit of everything at a good price? This may be asking for too much I suppose. I see many of my friends are looking for value but not cheap stuff mind you. You can get value at an expensive establishment too. Does this make sense?

Ashley Grayson Hong Kong

Editors - Excellent suggestions, thanks. We looked at 'value' hotels but felt this is very subjective and hard to define. Perhaps you are right, it shoudl be left up to readers to define in their own terms. As for the other hotel categories, yes, there are some subsets, like business and conference. Unavoidable alas.

Manila tales had me in splits

As a longtime Manila resident I skimmed through your Manila Guide with interest and must say that the hotel reviews (at least for the ones I am familiar with) were very much in tune with my own thinking. I love the humour in the writing and the honesty. This sentence had me in splits: "A Labrador with a wet nose sniffed my bags and parts of my anatomy unmolested since my mother demanded to check my underwear before I left for school." How true. Good research and entertaining too. Perhaps a little briefer for online reading?

Analyn Mendoza Philippines

Scary Southwest incident

I was appalled to watch the news clips showing the incident on Southwest where an engine exploded and smashed one window, ultimately killing one passenger. The B737 is a very common aircraft in domestic service in many countries especially here in the USA. I am told this is not a common occurrence but I certainly recall cabin fuselage damage in other instances including the United episode in Hawaii when the engine fell apart.

Rick Harvey USA

Editors - The Southwest experience is unsettling but not entirely unique. As you mention, the cowling ripped off an engine of a United Airlines B777-222 en route from San Francisco to Hawaii in February 2018. Much earlier there was the February 1989 case of United 811 - a B-747 - flying Los Angeles to Sydney with stops along the way. Shortly after take-off from Honolulu, a faulty cargo door caused a fatal decompression blowing out several seats and resulting in the deaths of nine passengers. Earlier, also in Hawaii, in April 1988 an Aloha Airlines B-737 found itself minus the cabin roof from cockpit to first class - it had completely peeled off - while in flight. The pilot managed to land safely.

Isn't pool access always free?

I loved your EDITOR'S RANT on butlers and other hotel trivia that no one seems to take much note of until a magazine runs a poll. Are butlers all that bad? On the few occasions my husband has booked us into a suite with this service, I have availed of it and with no regrets. It's always good to have a 'Jeeves' handy. I did not realise hotels sell 'free access to the swimming pool' as a perk! Ridiculous. The copywriters must be utterly bored to dream up such rubbish.

Julia Chow Singapore

Enjoyed your interview

I enjoyed [your interview with Franz Donhauser] very much. During his first stint here we were living in Portugal and came [to Island Shangri-La] three or four times a year. We became good friends and will be sorry when he retires. Incidentally he was at my birthday dinner the day before the 50km hike.

Michael Sanders Hong Kong

Why would a hotel ban cameras?

I have been reading your magazine for over five years. It was interesting reading your article on hotels that don't allow cameras. My wife and I have had this experience a few times and we find it quite odd. When you go on holiday you do not expect so many rules and 'do not, do not, do not...' Your list of other hotel regulations was quite shocking. How can anyone accept such rules? Keep up the good work. We always check your magazine for good advice when we travel to Asia.

Gunther Kahle Germany

Here's to clean holidays!

I thoroughly enjoyed your story on pollution and as a frequent traveller it is something I keep a sharp eye on. Many a time have I returned from China with an unsettling wheeze that never seems to go away. Unfortunately, business travellers need to follow their company directions but holidaymakers can surely pick spots of their own choosing and abandon the smog and dust and grit?

Natalie Rupert, Hong Kong

Mollycoddling kids on vacation

I read with great interest your guide to child-friendly hotels in Asia and realise now that there are options for families such as ours that wish to have their kids enjoy the great outdoors and not just electronic diversions and video games. I would like to see more such options. For us, PlayStation and the like are out. It defeats the whole purpose of a vacation.

R. Esperanza, USA

Desperately seeking Sanya

Thanks to your excellent article on Sanya we have a better idea of the place. I just realised after going through this story that Haikou is actually a long way from Sanya itself. Hainan is far bigger than I imagined. We had a company meeting set up in Haikou and were planning a family holiday in Sanya after that. It seems the Haikou area has good hotels too and golf. Perhaps our next company meeting can be at one of the big international five star hotels in Yalong Bay or Haitang Bay so we can combine a family stay and work with golf all in one place. I have read some of your reviews, good and bad, with great interest and hope your choices live up to the hype. The humour in the writing makes for a refreshing change.

Ric Fredenhof, Hong Kong

Jakarta tales and the bad old days

I am a frequent visitor to Jakarta and am extremely familiar with many of the city hotels. Knowing my interest in Jakarta, a friend passed on your article to me. I had never come across Smart Travel Asia. It is quite nice and very well written but you can make the page on screen wider.

I recall Hotel Indonesia in the bad old days, if I may say so, when there was no aircon in the room. I am glad the writer brings out this fact as the change is quite amazing I must say. The new Raffles Jakarta is another amazing place. It is a big change as well from our Singapore landmark, which is now closed for a major renovation (I think your readers would like to know this fact). I also agree that Dharmawangsa is a very fine place but I must say I find things a bit on the slow side. It is great for a weekend and it is my wife's favourite hotel in Jakarta.

K Beng, Singapore

Tiger tiger burning bright

I have had the good fortune to spend a brief while at the Ranthambhore tiger sanctuary on one of my earlier trips to India and recall it well. We had numerous sightings of tigers back then. I am not sure I met any of the feline family featured here but it was good to read up on some of the residents of the park in such personal terms. A very engaging story and one we will definitely refer to on our next trip back.

Josh Beirman, UK

Highlighting mental health tourism

I enjoyed your [Medical Tourism] article very much. I would also like to mention that mental health tourism is a rising phenomenon and our company is seeing clients from multiple countries all over the world.

Ajay Phadke, India

Working out recline degree

How much recline in inches is 115 degrees, 118 degrees, and 123 degrees?

Nicolas Dzepina, USA

Editors - As we mention in the economy class seats story, ' Rule of thumb, about six inches of recline is the equivalent of about 25 degrees or 15cm.' It's an odd way to do it and not an accurate measure as recline measured from the top of a taller seat will be more in inches logically. Fortunately, most airline seats are similar in height.

Bali rumbles and grumbles

Our travel agent was unable to fill us in on the details but I gather this may not be a good time to travel to Bali. Newspaper information is confusing and at least one scary video I watched was for a different volcano on a totally different island! As a single person I am mobile and not particularly concerned about [Mt] Agung as I would choose my hotel carefully. I'm sure air fares may improve as well. But maybe that's being too optimistic . It is good to see sensible coverage on Bali. Great work. I read your magazine regularly for travel tips and advice. You should do more on Indonesia.

James Worthington, Hong Kong

Editors - Bali's threat level was downgraded a notch on 29 October, 2017. As with any unfolding scenario it is wise to be cautious but even better to be informed. The active volcano featuring in chat forums is likely Mt Sinabung in North Sumatra. We're glad you found our information helpful. We shall continue to regularly update our report on safety in Bali.

Is Bali safe to travel to?

We were planning to travel to Bali but have been alarmed at the press coverage regarding an imminent volcanic eruption. It was reassuring to read your update on safety in Bali as it presented several facts from several sources. The map is particularly helpful. We called our hotel and they told us they are located well away from the volcano. But if it erupts, what happens to my family? How do we get home? I presume flights will be cancelled. I see you noted the government is making arrangements for bus and ferry transport. This is all good to know. Please keep us informed.

Linda Farquhar, Melbourne

{It was reassuring to read your update on safety in Bali as it presented several facts from several sources. The map is particularly helpful..

Why heritage warms the heart

I voted in your recent travel poll, and while my hotel choice did not win, I applaud your efforts to enable travellers to share their opinions freely. You may not wish to unduly stretch the voting categories but you might possibly also consider adding space for heritage hotels. That's the kind of place my wife and I always seek whenever we travel, and not just in Europe. Thank you.

Duffy Jones, USA

Time to iron out slipping service standards

I always enjoy your magazine's witty prose and useful observations. It has helped me find some real gems. On a separate note, I have observed a sharp decline in service standards, even at big hotels in recent years. Has training succumbed to the lure of quick bucks and cost cutting? I find mineral water bottles are getting smaller and more scarce in the rooms, irons are often unavailable, and large groups can make life hellish for single travellers like me. Why are standards slipping? Your magazine might investigate.

Julie McDonald, United Kingdom

Bangkok Airport is a zoo!

I greatly enjoy your Editor's Rants and am something of a fan. I was delighted to see [Polls, planes, and queues] flaying Bangkok's atrocious Suvarnabhumi Airport for overcrowding and undermanned immigration booths. As a frequent visitor to Thailand I can attest to the mayhem at the airport and never relish arrivals or departures. It is a disgraceful state of affairs and not quite the way to start a romantic interlude in 'Amazing Thailand'. The sole exception is Samui Airport. Three cheers for this proud holdout!

Marlene Gracia, Hong Kong

What the halal! I want my gin and tonic

I read with interest the editor's comments about the growth in halal travel. Until now I assumed this only had something to do with kosher food. I have been educated but am not convinced that a hotel catering for just a single cultural group can be commercially viable (unless it is a domestic hotel in Russia for Russians, or in the UAE for Arab travellers etc). But it is an intersting thought nevertheless. I shall stay with my gin and tonic, thank you!

Alan Braithwaite, UK

Does it take longer to fly to Qatar now?

I am considering flying on Qatar Airways from London to the Far East as an alternative to Emirates but am worried [the Arab blockade] might complicate things. Does it take longer to fly to Doha than before with the new routings?

Ashley Mallory, UK

Editors - Flying times have increased only marginally from some countries and should not greatly change your total duration. Do check with Qatar about connecting flights and arrangements. We have covered this subject in Blockade by blockheads

Put off by invasive ads and pop-ups

I am totally fed up with pop-ups and invasive banners and messages that block my screen. Don't advertisers realise that 'disruption' is NOT the way to win friends and influence people? Nor is it cool to have ads that stalk you. It's plain creepy. If anything, it puts me off those products - not quite the result advertisers seek. I find it refreshing that on your site I am able to browse with ease without commercial interruptions. Bravo!

Jim Crompton, Hong Kong

Editors - Thanks. We have consciously stayed away from 'rich media' as it is termed by ad agencies, to prevent precisely the sort of annoyance you describe. However there is great pressure on publications to boost clicks and conversions. This means, the invasion of the Page Snatchers is bound to continue. We have an article on disruptive advertising in our sister magazine, Asian Conversations.

Spreading laptop ban

I read your earlier column on the electronics ban inflight with interest and wondered what your take is on the possible spread of this ban on US-bound flights, or even all flights? I'm not sure executive travellers will take kindly to this latest knee-jerk reaction that will limit work efficiency. I agree that laptops in the hold pose almost as much risk as in the cabin.

Mel Abernathy, USA

Editors - It is quite possible, even inevitable, that the laptop ban will see more extensive coverage as airlines follow the US lead. Emirates has handed out its own 'safe' laptops to top customers for use inflight but, of course, this is not the same thing as working on your own spread sheets on your own machine. And transferring data to a borrowed computer always runs the risk of being hijacked or compromised if a user fails to securely delete material. The 'recycle bin' simply does not do a great job of erasing stuff. In any event, many executives work on 'closed' programs issued by their companies and these are not easily transferable - at least not casually - to other devices.

Conrad comrades come through in Bangkok

We recently spent five days at the Conrad Bangkok, over the Easter weekend. Our corner room, on the executive floor, was bright and spacious thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. Their breakfast, tea and cocktail buffet (included in the room-rate) served at the executive lounge was pretty decent and well spaced out through the day.

The hotel lobby, Cafe@2 and pool area look a bit jaded however. While trying to get a taxi there was a bit of an issue especially during peak time. So sometimes taking the hotel shuttle bus to the nearby Ploenchit Station was a better option.

Overall, the thing that really struck us was how friendly, efficient and knowledgeable the staff were at the hotel, from check-in to the executive lounge and even the spa.

Diki Thondup, Hong Kong

Electronics ban part of trade war

This new rule [Editor's column on electronics ban inflight] is nothing but a trade war in favour of US airlines who don't know how to compete with good service and good value. All they care about is how much profit they can make for the least amount of service.

It seems too coincidental that this rule came into being right after the legacy airlines' meeting with Trump and his team. Frankly flying in the US domestically [thanks to TSA's guidelines] or flying on US carriers [lack of onboard service] internationally makes for a less than appealing start to any trip - especially for leisure. Good article!

Usha Rao, USA

Boeing boing gone...

Great article (Boeing vs Airbus). Slightly biased towards Airbus. The way I look at it is, I don't care how big a plane is, it could carry 10 or 1,000, but if it gets me there quicker I'm in. I regularly travel between Australia and the UK so 32 hours door to door is horrendous. If Boeing can get me there in 20, then that's the one for me.

Graham Tombling, Australia

Editors - Thanks for your feedback. Yes, we agree, speed is the deciding factor on ultra-longthaul flights. Interesting you see a tilt towards Airbus. That's what Boeing told us too. Then Airbus informed us our article favoured Boeing. We see it as a factual report. Here's what another reader wrote. Do you work for Boeing?

I have left Facebook

I laughed aloud reading [The Editor's] hilarious account of silly Facebook prompts.

The only way to be free of FB and social media pestering, is to leave that digital space to foetal wannabes armed with big selfie-sticks and little common sense.

The world has been spinning unruffled for quite a few years before Facebook and mobile phones. I think we can easily survive an unplugged existence - at least for a while.

Jo Sorensen, Sweden

{The only way to be free of FB and social media pestering, is to leave that space to foetal wannabes armed with big selfie-sticks and little common sense...

No more calendars, or Facebook

It is a pleasure to read [The Editor's] funny and erudite rants. I too noticed, sadly, the disappearance of the once inescapable desk calendar.

Apart from the cost cutting rationale, they are probably seen as obsolete manifestations of a bygone era: the movers and shakers of this digital age are electronically connected 24/7. I am not among them. I still use a fountain pen, write and post an occasional letter or card, read hard cover books, play DVDs and recently terminated my Facebook page.

Meanwhile I shall be hibernating in a cocoon until that Neanderthal buffoon leaves the 'casa blanca' 47 months from now, but hopefully much sooner.

Peter de Jong, Bangkok

Of MICE and Men in Bangkok

I work at a multinational company that organises annual MICE and Incentive outings for almost 200 persons. I am involved in the planning.

This year Bangkok was again under consideration. With its great food, nightlife and atmosphere, Thailand remains a favourite with many of us but safety and logistical concerns – ever since the protests some years ago shut the city down – have remained, and our company is now exploring Bali or Ho Chi Minh City as an alternative.

Vietnam is cheaper, many of us have visited Bali often already, and we have done Langkawi. What is your advice? I read with interest your article on meetings in Asia but it does not delve into safety or security issues.

Moira Blackwell, Hong Kong

Editors - Bangkok has settled down, transport and taxis are improving and the city remains a solid option for varied and competitive MICE and convention options. Saigon is both attractively priced as well as fun, as is Hanoi. Both cities have seen a huge increase in room inventory with additional MICE venues. Do consider Thailand. Bangkok was voted the No.1 City in Asia by our readers in 2016, and with good reason. It is a splendid incentives destination.

Indian railway trauma for the disabled

I have been groped and manhandled three separate times by [railway] porters. They were helping me board the train because Indian trains are not wheelchair accessible. I am a disabled woman living in Mumbai who loves to travel.

I have had to wear a diaper because I couldn’t use the train bathroom. And when I needed to change the diaper, I had no privacy and had to wait for hours for the lights to go off at night. The railways treat the disabled as a piece of luggage. This needs to stop!

Sign my petition and join me in asking the railway minister and the prime minister to implement disabled friendly measures in the Indian Railways. My fight is to ensure human dignity for the disabled. I am asking the authorities for some basic things everyone takes for granted – accessible bathrooms, higher toilets, accessible coaches, and curtains for privacy.

Virali Modi, Mumbai

Bugged by bugs from Bangkok to...

I had a few chuckles reading the editors' lively rant on his psychedelic 'trip with The Beatles' until I realized he was talking about a very serious illness that he personally experienced. I have two friends who caught Leigionnaires Disease on their business travels - one likely from Bangkok and the other God knows where. It is not an ailment to be taken lightly by all accounts. My friends got off lightly and are well recovered but it is worrying that anyone can get struck down, even in modern hotels.

Roger Bearden, UK

Finally, the price is right for Vietnam

Vietnam has to be one of the up and coming destinations in Asia. It has spectacular beaches, excellent hotels and terrific food. It is also great value for money. I would strongly recommend a visit to the country and am a frequent visitor to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi and, when I have holiday time, Danang. I prefer the quietude of Hoi An with its ancient city. I have not ventured as far as Phu Quoc but it is in my sights. VietJet's budget flight to Hong Kong is a boon as is the HK Express route to Danang. I wish Cathay Pacific would stop stiffing passengers on Vietnam routes. Who would fly at these prices?

Jill Kingsley, Hong Kong

Where are the best shopper deals in Bangkok?

The [Bangkok shopping guide] article I read in your magazine provided a very detailed account of several shopping centres and their offerings but there was no mention of value, or a sense of which shopping centre has better prices than others. Where can I get the best deals for high end brand names and apple computers.

Laura Marquez, USA

Editors - You're right, we have not focused on pricing in Bangkok as this tends to change constantly. However, for laptops and the like, while Pantip Plaza is the go-to mall for tourists, better bargains might be had at places like Fortune Town IT Mall and Mega Bangna. For clothes and shoes, the vast Pratunam Market around the Amari hotel and not far from CentralWorld is a good area to browse. For designer brands and Apple computers it seems the safest bets are the bigger malls. Try Zen in CentralWorld and cruise the Siam Square district - there are a few renovated malls/buildings in this area. In this general area is MBK Mall, a lower priced alternative.

Won't share secrets aloft, but...

As regards not putting in credit card info when using WiFi inflight... that is the first thing you are asked to do by the airlines - put in your credit card details to pay for WiFi access.

Carmen Lam, Hong Kong

Editors - We sought more information from a few Asian airlines and SIA wrote back on 3 November 2016 to clarify their position - "SIA's implementation is in accordance with data privacy guidelines and security practices for sites that include payment gateways. External access to our onboard server is protected by advanced firewall technology and other security features designed to block and filter traffic passing through it. In addition, our service providers use encryption technology to safeguard passengers' personal and sensitive information."

Hackers? Work offline when flying

I avoid WiFi when flying. It's expensive and slow. And why bring your office into the skies? If you must, you can always work on your laptop, offline. There is enough to do on flights with the latest movies on your screen. If someone can hack into the plane's engines, breaking into a laptop must be a cinch.

Jon Evans, USA

Pin numbers good but a VPN is better

Timely article from the Editor. I will definitely check it out and most likely implement [the suggestion to use a VPN inflight].

Anand Kuruvilla, USA

Is my Bali hotel pick flawed?

In you article [Bali resorts review] I see most of the top hotels mentioned or reviewed, except the Grand Aston. Does it not fall into this category? In your opinion is it not a well rated hotel?

Maxine Van Greenen, South Africa

Editors - Thank you for going through our story. Nothing wrong at all with the Grand Aston Benoa, a little further north from the Conrad. Our story has a small mention of several properties though it is by no means a definitive list. In future updates we may add a small mention of Grand Aston.

Elephant riding should be discouraged

I greatly appreciate your site for its information on Luang Prabang, but I am concerned about the picture of people riding elephants on the page. As you probably know, riding an elephant with a seat on its back is painful for the elephant. It should be discouraged rather than touted as a tourist attraction. Of course locals use elephants for work and travel purposes, but you all have the power to decrease the number of tourists who see elephant riding as a form of entertainment.

Leslie Cook, USA

Editors - Thank you very much for your thoughtful letter. Elephant safaris continue in Laos as in Thailand and elsewhere. Thank you for raising the issue of elephant-back riding and the potential harm to the animals. It is a valid concern - though many would argue a 'working' elephant is not much different to a saddled horse. Interestingly, in Phuket a year ago after some baby elephants roped in for a beach party caused massive outrage, baby elephants have been removed from shows and kids' clubs - even at the Laguna Phuket. That's a start.

Golf greens plus unplugged kids

I have been reading about resorts with kids clubs. We just moved to Asia and would like to know where to go in December for a two week vacation. We have a four-year-old and nine-year-old. Our criteria is: golf close by, great kids' club with indoor and outdoor activities like cultural crafts, cooking or crab hunt, kids' yoga etc. We do not want a resort that offers Xbox or PlayStation please! My husband and I play golf and we would also would like to see some of the local culture and nature around. I am not really interested in Thailand for this trip. And no tacky resort but real luxury. Where would you recommend? It seems hard to find a resort that combines golf with a kids' club matching my criteria.

Wendy Gautrais, Singapore

Editors - As a magazine we try not to make selections - leaving that to our readers. Of course, Thailand always comes to mind and should your thinking change, consider JW Marriott Phuket, close to the Blue Canyon's two golf courses. This property is closely engaged in nature conservation its kids' programmes are woven into this theme with lots of outdoor activities. Also look at Banyan Tree Phuket in the family-friendly Laguna development with golf on the doorstep. The Datai, Langkawi, Malaysia, is an atmospheric rainforest villa escape with fast access to an excellent golf course (just down the hill). The focus is on rainforest exploration, nature trails and guided walks. In scenic Hoi An, a quick hop from Danang, Vietnam, The Nam Hai serves up excellent villa luxury with a good spa and the splendid 18-hole Montogomerie Links course close by. Sports, board games and culture are served up at the Kids' Activity Villa. Unspoiled Bali offers several luxe options around the newly set-up Bali National Golf Club in Nusa Dua, a landscaped and safe family haven in the south. Consider St Regis next door (also with a great spa), and the always popular Grand Hyatt Bali which is a mini-destination in itself with excellent kids' facilities, tons of sports and several swimming pools. Most hotels in Bali are very child-friendly. December is a wet month in Bali alas.

Enjoying the Peninsula touch

I recently stayed three nights at The Peninsula Hong Kong [after winning a prize in your Faces of Asia lucky draw]. My husband and I visited the hotel early August 2016 and we would like to say that the hotel was superb, with professional, friendly and efficient staff. The room was modern with elegant touches and fully automated with remote controls. The hotel location is really convinient for a short visit to Hong Kong, close to an MTR station.

Liana Repoulia, Singapore

No excuse for airport delays

There is no excuse for this [Editor's Rant on airport security delays in USA]. Airlines know in advance roughly how many passengers will be arriving and departing on a given day and, as long as things are relatively normal, how they will be spread out during the day. With this information the authorities should be able to manage their staff to ensure there are a sufficient number on duty. This applies equally to immigration for international arrivals

Allistair Nicoll, UK

Have blog will travel - free

That was an excellent article on Blogger Blackmail by Vijay Verghese. I don't think all bloggers are bad. To be fair there are some very good bloggers and they do have genuine followers. I have however been informed by several hotel friends that this sort of pressure tactic applied by bloggers is quite common. Often they get away with it. Some demand their families be flown around and accommodated at the hotels' expense. This is preposterous. Especially if the blogger is simply regurgitating the supplied information without adding literary or reviewer insights. Nice article, and funny too!

Jeanie Chan, Singapore

Why Taipei is for the birds

That's a great Taipei Guide [by Tricia Chen] with lots to pick from. I like the part about fortune-teller birds. We see this in other cities around Asia too of course. The Yong Kang beef noodle should not be missed and the National Palace Museum is really good for well preserved Chinese relics.

Nancy Teh, Singapore

The sun, the moon, a lake, and one fleur

Thank you for your recommendation of Fleur de Chine Hotel at Sun Moon Lake. My family and I enjoyed the accommodation at Fleur de Chine in Taichung. We stayed there on holiday on 19 April 2016. We were impressed by their service, which started from the moment our tour bus arrived at the hotel. Hotel staff came up to the bus to deliver welcome drinks and egg-tarts. The room is very big and cosy with an indoor bathtub for a hot spring experience. Hotel Staff is very polite and helpful. The buffets as well as hotel facilities are very nice. We enjoyed the stay very much. Thank you again for your professional advice. I will definitely recommend your website to my friends.

Wan Kwok Hung, Hong Kong

Hard commercial edge to Bangkok

I love Bangkok and visit frequently both for work and pleasure. I read with interest your Bangkok Hotels Guide and spotted some new developments. It seems the Anantara has not changed much stuff since the Four Seasons days though the rooms appear different. I must admit though on recent visits I have detected a harder commercial edge to city that has put off many of my friends. The chief culprits are taxi drivers who NEVER use meters and only grudgingly return change. This is something the tourism board must tackle with urgency. The airport too can be shambolic at times.

Oliver Drummond, London

Good to see more on Central Asia

I was delighted to spot some Central Asia reports that recently appeared on your site. I'm surprised there is not more coverage on places like Bishkek and Almaty in the media. These places are buzzing and growing at a rapid pace.

With Phuket and ho-hum Bali in decline, I believe travellers will seek out adventure in places like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. I recently travelled to Bishkek and only wish I had seen your notes on the Alamedin Gorge earlier. It looks amazing. That's one for my future calendar.

Bill Dougherty, Hong Kong

Big slap on back for great kids' story

I enjoy the sense of humour on your site. I chuckled aloud reading about hotels that 'won't slap your kids, alas'. I travel with kids and I know the feeling well. Your [child friendly resorts] story is excellent and detailed - perhaps too detailed for some - but it should also include newer places with a focus less on international five-stars and more on local boutique offerings.

When I travel I prefer a non-chain resort. If I am in Thailand I wish to feel I am in Thailand too. Keep up the good work.

Jolene Chan, Singapore

{I recently travelled to Bishkek and only wish I had seen your notes on the Alamedin Gorge earlier. It looks amazing. That's one for my future calendar...

Airports say, 'Asia get stuffed!'

You're right about Asia's disappearing brands. Airport duty-free is all about high rents now. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane are no different except for the UGG boots, which are way overpriced anyway. We have the extraordinary spectacle of Chinese tourists flooding in, and all we seem to be able to sell them are stuffed koalas... made in China. On the subject of genuine arts and crafts, however, we just had a nice experience at Sampran just outside Bangkok where they are trying to keep traditional crafts alive and visitors are encouraged to join in and weave baskets, etc. Makes a change.

Phillip Hawkes, Australia

Wedding bells for UK belles

My girlfriend and I had been reviewing options for a resort wedding in Asia but were unable to find any sensible advice until we came across your fine article in this site. We visited a wedding planner too but found that they tend to push things purely towards luxury and are not keen - or knowledgeable enough - to dole out proper advice. We needed a romantic wedding space for 20 close friends and believe we have found a short list in Bali and Phuket.

We didn't need an actual legal wedding, just a great location for a ceremony or blessing and some photo shoots so that we and our friends could later relive the event. Price is not a major issue but we need to get a fix on these places that sound so exotic. We'll let you know once things get sorted and may seek your advice to make a final choice.

Malcolm Trewick, UK

I never saw the sky until...

I visited Beijing recently during the red smog alert and I can tell you I shan't be going back in a hurry. It was cold, dank, and dark, not the sort of combination that drums up festive Christmas cheer. The day I was leaving, crisp blue skies suddenly appeared. The drive to the airport was not bad at all and I cursed my luck. The food was excellent it must be said and folks were cheerful. Still, Beijing is too far and time consuming to risk it all on travel roulette. Until they find a way to clear the air - permanently - I will not be returning.

Jimmy Frew, USA

A fresh angle on air travel

Could you explain why some seat recline data is given in degrees and some in a [very different] number? What does is mean when you say the Cathay seat recline is 4?

Lou Desgranges, Australia

Editors - We use both inches and degrees as airlines have no unified approach to this. We prefer degrees as this is a more accurate way of defining the seat recline angle. The Cathay number of 4 you refer to in the economy class seat chart is in inches. Unfortunately as this recline is measured from the top of the head rest, depending on the height of the seat, there is no fixed conversion from inches to degrees. Airline seats vary in seat-back height and this affects the co-relation with the angle.

Fuelling frequent flyer discontent

I was reading an article on your website regarding fuel surcharges. Although the article seemed a bit dated (it was referring to a lot of data from 2008) I was wondering how much this practice had changed in the ensuing years. Apparently not much. For a flight from Singapore to London the add-ons came to 41 percent of the actual fare and just under 30 percent of the final price. Of the $721 in charges $438 were fuel surcharges – this at a time when oil prices are at an all time low. Airlines should be refunding passengers money NOT charging them extra.

Mike Trigg, Singapore

Editors - You're absolutely right that fuel charges should be coming down dramatically. They are not. Thanks for sharing this with our readers and yes, we need to update that story. We held off for a few years as the rates were extremely volatile but it will be good to revisit that subject.

Tripping up over Bali stay

I enjoyed your recent Bali report. I delved into parts of it. My family and I have been planning a Christmas holiday for some time but have been bogged down trying to find solid information about the hotels and their service standards. Of course, Indonesians have a flair for hospitality and we have always enjoyed our stays in Bali but this time we wanted something a bit off the beaten path.

Thank you for your kind response [to my earlier missive] with a host of good suggestions. It was very helpful. My wife swears by TripAdvisor but a couple of recent experiences have made us a lot more cautious. Your online advice is much appreciated.

Alastair Yates, Sydney

{A couple of recent experiences on TripAdvisor have made us more cautious. Your Bali advice is much appreciated as we explore off the beaten track...

Shopping nuggets: print it out

Kudos to your team for the outstanding work on your [online magazine Smart Travel Asia]. I found it by accident while searching for shopping in Singapore. The material is well researched and written in a lively witty manner. Your article on Hong Kong shopping in which I found some nuggets for Kowloon (where I am headed later) was lengthy but informative.

Do you already have or have you considered a print publication? It does not have to be weekly or even monthly. You might consider a quarterly volume with a good index to track down obscure places. I would buy something like that.

Felicity Appleton, London

Editors - We're glad you enjoyed our shopping guides. A lot of work goes into them and we update information regularly. Alas, print is something we have left behind, finding online distribution far more efficient in terms of engaging with real readers.

Taxi cheats fail to dent traveller thrill

I am so happy to see Bangkok feature as your magazine's top choice on your recent travel poll. I completely agree with this amazing result. However I have no great love for Bangkok cabbies. I suspect I have been ripped off everytime I sat in a cab. Still, the hospitality of the Thai people is genuine and heartfelt. Well done Bangkok! And if I may say I feel sorry for Hong Kong. My city has dropped down because of problems with flights in China. It's a bit unfair.

Simon Wong, Hong Kong

Editors - Yes, cavalier cabbies have been our readers' No.1 complaint against Bangkok too. It is a problem that has persisted despite many attempts to streamline the service.

Crew blues 30,000ft aloft

At the risk of displeasing your many knowledgeable readers, I strongly disagree with THAI's number three position for cabin service. It was once the best in the business but the whole airline has slipped over the years. The hardware has improved but the software has declined.

Any serious business traveller will tell you that Middle Eastern airlines are the trend setters these days, and not just for cabin service. They have mixed crews who speak several languages and the comfort of seats and quality of inflight entertainment is second to none. Emirates rates higher as does Qatar.

James, Bangkok

Why pick concrete over sand?

This may seem an odd question but with all the fantastic natural wonders in Asia, fine beaches, and mountains, why would anyone pick a concrete city as a top holiday choice? Bali has charm in spades and something for everyone regardless of age or sex. My family love the place and we have been going there for years. For sure Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore are terrific cities and are always fun to visit, but I would rather pick Bali, Phuket, Goa, Kerala or any unnamed Vietnam beach. Perhaps cities should be in a separate category?

Frances Blythe, Sydney

Slow planes to China

I read your [July 2015] editor's column on delayed flights with great interest. I don't fly frequently to China but I do fly often - over 18 times a year - around Asia. This is partly in connection with my work sourcing elecronic components and partly for leisure. I can say with some justification that I am well versed in air travel in the East, from Bali to Bombay. Yet nothing has prepared me for six-hour waits at Beijing Airport and unbelievable delays at Shanghai - often whilst sitting in the plane on the tarmac - that have each time resulted in missed connections, lost business and frayed nerves. Is this common? Your article seems to arrive at this conclusion.

I understand air space in China is controlled by the military but there must be a commercial solution. Airports all over the world are coping with rising numbers, and NONE (my emphasis) have these sorts of delays. I am told by friends in Hong Kong that travellers take it all in their stride. Well I, for one, will avoid travel to China wherever possible, and my wife refuses to accompany me on visits to Beijing. This is a shame as there is much to see and marvel at in this vast country.

Rupert Wyn, Sydney

Editors - Unfortunately there has been no let-up in mysterious delays for flights to and from China. The military has in fact complained of congestion - which may well be true - and asked for commercial flights to be cut back by 25 percent. All the indications are the situation will get worse before it gets better though loopholes are being sought for smaller aircraft and private jets.

Weary of white-knuckle travel

I have been afraid of flying ever since I was a child and experienced a severe thunderstorm while in flight. The aircraft made a very hard landing as I recall though the details are not entirely clear. My father, who was with me on the plane, laughed it off. I must have been five or six at the time. As a business traveller I still get white knuckles every time the engines start up. I realise that air travel is statistically safer than travelling by car but this has not helped shore up my confidence. I greatly appreciated your Fear of Flying article and shall try and avail of some of the tips and airline courses mentioned. Wish me luck.

Salman Hyder, Mumbai

Who is the best in travel?

So who is the best in travel? I'm curious. I just voted. I've been an avid reader of your magazine for several years and enjoy its wit and verve. The research is very detailed but there may be a way to present the material with less text and more visuals. But I digress. I largely agree with your voting results in past years but do believe British Airways and Virgin are far too underrated by your readers and Mid-East airlines greatly overrated. They suffer temperamental cabin crew just like all other airlines and this is what makes or breaks a product - not mega-planes and mega-advertising.

Frieda Reece, Hong Kong

Bangkok shops here I come...

Your Bangkok shopping guide is an invaluable primer for first-timers or even veterans. I shared it with the girls at the office and more than a few tips were scribbled down right away. I enjoy your magazine's sparky writing style and sense of humour. Some bigger pictures would help. This is not a complaint of course, but a suggestion. Please don't change your writing style for advertisers or those who may prefer things more plodding and dull.

Joanna Shaw, London

Fear of flying simulation

Is there any simulation facility that you would recommend to get over fear of flying?

Na Niko, Iran

Editors - The options are detailed in our Fear of Flying report. You'll need to explore various airline offerings.

Big squeeze in dreamland

I recently had the opportunity to fly in a Boeing Dreamliner for first time and was truly disappointed. The flight was operated by Qatar airlines – from Doha to Singapore. This is the most cramped seating arrangement I have come across till now. I was almost stuck in the seat and could barely move. I was in the centre, while the passenger on my right was one-and-a-half times my size. I wonder how he managed.

The remote was fixed to the seat side and is practically useless, as you can't see any buttons. To operate this you would need to know touch-typing. Eating meals is difficult and you will likely elbow the passenger next to you. My legs got swollen due to complete lack of movement. And I had more legroom as I was sitting in the front.

Compared to all other flights taken till now on various diverse aircraft (Boeings, Dakota, Airbus), this is the worst experience I have had. Boeing may have to rework the design of this plane.

Rajesh Singh, Singapore

Dressing up in Kuala Lumpur

Would you know where to find nice Muslim wear in Kuala Lumpur? Nothing too bright or shiny, something elegant yet affordable.  

Samira Bittner, Germany

Editors - Your best bet would be to head to Kenanga Wholesale City Fashion Mall. We've covered this in our Kuala Lumpur shopping article. You can find traditional Muslim wear on levels 3A and 5. All types of styles at mostly affordable prices under one roof here from scarves and hijabs to kaftans and gowns. There's also Arzu (Level 2) that sells a wide range of headscarves. and Hajaba (203a) for uptodate designs that are not too flashy at Suria KLCC. Also check out the Zleqha collection of modern Islamic wear carried exclusively by Parkson Pavilion KL.

One good reason to switch your FFP

Your table showing [Frequent Flyer Programme] miles gained is a little simplistic. Last year I flew almost 70,000 miles with Star Alliance in economy class but only earned just 16,500 miles. I flew Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Thai. All have many different ticket classes within economy. If you buy the cheapest ticket invariably you get no miles. So in the end the miles come at a price. Singapore Airlines in particular is already overpriced compared to the competition, so I always try to look for the cheapest Star Alliance flight. I think I will be switching to One World.

Mike Trigg, Singapore

Editors - You are right, there is little correlation between miles flown, and earned. This disparity is set to increase as airlines focus on fares rather frequency of travel - the original purpose - in their quest for profit. You may be aware that accumulating 'sectors' to gain a silver or gold status, has also become nigh impossible as the sector is only counted if the ticket price is right. Read more

{If you buy the cheapest ticket, invariably you get no miles. So in the end the miles come at a price. I think I will be switching to One World.

With a snip snip here, a snip snip there...

I was happy to come across your article on Medical Tourism in Asia as my wife and i have been considering this option for some years. It seemed to us that Bangkok would make a wonderful choice. The Thai currency's appreciation against the dollar has not helped - compared to several years ago when we first checked - but I understand facilities are excellent.

I am surprised to see that India has so much to offer. We have visited the country several times and may just consider switching. Despite the usual hassles, the pound can stretch more over there, good doctors are available I am told, and English is more widely spoken.

Duncan Ackerman, UK

Cathay Specifics tell a different story

I stumbled upon an older (I assume) Check-in column where you wrote about US Department of Transport fines for flights that have tarmac delays.

In the article you [humorously] stated, "The DOT remained unmoved by reports of the deep camaraderie that developed onboard CX888 when it was prevented from deplaning passengers for 12 hours at New York’s JFK airport because no gate was available. This was a brave attempt by Cathay Pacific at civic integration and interaction."

I was actually on that CX888 flight that was held up for 12 hours at JFK. I hadn't thought about it for a while and since the holiday season is approaching, I thought back to that holiday trip in 2010 - and found your article.

I remember a lot of that trip. All the passengers just sat in their seats the whole time in a very calm and collected fashion. I have no recollection of babies or kids crying or anyone making much of a fuss. We just watched TV and movies and waited for the pilot’s updates. I was impressed with everyone’s behaviour. I sat a few rows behind the actress Grace Park as well. I let her be though – clearly she had better places to be than sitting idle on the tarmac for 12 hours.

My family just had a hotel reservation waiting and a trip to the Big Apple. No major things in store, so no big deal for us, just some time out of our week in NYC.

We left the airport via a cab to our hotel. Upon leaving JFK our cab got into an accident about five minutes out of the airport. We had to switch taxis and deal with some minor whiplash. The car that hit the cab was totalled though.

Anyhow, our trip to New York was wonderful. Cathay treated us wonderfully, set us up to get new clothes and a later return date in business class. I have fond memories of the experience and only have great things to say about Cathay Pacific.

Thanks for the nostalgia!

Aidan M, Canada

{[The airline] treated us wonderfully and set us up for a later return in business class. I only have great things to say about Cathay Pacific

Some spa magic in Central Asia

A wonderful article on Bishkek, though a lot of changes have taken place. Quite accidentally, we discovered a gem of a spa, called Mystic Spa.

Mystic Spa Bishkek has to be one of the best spas in not just Bishkek, but entire Central Asia. Stunning interiors, aromatic fragrances and divine [relaxing] music in all cabins is complimented manifold by authentic Thai masseuses versed in rejuvenating Thai or Shiatsu massage for less than US$20! Indian Ayurveda specialist girls offer you Ayurvedic massages that are relaxing as well as therapeutic.

Whether it is nerve relaxation Shirodhara, or help from Ayurveda for bones and joints or back and neck or even weight loss, Ayurveda has the most natural solutions. You can enjoy ‘Shahnaz Husain Herbal Diamond’ and ‘Gold’ facials here for incredibly low prices.

Our group just loved this place. They do deserve a word of praise to help them keep going.

Chris Wilkins, United Kingdom

KL shopping tips are tops

The information I can get from this site is second to none! Excellent, relevant and interesting. Thank you.

Bev Brown, New Zealand

Now for the perils of North India

Your Kuala Lumpur article is perfect. I am looking for something similar for North India - do you have any specific guidance? I am afraid of being ripped off.


Editors - Glad you enjoyed our Kuala Lumpur shopping guide. North India alas is a rather large footprint but we do have stories on our site that cover a bit of shopping in places like Jaipur (Rajasthan) and New Delhi (the Capital). Quality hotels will all offer useful assistance.

Visa on Arrival drama in Malaysia

At the Kuala Lumpur Visa On Arrival counter I was informed I had to have a ticket exiting KL to a third country. My round trip Singapore-KL-Singapore was not valid and I would need to return to Singapore. I argued my case. Finally the counter clerk sent me to his supervisor. I was given a form that required a printout of my e-ticket. The AirAsia counter (the airline with whom I had travelled) did not have a printer.

I had to go, escorted, to a hotel in the departure area, 15 minutes away, going through security again. I returned to immigration for my Visa on Arrival and handed in the documents, to be told the fee would be RM330. I offered US$100 (the fee quoted to me by the Malaysian High Commission in India via e-mail) and was asked to change it into local currency. at Maybank

Maybank was after immigration so I returned to the counter and a guard was assigned to escort me through. The guard suggested changing the dollars at a disadvantageous rate and I insisted on Maybank. He said his department was short-staffed. Eventually, I was escorted through. I finally changed some money and returned to the Visa on Arrival counter where everyone recognised me by now. I handed in the cash.

And then began the wait for the actual processing of the Visa on Arrival. Wow – Malaysia Truly Asia! This should include hammock services.

Rahul Verghese, New Delhi

Angkor in reverse is the way forward

Thank you for a very helpful article, yet again. My husband and I will take the writer's advice and take in these sights in reverse - Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom and Banteay Srei, then back to Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng hill. Great idea! By tyhe way, Smart Travel Asia is always my go-to site for travels within Asia, especially Southeast Asia. I love your articles and the writing is always excellent. Thank you.

Mahita Geekie, Singapore

{After being escorted through KL immigration two times to print my ticket and, later, change money, the actual Visa on Arrival wait began...

Questions on your travel poll

Having gone through your 2014 awards list I am confounded at the mix. Either your readers are extremely discerning or extremely well distributed (and well informed) to provide such detailed feedback on such a broad range of hotels. I largely agree with much of the result - of course I am not conversant with every resort - though I do wonder why there are so many hotels clustered in each rank level - as in No.15 etc. How can five hotels rank 22? Is the magazine trying to keep everyone happy?

I fly Virgin and see they are not on your top ten. Apart from that, well done. It seems a mighty effort has gone into the process. Kudos to your team. I am planning my Bali visit and and have used your information to make my plans. I have browsed your stories in the past and found the material largely on the money.

Peter Guilford, UK

Editors - Our readers are an international mix so there is a fair amount of shared knowledge in the pot. And they travel on average 12 times a year. Yes, several do vote parochially but our American and European readers balance things out. The reason we bunch hotels in ranks is because the vote differentials are too close to call. This after we have audited and eliminated 'bad' votes from people stuffing the ballot or using automated 'bots'.

Then I spotted a Shanghai gem... in para 188

Kudos to Amy Fabris-Shi for her exhaustive report on Shanghai hotels. Had this been printed out it would rate as bigger than the Bible! Like the Good Book, it is entertaining and informative though I, like many readers I suspect, have not delved through the entire contents. I visit Shanghai frequently and have spotted some new picks that I might try out. It is refreshing to get information from a site that is not touting rooms and specials in my face. It is odd to get such a lengthy story on one page - unless you are doing it right and others have it all wrong - but it appears easier to find relevant content quickly. This is an observations and not a criticism. The jury is out on story length but I shall continue to dip into your site for travel knowhow.

Jonathan Brindley, Hong Kong

Editors - We have found long is better as it saves readers the tedium of jumping around every 50 words. And it can all be printed out on A4 paper for future reference. Readers can print out specific sections too. Keep reading us and delighted you found some gems.

Need a lot more on Lotte

I came across your excellent site recently. Having transferred from New York to Tokyo, my family is keen to explore the region. We were last here some eight years ago.

I was going through your lengthy Seoul article and immediately spotted the Lotte brand. I once thought this was a chocolate company. I recall we spent a few days on our last family trip to Seoul at Lotte World and enjoyed the adjacent theme park. There was a metro line somewhere nearby too.

I am looking at Lotte Seoul as an option for my next few business trips. Thanks to you I have visited their site and it seems a professional outfit. However, our company often places us at the Westin. How do you rate these two? And which one would you recommend? A friend says Lotte has a lot of twin rooms for some reason and it is not always possible to book a king bed during peak season. Why is this so? And Lotte Seoul has two wings that are apparently different.

Westin is a solid American brand and I hear good comments from colleagues. Both are near our offices. Any advice?

Jason Goodwin, Tokyo

Editors - Both Westin Chosun and Lotte Seoul offer fine accommodation in the heart of Myung-dong. Westin is a historic construct with fine service and a recent top-to-toe renovation. It is very much at the business end of the service spectrum and comes highly recommended. Lotte Seoul is a large hotel that once had a huge number of F&B outlets. It offers gracious service, a larger and busier lobby, and refurbished rooms. Twin rooms are popular with Japanese guests. There is a classic ‘newer’ wing with ornate baroque flourishes aimed more at high end business travellers and you might wish to explore this further. Lotte World in Jamsil remains an excellent family choice.

{I am comparing Lotte Seoul and Westin Chosun. How do you rate them and which would you recommend? I once thought Lotte was a chocolate company...

Why the Airbus A380 can be a hot date

Since I worked for the company that maintained the database for Pan Am's WorldPass frequent flyer program back in the day - in fact I wrote and maintained the program that printed the redemption coupons sent to members - I have maintained an amateur's interest in new developments in commercial aviation. I found Vijay's article when trying to learn a bit more about the A380, and I found it quite interesting and informative, even though more detailed than my level of interest.

My question: Unless my triple search of the article still didn't find it, why is there no date of the article plastered right next to the byline? Why would your site wish me to try to read between the lines of the article to guess at its currency? I tried only a couple of other articles and also found the same silly convention. Besides the basic journalistic convention of "when?", that omission makes articles like Libby Peacock's "Do you get the point?" on mileage programs interesting but worthless, since we know airlines change their programs all the time.

Jim, USA

Editors - Thanks for your feedback on our Airbus vs Boeing report. All our stories get updates on a regular basis much like any guide. So we carry year round live reports that get a touch-up when occasion demands - weekly, daily, monthly, depending on the news. When we do a complete overhaul (about once a year), the story moves up the the top of our newspaper style home page as one of our highlighted offerings for that month.

In the deep end in Delhi

Really enjoyed your article and style of writing. Thanks for helping me ‘arrive’ in Delhi. I sometimes wonder why we have the heavily cushioned carpet at the arrival area where the wheels sink as we pull our strollers?

India is of course the teacher! We just have to watch our emotions at each step of the journey, not getting caught in pre-conceived expectations. India teaches us to respond skillfully rather than just emotively. I just returned from a 14-day Buddhapath pilgrimage through Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, humming... “We are all moving on a journey to nowhere, taking it easy, taking it slow. No more worries, no need to hurry, nothing to carry, let it all go.”

Shantum Seth, India

Vietnam visit easier with good info

Your report on Vietnam is one of the best I have come across in recent times. The author appears to have done a huge amount of research – I have to assume this as I am not in a position to check. But it is helpful gain insights from sites like yours that tell it like it is without trying to ‘sell’ travellers stuff. If I need to book a hotel room I go to Booking.com or something like that. But first-hand information is the most valuable tool for sensible travellers.

feedback: focus on smaller, value hotels and not just luxury space for the rich and famous. Smaller places are harder to find and even harder to judge long distance through the Web.

Brian Harvey, USA

{Do the people at Virgin really think they know anything about passenger comfort? [Upper Class] seats are the worst one could possibly imagine

From Macau with love

I have recently visited the wonderful city of Macau. I saw your [destination guide on Macau] and my wife and I used it a lot to find some new things. It is hard to find similar writing on the web as most of the sites are by travel agents. Your [article] helped us make some good choices and find a good many things [that we enjoyed]. Thank you for the good research to help travellers like us make a plan in advance. We will use your website in future travel.

Jose Nuno Armando, Lisbon

Why I am no more a Virgin aloft

As a seasoned business traveller I generally fly eastwards rather than westwards and have found the best lie-flat seat and cabin service combination on Etihad. In December 2013 I flew – courtesy of the US Government – to Washington DC via Dulles on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. What a nightmare.

Do the people at Virgin really think they know anything about passenger comfort? It’s the worst seat one could possibly imagine. Not only does it have the dreaded herringbone, you end up looking at everyone’s feet. The seats are diabolical. Recline is no better then economy (or perhaps premium economy) and to sleep you have to give up your seat to set it up in lie-flat mode, with your feet precariously balanced on a tiny platform. It is cramped and you cannot watch the video screen and eat at the same time. The [little ‘tray’] for the drink is placed above shoulder height, and smaller than the base of the glass – totally useless.

The partition between the seats is transparent Perspex so there is no privacy. And the unused bar area is just a waste of space that could give been used to give the cramped passengers more room. Having spoken to several friends and colleagues (who have sued this carrier), my advice is, don’t. If Etihad and ANA can do a good job with cabin design then why can’t the others? The crew will tell you that a lot of passengers complain about the [Virgin] cabins and the seats but the management do not listen to them. Instead they ask the passengers to write in. Well, I am voting with my feet, or rather my back.

John Norton-Doyle, UK

The language of air safety

I enjoyed the Editor’s Rant – a wonderful article on airline safety. In India, we still lag behind on safety instructions as all communication is only in Hindi and English. South Indians who speak Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada, do not necessarily follow Hindi. It is time that air safety videos were telecast in languages actually understood by all the passengers.

T Senthil Durai, India

Travelling with kids not child’s play

Your child-friendly hotels story is [a lifesaver] but you appear to have missed out some newer places. I am surprised there is not more literature out there on the subject as travelling with kids is one of the greatest challenges. I am certain anyone with kids will agree.

Bjoern Albrektsson, Sweden

Pink is the new green

Your [editor's rant] article on gay travel is hilarious and manages to walk a fine line. This is an old subject though and quite a lot has been going on in the travel industry with regards to the “pink” dollar as you describe it. I’m not sure Hilton actually offers “gay-friendly” rooms. They do have a “gay-friendly” website. It is an important distinction.

Samantha Jones, UK

Less is more, or is it fewer?

Re your article on the B787 vs A380, the caption below the Korean Air A380 picture says something like, “Korean Air A380 with less seats”.

Less seats? Fewer seats is correct, not less. Fewer is used for counting objects; less is used for mass objects. There are fewer stars visible tonight. There is less air in the upper atmosphere.

Colin Payne, USA

Editors - You are absolutely right and that gremlin has been fixed.

A site for sore eyes

Did you do something to the magazine? It seems different. Well, whatever the secret ingredient I like it. It seems easier to read and I like the idea of a clickable sitemap [index] on every page. I have been an avid reader for about five years now and look forward to your mix of wit and information. Keep it coming.

Greg Campbell, Tokyo

Editors - After plodding along for 10 years, we revamped our design with the December 2013 issue. More white space, broader page, new fonts and greater vertical line spacing and leading and, of course, a great big ugly mutt on the cover.

Handy Hong Kong guide for the weary

After ploughing through more guidebooks on Hong Kong than I care to list, I came across your handy guide quite by chance. Thanks for distilling Hong Kong into one well summarised – although still quite lengthy – article. A strong sense of humour comes through and I get the feeling a fair bit of legwork has gone into this account. Bravo. I shall be back.

Idris Clayborn, New Zealand

Need more bang for my buck

I enjoy your page [Travel Deals] with all the specials at hotels [around Asia] but these all seem rather expensive. Do you sell any really good deals? I also notice that most of these offers are from expensive luxury hotels. What about boutique hotels and B&Bs and other more attractively priced options?

Reader, (response on feedback form)

Editors - Thanks for checking out our Travel News page. These are FIT (frequent independent traveller) room deals at various hotels and depends a lot of who sends what in. As we are not a travel agency, we don’t sell any packages. We simply alert readers about the most interesting ones.

Cheaper is better

Less comedy more bargains.

Reader, (response on feedback form)

Old is gold at Sukhothai Bangkok

Reading about your poll winners I was interested to see The Sukhothai Bangkok on the list. It is inconveniently located in the current scheme of things with the BTS train and underground etc but is a brilliant classic retreat. There are few to rival its charms in Thailand and I must endorse the verdict. It is heartening to see that technology is not the only winner.

J Watkins, Hong Kong

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

Philippines tarsierThat 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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.

Taylor Lockwood, USA

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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

Airport “super-spreaders”

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

Editors - 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 for quality reference

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

You working for Boeing?

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.

Maple, UAE

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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 and then we were aloft...

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

Editors - 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

BOEING replies,
"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

BOEING replies,
"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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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 rather 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

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

Editors - 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.

SIA Responds,
"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.

Sarita, Malaysia

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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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 [852] 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

Editors - 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.

Milan, Australia

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.

Rex, Australia

Editors - 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.

Steve, USA

Editors - 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.

Holly, Cebu

Editors - 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 [2007] 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 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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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 apparently cares or gives a hoot...

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

Editors - 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

Editors - 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

Kerryn, Australia

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

Editors - 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

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