Malaysia's AccessAsia Pass (30 days; up to 25 cities) starts at $899 for 2003. By comparison, restricted round-trip fares from LAX to Kuala Lumpur begin at $1,030.
Cathay Pacific's All Asia Pass (21 days; up to 18 cities) starts at $999 if you participate in Cathay Pacific's CyberTravelers program. Restricted round-trip fares from LAX to Hong Kong begin at $1,110.
The prices assume travel within specified "windows"; travel outside these periods will cost $100 to $700 more per person, depending on the carrier and season. Prices do not include U.S. and foreign taxes. Malaysia's plan is limited to North American residents, Cathay Pacific's to U.S. and Canadian residents. Passes must be purchased from a travel agent.
The plans have some cities in common (Bangkok, Thailand; Taipei, Taiwan; Singapore), but Cathay Pacific's offers more Japanese destinations, and Malaysia's focuses more on Southeast Asian countries.
Most intercity trips will involve a change of planes at the airline's hub (Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong). Each city other than the hub can be visited only once. In both cases, the itinerary must be set at the time of purchase. Fees for subsequent modifications are substantial; no-show penalties are steep. You do not earn frequent-flier miles with your package trip.
To call numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (international access code).
WHERE TO STAY:
Kuala Lumpur: Swiss Garden Hotel, 117 Jalan Pudu; 603-2141-3333, fax 603-2141-5555, http://www.swissgarden.com. Comfortable place within a short cab ride of most points of interest. Doubles from $48 if you reserve on the Internet.
Heritage Station Hotel, at Kuala Lumpur train station (note: this is the old, Moorish-style station, not the new central station); 603-2273-5588, fax 603-2273-2842. Being remodeled during our stay. Might be classy when done, but pretty basic now. Doubles from $29.
Concorde Hotel, 8 Bag Berkunci, Kuala Lumpur; 65-6235-2498 (reservations number), fax 65-6235-1416, http://www.asiatravel.com/malaysia/concorde. If you have to make an overnight layover at KLIA, the Concorde makes up in economy for what it lacks in personality. Doubles from $35.
Malacca: Hotel Equatorial, 75000 Bandar Hilir; 60-6282-8333, fax 60-6282-9333, http://www.equatorial.com/mel/index.html. Modern high-rise near many museums and historical sites. Doubles from $125, but discounts can bring the price down to $53.
George Town (Penang): Cathay Hotel, 15 Lebuh Leith; 604-2626-2712, fax 604-263-9300, http://www.visitpenang.com/hotels/cathay. Basic accommodation, kept mosquito-free by a gecko in the room. Doubles from $16 (slightly more for air-conditioning).
Bangkok: Thai Hotel, 78 Prachatipatai Road; 662-6292-1005, fax 662-280-1299, http://www.thaihotel.com. Comfortable 100-room hotel. Doubles from $29.
Chiang Mai, Thailand: Rydges Tapae Chiangmai Hotel, 22 Chaiyapoom Road; 66-5325-1531, fax 66-5325-1465, http://www.rydges-chiangmai.com. Opened last year. Doubles from $42.
Chiangmai Gate Hotel, 11/10 Suriwong Road; 66-5320-3895, fax 66-5327-9085, http://www.cmgatehotel.com. Mid-range hotel in a quiet neighborhood a few blocks outside old town. Doubles from $18.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Renakse Hotel, 49 Boulevard Samdach; 855-2321-5701, fax 855-2372-2457, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Historic hotel, across street from Royal Palace and a short walk from restaurants. Facilities are inconsistent; ask for room in "new wing." Doubles from $35.
Siem Reap, Cambodia: Pavillon Indochine, Wat Thmei, Jean Cammaille Road; 855-012-804-303, http://www.pavillon-indochine.com. Charming 11-room inn is within a two-minute drive of Angkor Wat entrance. Doubles from $25.
Taipei: CKS Airport Hotel, on grounds of the Taipei airport (CKS Airport), which is in Tauyuan, about an hour's drive west of Taipei; 886-3383-3666, fax 886-3393-1286, http://www.ckshotel.com.tw. An acceptable place for those arriving late and lacking transportation to the city. Doubles from about $100, but discounts available.
Keyman's Hotel, 1 Hwai Ning Street; 886-2-2311-4811, e-mail email@example.com. Snug little business hotel near train and subway station is surrounded by shops and eateries. Doubles from about $50.
WHERE TO EAT:
Prices are what we paid for two full meals, except as noted:
Kuala Lumpur: Street food and coffee shops in the south Golden Triangle area. Stir-fries, crepe-like roti combinations. Never spent more than $3 per meal for both of us.
Malacca: Jonkers Melaka Restoran, 17 Jalan Hang Jebat, no phone. Nyonya cuisine in a neat indoor courtyard. About $15.
Restoran de Lisbon in Medan Portugis (about three miles out of town); 60-6284-8067. As the name implies, Portuguese cuisine with Asian spin. About $13.
George Town (Penang): Dragon King, 99 Lebuh Bishop; 604-261-8035. Excellent Nyonya cuisine. About $14.
Pintail Cafe and Bistro, 3-G Penang Road; 604-264-2694. Asian-Western fusion cuisine. About $18.
Farquhar's Bar, Eastern & Oriental Hotel, 10 Farquhar St.; 604-222-2000. Legendary hotel has had its ups and downs. Recently reopened after long dormancy. Its bar is a classy place for a gin and tonic. Cocktails about $4.50 each.
Bangkok: Another city where we lived fearlessly on street food. Satays, fritters, dumplings.
Chiang Mai: Aroon Rai Restaurant, 45 Kotchasan St.; 66-53-276-947. Open-air restaurant near eastern moat. Specializes in northern Thai cuisine and makes a delightful version of fresh mango with sticky rice, a traditional dessert. About $6.
Heuan Phen, 112 Ratchamankha St.; 66-53-277-103. Excellent northern Thai dishes in a memorable setting: a small garden that leads to an antique-filled dining room. Superb curries. About $10.
Chiang Mai Gate night market, Bamrungburi Street. Dozens of vendors bring woks and portable stoves to a strip along the southern moat and old city wall near the Chiang Mai Gate. Food cooked to order nightly. We stuffed ourselves for $2 or less.
Phnom Penh: Garden Center Café, 23 Street 57; 855-23-363-002. Cambodian cuisine; try lime-chicken soup. About $16.
Siem Reap: We just ate on the go during our temple tours. Informal cafes offer inexpensive curries and soups. About $5.
Taipei: Some of the best meals are at street-side grills, where cooks will ladle out some noodles or fry a filled pancake to order. Less than $1.
Seoul Korean Barbecue, 4 Lane 33 (near train station); 886-2-2511-2326. Marinated beef, shrimp etc. cooked at your table. About $22.
TO LEARN MORE:
Malaysia Airlines, (800) 552-9264, http://www.malaysiaairlines.com.
Cathay Pacific Airways, (800) 233-2742, http://www.cathay-usa.com.