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Kuala Lumpur, hub of the new Federation of Malaysia, is a prosperous, flower-filled city with architecture that is a mixture of Victorian Exposition and Arabian Nights mosque. The city's chief fascination is the entrep�t character it shares with Singapore. Englishmen play cricket on the lawn in front of the Selangor Club. Sikhs in turbans and Malay boys in sarongs watch from the sideline. The Merlin is a pleasant hotel, air-conditioned, with no charge for laundry or shoeshines. The best Chinese food is at Kum Leng, best Indian at Bilal. The most interesting way to eat Malay food is to go to the Saturday night market on Campbell Road, where satay—bamboo skewers of chicken, beef and mutton, dipped in coconut and cooked over charcoal braziers—cost 5� each. You can easily get a visitor's card to play golf in Kuala Lumpur at the Selanger Golf Club courses (SI, Nov. 25). Or better yet, play a cooler game at Cameron Highlands, a hill station that the British colonials turned into a fair replica of Scotland. There are two 18-hole courses. Stay at the Smoke House Inn.
Penang, a two-hour flight from K.L., is called "idyllic" in Malay guide books. Not true, but it is interesting—a kind of miniature Hong Kong, a Chinese-populated free-port island a short ferry ride from the mainland. The beaches are pretty enough, the swimming excellent, but the facilities are a bit Spartan. Shopping is cheap and good, but if you have been to Hong Kong, or are going to Singapore, skip Penang.
Unlike Thailand, Malaya welcomes hunters, and game wardens will arrange both guides and dogs at little or no charge. Customs clearance and firearm licenses can be obtained in one day. No license is required to shoot leopard, wild pig or panther. A permit, good for 30 days, for elephant, tiger and seladang, a wild buffalo, is $30 per head. Safari in Malaya is nothing like Africa—you are in the world's thickest rain forests, and quarry is seldom seen at more than 30 yards.
Singapore, largest city in the new Malaysia, sits, steaming, 77 miles north of the equator. Except to dedicated Maughamists, it is not a first-rate tourist town. There is very little to see, and most sport is strictly behind the enclosures of British clubs that do not welcome foreigners unless they are well connected and introduced. The Raffles Hotel remains one of Singapore's star attractions. Its bedrooms are the size of billiard parlors and just as well decorated. The air conditioning, circa 1937, is a bigger threat to health than the tap water. But Raffles is Raffles. At its Elizabethan Grill, have the Australian rock oysters and krau, a grilled Singapore fish. The Singapura, just opened, is a first-class modern hotel. The Cockpit is the favorite of foreign correspondents, small but comfortable, with an excellent restaurant. And this is only one of a host of fine eating places, for Singapore's greatest virtue is its food, particularly the Chinese cooking, which is almost the equal of Hong Kong's. The Shanghai and the Mui Lam are both excellent restaurants. Shopping may be less expensive than in Hong Kong, but the service and the variety are not as good. One thing special is Javanese batik, in sarong lengths.
AND THE REST
Zooming inflation and the discomfort and chaos of its travel facilities make Indonesia—Java, Sumatra, Bali, the Celebes and Borneo—a place to pass up for now. Taiwan is dull except for superb food—which is equaled by Hong Kong—and its mountains and lakes, which are surpassed by Japan. Burma's Shwe Dagon, covered with gold, is one of the largest Buddhist shrines in the world, but Burma is not issuing visas to U.S. tourists at present. There is no reason for the traveler to visit Brunei, either, or Sarawak or North Borneo. Laos and Vietnam—not now. But Vietnam—definitely—later. For when things settle down, Saigon is one of the most charming cities in the Orient. Korea has glorious scenery but is not well equipped for tourism yet; however, you can catch a whale there—whale-boat charter is $150 a day.
One last point: a round-the-world tourist-class air ticket costs $1,263, only $35 more than a New York-to- Bangkok round-trip ticket. So if you are planning to go as far as Bangkok, you may as well have the fun of going all the way around.