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Thinking Again About Next Year's Malaysia/Singapore Trip

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Yesterday I redeemed 62,500 miles for business class seats on United one-way to Singapore at the end of next June. While I'll have to wait a couple of weeks to "purchase" our return flights, I've begun to look at lodging choices and flights within Malaysia and Singapore.

Tentative itinerary is -
1 night Singapore (Crowne Plaza Changi)
3 nights Kuching (Pullman Kuching)
3 nights at The Last Frontier Boutique Resort (in Sabah, 2 hours from Sandakan)
3 nights Georgetown/Penang (? - see below)
3 nights Singapore (Intercontinental)

Here a my questions:

1. Because of flights we won't have much more than 2 full days at each destination. Is there any destination that deserves more or less time?

2. In some cases we have a choice between Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines. Assuming that flight pricing is similar, which airline is better?

3. Going from Kuching to Sandakan and from Sandakan to Penang requires 2 flights each. While the connections seem to work, It seems I can only purchase the flights separately. Assuming we use the same airline for both flights, will we be able to check our bags to our final destination or will we have to collect them and recheck them between flights?

4. rhkkmk wrote a great review of Clove Hall in Georgetown but he also mentioned another property which looks great - Malihom on the southern end of Penang. Is Malihom too far away from the center of things to make it worthwhile to stay there?

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