I just returned from KL and Penang and thought I would share my experiences.
We got great cheap tickets on Air Asia from Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur. No complaints there, the plane wasn't full so lots of room, and the food and service was good. We didn't book the entertainment systems in advance so there was none left to hire once onboard, so bear this in mind if you like to watch movies to pass the time.
We stayed for 4 nights at the Somerset Ampang which is a new apartment complex close to KLCC. We stayed in both a 3 bedroom and a 2 bedroom apartment and both were good. The rooms were spacious modern and clean. Breakfast was included, and despite being termed a continental breakfast, it did include sausages, eggs and rice etc, which is always a bonus! The rooftop pool was amazing and has a view of the Petronas towers.
One tip I would let people know is to turn the switch marked "heater" on if you'd like hot water! This was only explained to me on the last night which was a shame, as I would have loved to have a bath in the luxurious tub with panoramic views of the city.
We arranged an airport to hotel transfer via email in advance but the car did not arrive to collect us so we caught a taxi instead. (A lot cheaper at 82 ringgits, as opposed to 270!). The hotel was very apologetic about this mistake and gave us a late checkout and a free transfer on the way back which was much appreciated. All in all, good service and facilities at the hotel, but possibly a bit far from the action. Taxis are very cheap, only about 10-ish ringgit from the Somerset to most sights. Traffic is bad though, so allow enough time to get around.
If you are travelling with a group and need a bit more space, then the Somerset Ampang is a great choice.
While in KL we visited the Bird Park, the Orchid Garden, the KL Tower (didn't eat in the restaurant as we didn't think to make a reservation!), the Central Markets (great bargains, less haggling), Petaling Street (ok bargains, a lot of good-natured haggling), Aquaria, Bintang Walk, and alot of the major shopping centres.
Standout favourites were the Central Market and the Bird Park, and I am still kicking myself for not seeing the Islamic Arts Museum...
Be prepared to pay more for taxis on the way back to the hotel, when most drivers would only negotiate a fixed price as opposed to using the meter. It usually cost double the price on the journey home but is still very, very cheap compared to Brisbane cab fares.
We also booked a cabana at the Skybar but were disappointed with the place in general. It was noisy and a bit of a mess with old furnishings etc. Maybe my expectations were too high, but it wasn't what I was expecting given the generally good reviews here on TA. Incredible views though and the food was great: The Long Island Iced Teas, Selangor Slings, spicy buffalo wings and spring rolls went down a treat!
In Penang we stayed at the Lone Pine which was a truly excellent hotel. The relaxed stylish elegance of the decor really made you feel like you had no choice but to kick back and enjoy yourself. Staff were very helpful, food and service was great.
The buffet breakfast was so good, it was included in the room price and had a great variety of delicious things to choose from.
Location was ideal, on Batu Ferringhi beach, right next to the night markets and the Long Beach Cafe, which is a collection of hawker style local food stands. Everything is so cheap. It was all delicious, even the stingray! I still can't stop thinking of the Teppanyaki chicken...
We had a tour of the sights with a nice man called Vijay, who took us to the Butterfly Farm, the fishing village, E & O Hotel, the Reclining Buddha, the stilt houses on the jetty, Little India, and the Pinang Peranakan Mansion among other things. He charged 140 ringgit for this 4 plus hour tour, which we thought was great value.
Penang is a great place to visit, the food is incredibly delicious and the locals are great. I'm so glad I visited before the enormous amount of new build estates completely swallow up the character of the island.
We had a great trip and thanks to all those who helped me plan it! PS. My Anz access and visa debit cards worked fine at all the atms I tried, and the rate was better than expected. Thanks for the advice I received re this topic.