When the Four Points Kuching first opened a couple of years ago, I was initially excited at the prospects of an SPG option in Sarawak, a Malaysian state in which I had hitherto devoted all of my stays to the popular and well established Hilton Kuching. Although the Hilton has always treated me especially well, I figured it would be nice to steer some of my stays towards Starwood. However, initial reviews of the property were quite uncomplimentary, citing, in particular, poor location, shoddy infrastructure and inept staffing. However, several Flyertalkers who stayed at the property during post SIN-Do 2010 appeared to be fairly pleased with the property. They reported that Platinum guests could avail themselves with free breakfast and a well staffed club lounge. In addition, the hotel's poor location in the "middle of nowhere" was somewhat mitigated by a free shuttle service into the heart of Kuching. As part of my post SIN-Do wanderings this year, I had an extensive visit to Kuching planned this past January. So with the more positive recent assessments in mind, I optimistically and enthusiastically booked a series of one night stays at the hotel, to be used as a base for day trips in the area. My first stay was booked on Tuesday, January 18, 2011. Here is a summary of my thoughts and observations (click any photo thumbnails for larger view): Pros The rooms are spacious and clean. Stay credits and platinum amenity posted promptly and accurately. Some decent food options are available in the Business Development Center (BDC) across the street. In particular, I enjoyed some wonderfully prepared whole fish dishes at the "Ah Tou Seafood Restaurant", a few minutes walk from the hotel's main entrance. Judging from the breakfast quality standards, I opted to give the hotel's restaurant a pass. The property is not very far from the airport and provides hourly shuttle services. A wakeup call was delivered promptly and accurately. Cons Its difficult to know even where to begin… I knew in advance that the hotel is not convenient to downtown Kuching, where the vast majority of local sights and dining options are located but I figured that its poor location would be partially mitigated by the hotel's shuttle service. However, I soon learned that the advertized shuttle service departs for the city only twice a day, at 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM. The return shuttle departs from the public bus stop located in front of the Riverside Majestic Hotel (formerly Crowne Plaza Riverside Kuching) only once a day, at 4:30 PM. The shuttle timing is unreliable. Another guest reported that in the one week he had spent at the Four Points, the shuttle had never departed on time. As an aside, he also added that he was happy he had booked his room on points. If you don't much care for Malaysian food, you may not be all that excited by the offerings served for breakfast in the hotel's restaurant, " The Eatery." If you do like Malaysian food (as I do), you will probably like the food served in the restaurant even less. Its flavor and quality is probably the worst of any I have encountered in either East or West Malaysia. Tangential restaurant comment: When my dining companion asked for some English breakfast tea (the Darjeeling she usually drinks was not an option), she was told that would incur an extra charge. Another tangential food service comment: A sign prominently mounted inside each elevator expressly forbids guests from bringing "outside" food into the hotel. Fortunately, we were not prohibited from eating out. The existence of a club lounge was one of several inducements that enticed me to give this property a try but when I checked in for the first time, I was dismayed to learn that the club lounge had been unceremoniously shut down for good. I am aware that offering a club lounge is not a Four Points brand standard but I had explicitly contacted the property in advance to ask about its hours, features and amenities. Of course, the hotel made no effort to contact me about the elimination of the lounge. And the SPG web site said nothing at all about the closure of the lounge, including the very special "Special Conditions" section, which has never seemed to provided much useful information at all about any property. In fact, as I write this review a full month after last visiting the property, its web page still shows the club lounge in its photo slide show under dining. In contrast, the Hilton Kuching prominently displayed a message on their web site (and via email) that their lounge is closed for renovations and also offered alternative arrangements for all club level guests. Had I been notified about the lounge closure in advance, I would have opted to book all of my nights at the Hilton and be done with it. By learning about it so late in the game, I was unable to find alternative accommodations at such short notice. By that time, the Hilton was sold out for some of the nights and only offered rack rate for the others. Tangential lounge comment: I eventually ran into one of the fellows who formerly served as a concierge in the lounge, an exceptionally amiable and pleasant fellow who related how disappointed and angry he was about the closure. He now works at the property as a bellman. The shoddy construction reported in early reviews of the Four Points Kuching proved to be all too accurate. I visited five different rooms during my tenure at the property and observed misaligned fixtures, random holes in the walls, rust covered bathroom components and flooring constructed so haphazardly that there were noticeable gaps into which I could peer into the space below. (other images posted separately in follow-up post) In some rooms, entire sections were left unfinished. The televisions worked very poorly and, on two occasions, an engineer was required to visit the room to resolve various problems. Hot water delivery was very poor in some of the rooms. One engineer explained that the hot water is produced at one end of the very large building and rooms situated at the other end of the building would often experience very long waits before hot water finally showed up. In one such instance, the wait exceeded 15 minutes, in another instance, it was relatively quick. Two public computers are available to guests in "Wrapped," an informal coffee shop in the lobby. However, internet speed was excruciatingly slow and, more often than not, one or both machines did not work at all. Platinum recognition was poor, including an initial refusal to provide a suite upgrade where numerous suites were available in conditions of fairly low occupancy. Admittedly, by the time I completed my last stay, platinum recognition had improved somewhat. I have a few other thoughts that I think can put this property in prospective. Since its opening in July of 2009, the hotel has garnered itself a fairly unsavory buzz amongst the locale denizens of Kuching, who marvel at the speed at which the 435 room building was erected, purportedly in less than a year. Most of the local folk are well aware of its shoddy construction, which, IMHO, greatly disservices the Starwood name in general and the Four Points brand in particular. Incidentally, the property was constructed by a local tycoon who already controls a fair amount of real estate in the region. Prior to completion, the hotel recruited personnel from other hotels in the area, including the Hilton where I know quite a few of staff members. Personnel were offered two to three times the prevailing salary, not a bad idea for a property who wishes to hire only the most experienced and tenured hospitality professionals. However, within six months of hire, with their knowledge transfer consummated, nearly all of them had been terminated, and I know a few who are now jobless. By the way, the verbiage in a Starwood press release describes the opening day festivities, thusly: So, I have a quick, question to any SPG lurkers. Is the cupcake really one of Four Points' most recognizable brand icons?