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Southeast Asia

Nowhere else does such postcard perfection (jungle waterfalls, black-sand beaches, Buddha-filled caves) come so cheap.


The misty mountains of Vang Vieng.   


VIETNAM
The dollar’s modest dip in 2007 did little to offset how incredibly inexpensive Vietnam is.

INDULGENCE INDEX
New seersucker suit: $40
Giant prawn, cooked in a coconut: $4
Full-day spa regimen: $100

Bottom-dollar Destination .......


Jungle Beach Resort
Sketchy though it sounds, the best way to get to this remote mini-resort ($20 per person, includes all meals; 84-58-622-384) is on the back of someone else’s motorcycle. From Hoi An, take any southbound tourist bus bound for Nha Trang ($8), and speak the magic words “DocLet gas station” to the driver. A lineup of bikers waits at the pumps to haul guests ($5) to the twelve humble bamboo cabanas splayed out on a spectacularly deserted white beach. The owners, a Canadian and his Vietnamese wife, provide all meals—rice-flour crêpes for breakfast, fiery papaya salads for lunch—and point the way to the coolest waterfall in the jungle.

Hoi An
Vietnam’s central coast is chock-a-block with expert tailor shops (many name-brand designers manufacture nearby). Linen shirts start at $5, suits $40. Just bring clippings from a few fashion magazines, pick your fabric (silk is big here), and go back to snorkeling. Jobs can be finished in two days—or a few hours, if you pay extra. The Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa (from $130; 84-510-927-040 or victoriahotels-asia.com) can arrange a pickup via the hotel’s own motorcycle sidecar.



LAOS
A gorgeous, staggeringly cheap nation becomes more so when you consider the dollar’s five-year, 13 percent rise over the kip.

INDULGENCE INDEX
Full-day raft rental: $3
Chocolate-banana crêpe: $1
Handwoven silk hanging: $4


Vang Vieng
Expand far beyond your gym’s climbing wall in this outdoor wonderland. Ask around for longtime hiking guide Mr. Kea ($12 per day), whose stand is near the Nang Bot Restaurant and whose mind contains a map of every waterfall, mountaintop, and jungle ravine in the region. Stay in one of Thavonsouk Resort’s rustic bungalows ($23; thavonsouk.com), with hard-to-find amenities like air- conditioning, Internet access, and room service.

Luang Prahbang
Choose from one of dozens of canoe guides sitting along the lazy Mekong River ($10 rental and guide per day), and paddle 90 minutes to the Pak Ou Caves, where centuries of locals have deposited carved Buddhas. In the cooler late afternoon, wander main drag Sisavanvong Road and fill your bags with local silks and weavings; the market’s relaxingly tame for the region—no hounding here. Stay at the relatively modern Sanakeo Hotel ($25 per night; 856-7125-2992 or agoda.com).



BALI, INDONESIA
Getting there is costly; everything else (hotels, food, tropical pampering) is not.
INDULGENCE INDEX
“Dancing Fingers” massage: $27
Temple guided tour: $4
Silver-filigree jewelry: $5


Ubud
Pay no more than half the opening price for silver jewelry, oil paintings, or sandstone sculptures on Jalan Raya Ubud. Then wander down to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary ($1 entry), which houses three temples and four troops of mischievous macaques. (Don’t go looking for them—they’ll find you.) The Bali Spirit Hotel and Spa (from $95; 62-361-974-013 or balispirithotel.com), on the banks of the Wos River, offers scandalously cheap spa treatments: The Lulur yogurt scrub and flower bath costs $25.

Seminyak
Skip the spring-break scene in Kuta for the current “It” village. Stay at Mutiara Bali Boutique Resort off the main street (from $50; 623-6173-4966 or mutiarabali.com) and explore the fashion and furniture boutiques outside your door on Laksamanat and Seminyak Streets. Snag a daybed on the rooftop lounge of the hot Anantara hotel (62-361-737-773 or bali.anantara.com) and indulge in the newest local ritual: sipping raspberry-infused cocktails ($8) while watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean.


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