Bargain Destinations (Even if You’re Loaded)

malaysia islandTravel & Leisure’s March issue has a lot of stories with the words “affordable” and “value” in them. Never mind that these articles are next to ads for Hermes, Mercedes, and Porsche.

Some of it is predictably comical, like a “World’s Best Values” list of hotels where #1 is $1,980 per night and #6 is $2,120. You have to admire their cajones. I’ve stayed in their #1 value for Asia (Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur) while on an assignment and while I would call it heavenly and amazing, $600 a night is not a “value” unless money has no meaning to you. Consider that the amount is more than the average annual wage there and it will buy you a month’s worth of first-class train tickets or the services of a maid for a whole year.

But I’ll stop ragging on them now since we do at least agree the places that are a deal. Their five value destinations and five islands are all included in The World’s Cheapest Destinations.

Cities: Chiang Mai, Kathmandu, Mendoza, Hanoi, and Bangkok

Islands: Bali, Phuket, Ko Samui, Langkawi, Borneo

Note that three of the cities and all of the islands are in Southeast Asia–there’s a clue that the region is doing a bang-up job of making everyone happy, from backpackers to jet-setters. Now THAT’s value.

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  1. Steve H.

    That´s interesting that Mendoza is at #3 (assuming that´s the Argentine Mendoza) – I´m there now and have to say that it´s definitely cleaner and has more of a 1st-world infrastructure than any of the other AR cities I´ve been to, including Buenos Aires. The largest, best-value grocery stores feel slightly more like Shaws and Stop and Shop back home, and they aren´t chaotic madhouses (the Super VEA stores, for example, seem to be the lowest priced option in many cities, but they are always friggin mobbed – like 40 minutes to check out). The produce is generally much, much better. The hotels seem to be generally a step up as well, although definitely more expensive than other AR cities with the exception of Bs. As…the cheapest one I found after looking for almost 2 hours (I didn´t want to spend more than 25 bucks unless I had to) was 16 dollars. A quick tour of restaurant display menus and those seem slightly more expensive as well. Not sure about the wineries, I toured those fairly extensively in Cafayete and don´t know if I´ll make time for the tours offered here. But yeah, bottom line – Mendoza is unique unto itself from what I´ve seen.

  2. tim

    Not as much history there, but a very pleasant city indeed. Nice Andes backdrop, a huge park, nice city squares, good weather. The winery tours are much more fun in Cafayate in my opinion. The places are more laid-back and are easier to get to. They are veeerrrrry spread out in Mendoza and quite a ride from the center.

  3. laura

    I came back from Thailand a few days ago and seriously wish someone would be the kabosh on travel to Phuket. This place was like Cancun on crack to me. They (Thai governement, international and domestic hotels chains) have completely destroyed the landscape and have done a real number on the environment. Motorboats and poor anchoring skills harm the beautiful coral, rubbish lines the beach and lies at the bottom of the Andaman sea. The streets of Patong and Karon Beach are full of package tourists from Europe who would never even know and may not even care that they were in Thailand. I stayed for two days and then headed north to the Khao Lak area. I did, at the end of the the day, find humour in the situation and viewed the prostitutes and their customers as exotic fish.

    It is getting more difficult every year to visit the Thai beaches and islands without frustration at overdevelopment. Koh Samui also approaches Phuket in terms of insanity. Don’t even get me started on Kho Phi-Phi either…

    I am wondering if the people who compiled these lists have even been to some of these places. Again, this is all my own observation and preference and there seem to be hundreds of thousands of people who love these types of places. With the cities, they are right on the mark.Where else can you can stay in one of the world’s top hotels (Mandarin Oriental) Bangkok for less around $300 (worth every penny and more for historical value and atomosphere) and can also find a posh and flawless guesthouse in a beautiful area for $15.

    I also want to mention that the Conde Naste article from few months back called “35 Thai beach resorts under $200 a night” was misguided. Most or all of those prices quoted were for the monsoon season from May to November. Not that you can’t get good weather then, but I am not flying around the world to save a buck on a mediocre hotel during a severe storm season.

  4. tim

    Laura, you won’t hear any argument from me on any of these points. The glossy travel mags only like to hype places that will garner them lots of advertising, which means only the places with plenty of development—preferably from chain hotels with big ad budgets. It’s a big joke, with the funniest part being their insistence that they’re not biased because their writers don’t accept press trip invites. One $250,000 ad buy pays for a lot of writer and photographer expenses…

  5. laura

    Ah ha! I didn’t think of this last point of yours! So I won’t hold much hope much for this month’s “Affordable Greece”!

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