CHEAPEST PLACES ON EARTH
Hua Hin, Thailand
Bodysurf in the morning, make nice with mischievous monkeys in the afternoon, and end the day with a midnight snack at the night market.
Train ticket $11
Service from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Railway Station to Hua Hin costs about 382 baht ($11) for a plush, air-conditioned car (011-66/2222-0175, railway.co.th). The four-hour ride passes rice paddies and ornate yellow-and-red Buddhist temples before dropping you off at Hua Hin's 1920s art deco train station.
Beach hotel $21
The four-story Patchara House is only a minute's walk from the surf, at the end of a quiet, residential lane. The larger rooms on the top floor—up a very narrow staircase—have panoramic views of the town, and the in-room kitchenettes are stocked with complimentary coconut juice (011-66/3251-1787).
Horse tour $7
Jet Skis and speedboats aren't a common sight in the calm waters around Hua Hin, but you'll see plenty of horses on the three-mile-long beach. You can hire a horse and a guide at the entrance to the beach for $7 per half hour; more experienced riders can ask to be taken on a gallop in the surf.
Spicy fish $7
Around lunchtime, stroll to the end of the pier and watch the fishermen unload the day's catch and deliver it by creaky cart to Hua Hin's dockside restaurants. Ketsarin serves a delicious fillet of grouper cooked in a fiery sauce of chili, lemongrass, and galanga, a pungent Asian ginger (011-66/3251-1339).
The ultrafine, cream-colored sand feels like powdered sugar. Even the waves are pretty sweet, rarely exceeding two feet, which is perfect for bodysurfing. But be careful of the boulders (hin means "rock") that jut out of the water just off shore.
Tuk-tuk ride $6
Hail a tuk-tuk, a rickshaw with a plastic roof, to take you to Khao Takiap (Chopstick Hill) at the southern tip of the beach. The Wat Khao Takiap temple, also known as Monkey Mountain, has views of the coast and a resident group of wily macaques that hang out along the paths. Vendors sell bags of chunk pineapple and mango, which the monkeys love to snatch from tourists.
Satay stick 7¢
Hua Hin's night market, a two-block stretch of food stalls and purveyors of various Thai handicrafts, opens around dusk and closes at midnight. You can buy fresh grilled fish, satay skewers, and pad thai with a made-to-order level of spiciness.