For those of our readers who still take holidays, we conducted a poll last week to find out which Southeast Asian destination offers the best value -- because a bankers' ransom is not what it used to be.
The overwhelming verdict of our readers is that Indonesia is the cheapest place to go this summer, followed by Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia, in that order. Despite our readers' increasingly eccentric voting patterns, Indonesia seems a reasonable choice.
A cursory glance at Mandarin Oriental's rack rates shows a deluxe room in August costs $345 a night in Bangkok, which would get you a club room in Manila -- plus change for a taxi to the airport. In Jakarta, a deluxe room is just $173 (and about the same in Kuala Lumpur), which is literally half the price of Bangkok.
The Economist's Big Mac Index, which uses the price of burgers around the world as a light-hearted measure of relative currency values, might be better used as a benchmark for tourists to work out how expensive an unfamiliar country is going to be. However, the evidence of this data is the opposite of the Mandarin data: a Big Mac in Indonesia costs $2.28 -- more expensive than either Thailand ($2.16) or Malaysia ($2.12).
The most recent iteration of the index, published in March, does not show how much it costs for a Big Mac in the Philippines, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is lower than in either Thailand or Malaysia.
That makes the Philippines the cheapest place for both burgers and hotel rooms. The peso also has the advantage of getting cheaper. The rupiah, on the other hand, has strengthened so far this year. It costs about Rp9,000 to buy a dollar today, compared to Rp9,350 at the start of the year. Baht and ringgit exchange rates have also strengthened. The peso is almost unique in the region, having consistently weakened against the dollar this year.
On the upside, readers stuck in Hong Kong for the summer can take advantage of the second-cheapest Big Macs in the world -- cheaper even than China.