You don’t hear much about Borneo. Six months ago, what I knew about Borneo could fit on a postage stamp; better yet, in a Tweet.
Music by Cocteau Twins, The Beatles, Kishi Bashi, Suzanne Vega, and Fantastic Plastic Machine.
Santi Mandala Villa & Spa was nothing short of magical. For $100/night we had a private villa with exotic outdoor bathroom at this quiet resort in Ubud, Bali. There’s nothing as serene as sitting on your private deck gazing at a waterfall and watching the birds flitter by. The grounds are lush, hilly, and floral with lots of stone paths to explore on your spa day in, which you’ll need after pounding the pavement for a day or two. The excellent breakfast spread included pink crepes and a pool view.
It’s hard not to describe Bali in hyperbolic terms like “paradise” and for good reason. One of 17,000 islands in Indonesia, this home of four million people is only 90 miles (east to west) by 50 miles (north to south) but infused with ornate temples, picturesque rice fields, and fresh organic food. Eighty percent of visitors…
Contrast the fury with which Balinese drive to the languid charm of terraced rice fields, blackened temples, and impromptu gardens. After our sojourn up the enchanting mountain, I was irresistibly draw down. A steep descent through charcoaled lava fields was rewarded with this stunning lake view and a spontaneous dip in hot springs, eh hem, sans swim suit (no photographic evidence below). Hey, that’s why I always bring a scarf when I travel.
Not for the faint of heart or flimsy of shoe, a visit to the idyllic Gunung Kawi temple in Tampaksiring requires descending nearly 400 steps, which is fine until you realize there’s no way out but back up. As Balinese never miss a merchandising opportunity, the steps down to the temple are lined with fierce hawkers (watch out for the women) of sarongs, jewelry, and all the standard Balinese bric-a-brac. Whatever you do, don’t buy until you’re almost out of the place.
Just being near the mountain was invigorating for me. Without going all Crouching Tiger, I truly felt a sort of energy from it, and at the same time, a peaceful tranquility. We couldn’t have had a better view, a refreshing breeze wafting through open-air balcony of Grand Puncak Sari Restaurant where we lunched. This is a good time to tell you just how fresh, spicy, and flavorful Indonesian food is. For someone who subsists on veggies, tofu, and seafood, I was in heaven.
Our Bali discovery started at the quiet and somewhat spartan Ubud Sari Health Resort, which caters to vegans, vegetarians, cleansers, detoxers, and well, us regular American pudge folk. We were just on vacation, but a room sans phone, WIFI, and TV was just what we needed to unplug and download for a bit. We didn’t mind not eating meat or gluten for a few days either. Even though we couldn’t be classified as serious health nuts, we enjoyed all the fresh, natural foods available in Bali.
Kayaking through Palau’s Rock Islands by default feels like being a castaway in an undiscovered paradise. This was my second time to take this day trip and it was no less exhilarating than nearly two years ago.
Palau is really a magical place. Once the setting for a season of Survivor, this tiny Micronesian island chain is home to a gazillion kinds of coral, sea life, and breathtaking rock islands. This was my second visit and working vacation. Read my full travel story.