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Having traveled to Bali and other parts of Indonesia over 30 times, I've been fantasizing about what my dream trip would look like - if time and finances weren't an issue.

As I'm writing this, Indonesia's borders are still closed due to Covid-19. It has been almost a year and a half since I was last in Bali, which is the longest lapse since I first visited the island in 1988.

On my most recent trip, in December of 2019, I treated myself to an abbreviated Bali dream trip, spending four nights each at two of my very favorite hotels (preceded by three enjoyable nights in Singapore). Reminiscing about that trip led me to conjure up a month-long dream trip that includes Bali, a couple other Indonesian islands, Singapore and Malaysian Borneo. (Indonesian Borneo - known as Kalimantan - is wonderful for visitors with limited time to spend. With Malaysian Borneo, one can travel deeper into the rainforest.)

I've selected these destinations with an emphasis on favorite places to stay, gorgeous scenery, access to nature and relaxation. It's not an ideal itinerary for everyone. And, come to think of it, I wouldn't mind extending it beyond one month. But, here we go:

First stop: I would start my trip with three nights in Singapore, staying in the Clarke Quay or Marina areas of the city. I love to walk or take a bumboat ride along the Singapore River. The Botantical Gardens, which include the Orchid Garden, are definitely worth a visit - as is Gardens by the Bay. And, don't forget the ethnic neighborhoods.

Second stop: I would fly to Yogyakarta in Central Java and venture into the countryside for a stay at Plataran Borobudur - one of my favorite boutique hotels. I would spend four nights in a pool villa with a view of Mt. Merapi volcano and Borobudur (the world's largest Buddhist temple complex).

Third stop: After flying to Bali I would immediately head into the mountains to the Munduk countryside. I would ensconce myself in a villa with lush gardens, extensive vistas and an outdoor shower at Munduk Moding Plantation Nature Resort & Spa, a working coffee plantation with hiking trails and a world famous infinity pool. I would devote a good deal of time to reading, napping and having spa treatments. Munduk Moding's spa has some of the best spa prices to be found at any of Bali's resorts. I would spend four nights at Munduk Moding.

Fourth stop: I'm off to Komodo National Park for a three night stay at Plataran Komodo. Any of the villas will certainly suit me, but since money is no object on this dream trip I'll opt for the secluded Grand pool villa. This is the jump-off point for a visit to Rinca or Komodo islands to see the famous Komodo dragons. But, it's also an area with top-notch snorkeling and stunning views of deserted islands.

Fifth stop: Upon returning to Bali I would head to Ubud, the art and cultural center of the island. I would spend five nights at COMO Shambhala Estate, located about 10 to 15 minutes from the heart of Ubud town. I would choose a COMO Shambhala suite in one of the residences. I might be tempted to go into town once or twice, but it's so hard to leave this property that I might end up spending the entire stay on site. There's a path that goes down to the Ayung River; two spas - including one situated amidst the thick tropical foliage halfway to the river; a small gym with views so spectacular that you won't mind spending time on the treadmill; some of the best food in Bali (which is saying a lot, because it's hard to get a bad meal in Bali); and fantastic service including an assigned butler. I think I may have just talked myself into a seven night stay, instead of five nights.

Sixth stop: Because of flight schedules, it will take most of the day to get there (changing planes in Kuala Lumpur), but I'm now ready to head to Sabah state in Malaysian Borneo. It will be necessary to spend the first night in the town of Kota Kinabalu. The next morning there's a short flight to Sandakan and a transfer to the pier for a couple hour boat ride to Sukau Rainforst Lodge, located on the Kinabatangan River. The days would be spent mainly on the river enjoying the serenity of the rainforest and looking for wildlife (such as orangutans, pygmy elephants, exotic birds and more). There are even caves to be explored. My four night stay would be in a Borneo villa.

Seventh stop: From Sukau I would travel by road to Lahad Datu town to check in at the Borneo Nature Tours office, before continuing into Danum Valley and Borneo Rainforest Lodge, where I would spend four nights in a premium deluxe chalet. Danum Valley is home to the largest dipterocarp rainforest in Sabah. This is an area of original old-growth jungle, which has never been cut down. Days would be spent on nature walks to look for a large variety of wildlife including orangutans, Pygmy elephants, mouse deer, wild boars, Sambar deer, gibbons, 270 varieties of birds and so much more. There's a canopy walk, trails to waterfalls, tubing on the river (weather permitting) and night drives and night walks to search for nocturnal animals.

Eighth stop: After my wonderful stay in the rainforest I'll return to Lahad Datu, fly back to Kota Kinabalu and head to Jesselton Jetty for the short boat ride to Gaya Island. At Bungaraya Resort it will be tempting to take a sea-facing plunge pool villa, but I might opt for a more secluded deluxe hillside villa with views of the jungle and sea. Activites at Bungaraya include jungle treks, zip lining, canopy walks, kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling and a sunset cruise. The resort also boasts a wine cellar with 4,000+ bottles. After four nights at Bungaraya it will be time (sigh) to start the journey home.

What a great trip this would be! Of course, I might decide that it's too much moving around, in which case I could just keep the Bali portion and tack on a SeaTrek Sailing Adventure to some of the most remote islands in the Indonesian archipelago. What to do? It's a such a dilemma.

Diane Embree
May 12, 2021

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