Photo: Statue and a volcano.


Sideman (pronounced si de man — not side man) is one of those hidden-away Bali retreats that really is, well, just enchanting. Set a 45-minute drive inland from Padang Bai and an hour from Candi Dasa, Sideman straddles one of the many agricultural valleys that form the ramp up to the imposing peak of volcanic Gunung Agung.

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While it is primarily a rice growing area, there's all manner of other crops and nurseries in the area — including chillies (which we don't recommend eating whole). There's also a temple at the summit of a very steep set of stairs that offers tremendous views, a scenic river flowing through the valley floor and ample opportunity for both trekking (while other spots are more convenient, you can organise an ascent of Gunung Agung from Sideman) and just more easy-going wanders through the ricefields.

Most hotels in Sideman will be able to supply you with a basic map of the area and this forms a good starting point. A sealed road loops around much of the valley, passing by the stairs to the temple and some excellent viewpoints, but a good idea is to take the road for a bit, then veer off into the paddies via one of the myriad dirt trails you'll see.

You will get lost, but that is half the fun. We followed a coursing irrigation canal that ended up delivering us to a tree-shaded temple we could probably never find again. On the way we found more chilli crops and roughly half the duck population of Bali. We also stumbled upon another village, even more views — very briefly catching Gunung Agung through the clouds — before suddenly realising we were at the opposite end of the map to where we thought we were.

Sideman is worth at least an overnight stay, but if you've got the time and enjoy walking in the fields, you could easily spend two or three relaxing nights here. There's also a small but growing selection of restaurants to choose from.

Note there are no banking facilities in Sideman and we found the internet to still be a bit patchy, but the 3G coverage is definitely better than it was in late 2010!

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