I accept that I won’t win any headline writing awards for the title of this piece, but really, for all those who want to complain about how busy Bali is these days, how bad the traffic is, how you can’t swing a cat without hitting a drunk Australian in Kuta, how Ubud is under attack by Eat, Pray, Love yoga mat-wielding tourists… for God’s sake, get out of there and make a side trip to Sidemen!
It’s about an 80-minute drive from Sanur to get to Sidemen — add on another 30 minutes if you’re coming from Kuta (if you must go to Kuta, alright, I shall help you leave). What you’ll find is a pretty little sprawling village, sprinkled with a decent range of places to stay, and more under construction while we were there (so perhaps the hordes are coming). Pretty much everywhere will have views overlooking yawning ampitheatres of terraced rice paddy.
You aren’t exactly spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do in Sidemen, but this is the point. Put your feet up, enjoy a view of Gunung Agung punctured prettily by coconut palms, and skirted by frangipani trees, hibiscus bushes and blushing chilli plants.
Read a book, have a swim if you’re staying where we stayed (Uma Agung
– the only place we believe with a pool) and go for a wander. Our receptionist told us we could hire a guide for 60,000 rupiah per hour (no matter how many people in your group) and recommended a hike to a temple up on a nearby hill that takes around three to four hours return; you can also make a day trip to Besakih from here pretty easily.
While our hotel was at the pricey end of the spectrum, it was still definitely good value for money. For 450,000 rupiah per night ($60 during high season, we were warned) we had a spotless, spacious room that chilled deliciously from dusk onwards, making air-con unnecessary but one of the two comfy duvets provided essential.
We had a veranda with chairs directly overlooking the infinity-edge pool. If you’re travelling with kids, be warned that there are quite a few steps here, though my 3.5 year old was okay to wander around with minimal supervision — that is, I kept him within eyeshot at all times but didn’t hover. The pool had a decent little shallow splash area that was perfect for him, though older kids intent on having fun may need to be carefully watched at the edge as the drop over the side is about three metres or so high.
The deckchairs were a little on the tired side, but the lush, obviously carefully maintained gardens were gorgeous. While WiFi is unavailable, internet access is available at the reception if you simply have to check in (and we got a reasonable 3G signal).
We found the restaurant a little on the slow and uninspired side, but a few other places lie within easy striking distance, so if we’d stayed longer than a night (sad face) we could have mixed things up a bit. Service was friendly and obliging.
The road getting to Sidemen is a little underwhelming and quite potholed — trucks ferrying sand from a nearby river can slow things down. You’ll catch a few glimpses of prettiness but it really isn’t beautiful until suddenly, you’re there — thinking about all those silly souls elsewhere.
By Samantha Brown
Last updated on 17th April, 2015.