Pronounced See-da-men, Sidemen was probably my favourite places in Bali. Sidemen is a village among sprawling rice fields. For me, Sidemen was everything that I expected of Bali – visually stunning, traditional, tranquil and friendly people. This is the place you want to go if you are seeking a little of the “real” Bali, where people go about their day to day. The people are interested in you because they are curious, not because they see you as a source of income. This is the place for you if you want a quiet getaway. I never felt rushed or like I was missing out on anything. I just loved it.
We arrived in the afternoon from Gili Air via Pandang Bai. Driving from Padang Bai into the more mountainous region of Bali was exciting – as this is where all the good rice terraces are. Our accommodation, just outside of the main town was a little slice of heaven. We spent the afternoon having a wander around, getting our bearings, scoping out places to eat (there are only Warungs) and solidifying plans for the rest of our stay.
Rice fields! All we could see from the deck of our accommodation was rice fields. What a wondrous trek we were in for! Instead of hiring a guide, we just decided to wander on our own, allowing us as much time as our hearts desired to take hundreds of photos and marvel at the scenery. Before heading out, we stopped at Villa Karma Loka (the sister hotel to our accommodation) to obtain a map of the area – we needed at least a reference.
We got a little lost – missed a turn onto a path through the terraces. We were distracted by the school children, who wanted to say hi. Kelsie had her Polaroid camera with her so we gave the children some photos. It was such fun watching them, watch the photo develop and appear as if by magic. Missing our turn was worth it as we found a Warung with unreal views, and really, half the fun is getting a little lost.
The terraces are amazing when you view them from ground-level, but they are even more impressive when viewed from above because you can see the expanse and the terracing. After a quick snack of Nanas Goreng (battered and deep-fried pineapple) with dipping syrup (absolutely delicious by the way) we continued on. The road took us through 2 villages, where we caught sneak peeks of village life – drying out the rice harvest, washing the rice and offering to the Gods.
Photos express the beauty of Sidemen much better than my words can.
Swim & Dinner
After nearly 5 hours of walking in the humidity, we needed a swim in the pool. We also may have been going through swimming withdrawals after having been on Gili Air for 6 days and being in the water multiple times a day. Our accommodation Bebek Biru did not have a pool, but we were allowed to use the pool at Villa Karma Loka, the sister hotel, a huge perk! The pool was a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the terraces we had just wandered through earlier in the day. The water was cold, so we only had a quick dip, enjoying the sunset over the rice terraces. Dinner was at the same Warung we ate the previous night, and would eat at again the next. The food delicious and the hosts so lovely. We went to bed early, as our ride was arriving at 0630 the next day!
Our alarm went off before the sun had risen. We stumbled around, getting ready for the day. Our very kind hosts made us a small breakfast of toast and coffee before our ride arrived. Our first destination: Lempuyang Temples atop Mount Lempuyang. We had the most magical drive from Sidemen to the temples. The sun was rising and twinkling through the trees. There was a fine mist hovering around the earth. The combination of sunrise and mist created a dream-like quality. It was the perfect precursor to the day. After a very steep and winding drive up to Lempuyang, we were the only visitors at the temple. It had just opened.
Lempuyang – one of the 9 directional temples
At the entrance you are given a sarong and show you a map of the site. There is no fee, but a donation is appreciated to maintain the temples. It was a quick walk to the first temple Lempuyang Luhur. You first see a large set of stairs and open archway that seem to lead directly into the sky. A stairway to heaven if I’ve ever seen one. The day was beautiful, the sky was blue with only a few fluffy white clouds scattered around. Hold off on turning around to see that way you came until after you have climbed the stairs.
Lempuyang is known as “Gateway to Heaven” and there is little question why. Once up the stairs and through the open arch, turn around. In front of you is Mount Agung, the believed home of the Gods. The rest of the view is Bali. If you are far enough from the stairs, you won’t see the stairway below, or the entrance to the temple, just the mountain and sky, like standing on the edge of the world. AND no one else was there. I always have to revel a little when I am the only one somewhere so amazing.
If you can pry your eyes from the view, spend some time ogling the next set of stairs, adorned in black and white checkered fabric. To continue you, take the outer sets of stairs and through the doors. The middle set is for priests only. Because we arrived so early, the doors were locked and we could venture no farther. There are 6 more shrines but they require a hike up ~1700 steps, and about 4-5 hours.
Besakih – center of the directional temples
The Mother temple. The largest and most holy temple in Bali. Three of the Hindu Gods are worshiped here: Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, each with their own temple complex. It is situated about 900 meters up Mount Agung.
When you arrive, you pay a fee of 35,000 IDR ($3.50) which includes a sarong, a motorbike ride from the ticket booth to the temple and a tour guide. Your guide will likely also ask for a tip. Be wary of women giving you a bag of supplies for an offering, they will make you pay for them.
Compared to our morning temple experience, Besakih was very different. It was busy and noisy. Our guide walked and talked fast, though he was very knowledgeable and we learned a lot. Being such a larger complex, it was hard to take everything in. The architecture is stunning and very classically Balinese. The various colours fabrics and flags are associated with different Gods. At the top of the complex, the views are great.
Feeling very satisfied but tired from our adventures for the morning, we had a relaxing afternoon reviewing photos we took during the day, packing and finalizing plans for the next leg of our trip.
I really enjoyed our stay in Sidemen. I felt like we were able to see a little more of the real Bali. That being said, travelers like myself are always looking for places that are “off the beaten track” or more “authentic”. The owner of our favourite warung had noticed an increase in travelers visiting Sidemen. This lovely village will not be a secret for long. I almost wish I wasn’t sharing the name of this village in my post, just to keep it secret a little longer.
If you do have more time in Sidemen here are some other things to consider:
- White Water Rafting
- Weaving class
- Waterfall trek
- Climb Mount Agung or Mount Batur
- Bali Wine Making (Arak)
- More Temple Tours
Today we left Sidemen. Next up, more beach time on the island of Nusa Lembongan. I would have liked one more day in Sidemen. We hired a driver to Sanur to catch the ferry, as Sidemen was outside the free pick-up area, we did however have free transport to our accommodation on Nusa Lembongan.
Keep your eyes peeled for my Nusa Lembongan post on September 16th!
Have you been to Sidemen? Share your experiences with me in the comments below!
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