We found Sidemen on the map last year. Although Nyoman our driver is a very busy guide, he hadn't been there for years and raised an eyebrow when we asked him to take us there.
Even the countryside to Sidemen area is beautiful and the journey is so watchable; rice terraces, farmers tending their crops, village communities going about their daily life and temples on the roadside overflowing with offerings. We just knew we would enjoy the coming days, this tiny village barely visible on the crease of our map.
The area has really only just been discovered and is on the way up as far as tourism is concerned. There are a couple of small boutique hotels that have recently been built in simply idyllic settings and surrounded by carpets of velvet green rice terraces.
The Gods of the towering Mount Agung cast a watchful and protective eye over Sidemen Valley. The Banjars of the surrounding villages also play a key role to ensure that there is only responsible development in the valley, thus conserving community life and creating sustainable tourism for the future.
You can wander through the Sidemen Valley and be as energetic or gentle and relaxed as you want. Trek through the floor of the valley, across streams or climb the hills to take in panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, which on a clear day stretch to the coast.
Guides are available, you just need to enquire at your hotel, but we never found it a problem to find our way back, local people are always happy to stop and chat to you before pointing you in the right direction.
We started off on the first morning of our stay and directed by the staff, headed down the valley to cross the 'stream'. Villager's young and old, overtaking us sloths with the agility of mountain goats! We soon found that the word 'stream' was understated and also the village bath!
Still, we made it to the other side without getting soaked and soon entered the valley, a real Garden of Eden, with pastures abundant with crops and being tended by the local village farmers. These old men with backs bent over when standing tall, the result of years of working the fields and their faces weather beaten by the constant harsh rays of sun, probably years younger than they actually look!
We stayed at the Uma Agung Villa. It recently opened, is Balinese owned/operated, good quality and represents excellent value. Perched on the side of a hill overlooked by Mount Agung, it's so tranquil here and a joy to get up in the mornings. When the sun would start to rise over the hills and stream into our room, hundreds of birds would circle, picking off dragonflies for their breakfast. How better to start the day than by watching the wonders of nature on your doorstep!
SURYA SHANTI VILLA HOTEL
We discovered the Surya Shanti Villa Hotel during one of our walks. It's a new boutique hotel, not quite finished when we were there, but we were able to meet the staff and tour around the rooms and the grounds. This has all of the ingredients to make a 'real gem' and we will definitely stay there on our next visit. The restaurant was open and provided a very tempting and creative menu, not something we had expected to find in Sideman and was a very pleasant and tasty surprise!
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