“Sometimes you just want to head for the hills – preferably green ones. Toss in fields of emerald padi, beautiful vistas, a gurgling little river and you have a place fit for the gods.” Sultry Sidemen lies about twenty minutes north of the old royal town of Klungkung, whose market and historic accoutrements make it a perfect stop along the way, before turning into one of Bali’s most beautiful areas. Sidemen is best known as a weaving area as well as a place of great beauty. Villagers weave in their homes before taking it down to Klungkung Market or to one of the tourist shops that have sprung up in the area. The island’s best songket comes from the Sidemen area which developed in the 17th century.

Text & Photos by Ayu Sekar

“Sometimes you just want to head for the hills – preferably green ones. Toss in fields of emerald padi, beautiful vistas, a gurgling little river and you have a place fit for the gods.”

Sultry Sidemen lies about twenty minutes north of the old royal town of Klungkung, whose market and historic accoutrements make it a perfect stop along the way, before turning into one of Bali’s most beautiful areas.

Sidemen is best known as a weaving area as well as a place of great beauty.  Villagers weave in their homes before taking it down to Klungkung Market or to one of the tourist shops that have sprung up in the area. The island’s best songket comes from the Sidemen area which developed in the 17th century. This luscious richly decorated cloth, is woven with silks and gold or silver thread, and is much sought after by collectors, especially the finely made older pieces. Until about thirty years ago, the cloth was worn only by the higher castes, who used it in performances and ceremonial displays of wealth, but now it is popular wedding apparel for anyone who can afford to buy it.

Looking out over verdant rice fields is the Sadhu Tiles Factory – a family-run home industry that produces high quality, iconic quality cement tiles – sought after by designers and people of taste to decorate their villas and high end restaurants. They produce these traditional tiles using quality cement and colours imported from Holland and designs can be ordered in both traditional and modern styles. People tend to fall in love with them and the ambience they add to a home is exceptional – so different to the ubiquitous factory made product that is the norm.

Now Barbara and Wayan have created a small resort in the midst of a lush river setting in the Sidemen Valley. Small comfortable bungalows decorated with their famous tiles snuggle close to the little Unda River. Every thing is as natural as possible – even the spring fed swimming pool is filtered by a system involving plants – very natural, very clear, very enjoyable.

They have worked to make it as pleasing as possible. Their columned and curtained restaurant looks across to the river and their Balinese food options are particularly good. If you stay, be sure to order their bebek (duck) or ayam betutu (chicken dish) in advance. It is delicious but needs a few hours to prepare.

While I was there, Wayan organized us a massage with a local Balian (healer) – Mangku Mastra – a gregarious man with a huge warm smile (you can find him on trip advisor). After a little sales talk preamble, he got down to giving a fabulous massage, which he explained is the only chakra massage in the world. As with many good healers, he only needs to work on a body for a short time, to discern what health problems you may have. Then he will do what he can to alleviate them. After a fairly painful first massage, I was ready to flee, but he told me I would need at least five to get back into good shape. Feeling a lot better the next day, I decided to brave a second one and amazingly, instead of feeling that I wanted to destroy him, I felt something a lot like love, as he just made me feel so much better. I can’t wait to get back for my third!

People come here to relax and enjoy nature.  We went for a night and stayed for three and if time permitted, more would have been even better.  Time just slows down until you fall under the spell of nature. Walks through the surrounding fields, exploring weaving villages and meeting the odd settler makes for a delightful respite from just about everything. The more you relax, the more attractive it becomes, until the idea of rushing back, anywhere seems senseless. 

Walks can take minutes or hours depending on your preference. A temple perched high on a nearby hill provided an exciting challenge, which after the first day, seemed just too much to deal with. Better to relax by the pool and make a simple foray into the village and leave that challenge for another, more energetic time.

Walking through the yellowing fields at harvest time is a delight. Sidemen folk still grow traditional Balinese rice, which has a longer stalk and is more slow growing than the newer hybrids. This rice is tied into bunches rather than threshed and is carefully stored in family lumbungs or rice barns where it is stored until needed for ceremonies.

There is plenty to do once you fall into the rhythm of the country and even city folk are surprised when they find they can live without the fast pace they are used to. !

Darmada

Jl. Raya Luah Banjar Tabola, 

Sidemen, Bali 

T: +62 853 3803 2100

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