Sideman, pronounced like cinnamon, is known for its rice terraces as well as its deep spiritual nature. Logistically it also made a good overnight stop for us, on the way to the east coast of Bali. We rode from Ubud for about three hours on narrow twisty roads to reach the small town, stopping only to ask for directions. Signs are hit and miss here, and once or twice we had to turn around and retrace our steps.
We were really interested in trying homestays on this trip. A homestay involves staying with a Balinese family in their compound. We liked the idea not only for the experience but also because it was a way of making sure our tourist dollars were going directly into the pockets of the Balinese locals. Most homestays are not advertised online but we'd read that Sideman had several. We knew we'd made the right choice as we approached the town and the scenery looked like this:
As a basis for comparison we stopped at this house on the hill. For sure, you could get a luxurious room with an incredible view for only IDR500,000/night. But the only Balinese we saw were clearly employees and that wasn't the atmosphere we were after. We found out later that this business is owned by a Dutch family. Continuing down the road, a bright yellow sign beckoned.
A Sweet Homestay was reached by a narrow alleyway; though we knew it wouldn't have a view that didn't matter to us. We'd be out exploring until it got dark and who can see a view after that anyway? Right away we got a good vibe. An older Balinese gentleman stood up the moment we rode in and introduced himself in broken English and a big smile. He showed us a room, wrote down a price and we accepted all within the space of five minutes.
As you can see, it had just rained - we actually arrived in the rain - which probably also helped us to make a quick decision. But instinctively we knew it was the right one.
Our room, for IDR150,000/night (about US$12.50/night), included breakfast for two, a private bathroom and hot water. No wi-fi or a/c but we didn't need them.
Breakfast was served in the restaurant consisting of two tables. We also ate dinner here because it was such a convenient option. We pre-ordered from their menu so that they could make the necessary purchases in order to make it fresh, preparing it only when we were ready to eat. With all that settled we could leisurely explore the area and find a late lunch in town.
As it happened this was the first thing we saw in the way of food for sale. With our tummies growling loudly we said, "Two, please", not having the least idea what we'd just ordered!
It was a soup with funny things in it. Since trying it we've noticed 'Bakso Ayam' listed as an option at several eateries but we still don't know exactly what's in it. We think the pale meatballs are pork-based; the largest meatball had a hard-boiled egg inside it. The white bits are pounded rice, and there were identifiable vegetables. Other than that, it's a mystery! Served hot, it was spicy and delicious and we ate/drank every last drop! IDR14,000 for two servings.
We ate on the side of the road, comfortably seated on concrete slabs no more than three feet from passing traffic! When we handed back our clean dishes we were rewarded with the biggest smile ever! With full tummies we set off to explore the area. Sideman is closer to the mountains than the Ceking rice terraces but it's still lush and tropical.
We found out that under the brown, dried and harvested rice stalks were sweet potatoes and chili plant seedlings. Rice is planted in between these rows.
Mt. Agung, an active volcano, presides over the fertile valley -
The intensity of colour is incredible -
The following morning we were treated to a special Indonesian breakfast; pounded rice with palm sugar and coconut. There are three different items on the plate but every one of them is pounded rice. The small triangles have also been wrapped in banana leaves. Served cold, this was an amazing treat - very sweet and tasty!
In the morning we learned that the Wayans have worked in the hotel industry and it definitely shows. Mr. Wayan runs the homestay and competently does all the cooking. Mrs. Wayan still works as a massage therapist for a spa nearby as well as offering her services to staying guests once she returns home at night. Manis, Mr Wayan's father also helps to run the family business.
Thank you Wayan, Wayan and Manis for the sweetest sweet home stay!
Note on current exchange rate: US$1.00 is about Indonesian Rupiah IDR12,160 is about ZAR10.60