Even if you live in a place like Bali, every once in awhile you just need to get away. So after a few false starts – such as a cancellation the previous week due to a friend’s change of plans, and a couple of drivers who backed out at the last minute – I made my way to Sidemen (pronounced SEED-eh-min). Ahhh, probably, hands down, my favorite place on this island. But don’t tell anyone that I told you that… because if word gets around, it will no longer be the exquisite oasis of peace and tranquility that it still (somehow?!) manages to retain.
From the moment that I’m dropped off, and Jero greets me, takes my bag and leads the way to my preferred room, I feel like I’m home. Truly, while living in Bali, I’ve come to consider Embang Homestay to be my home away from home. Just look at my TripAdvisor reviews. I can’t gush enough about the Embang Experience, about Jero, about her husband Gusti, their kids, the staff, the grounds of their property and how much love and attention to detail they put into it. It’s nothing less than a homestay with heart.
However, to shake me up a bit this time around, just moments after Jero raised the bamboo blinds on the terrace and we had a quick catch-up, she left my room to prepare a welcome drink and snack… and as if out of nowhere, in mere moments, the quiet raindrops morphed into a heavy onslaught, a violent thunder and lightning storm, with winds that nearly knocked me over, as I stood in ankle-deep water on the terrace, holding tight to the blinds that I’d lowered but couldn’t anchor by myself. Oh what a hilarious yet mildly terrifying experience it was, Jero, Gusti and I battling winds and water. Within 30 minutes, all had calmed down, the floor was wiped dry and we had a good laugh.
Over the years, I’ve often spent full days at Embang, without so much as stepping foot out onto the road – which is entirely possible since I come armed with plenty of reading and writing, relaxing, talking with Jero and watching her weave at the loom; seeing how Gusti pitches in to help his hired hands in the fields below; plus I can order all my meals (yum) at their warung, and if I’m in need of serious R&R, there is nowhere in Sidemen that I really must go.
But I decided to set out a couple of times, curious to know how the fields were looking, what the villagers were up to this season, how many other travelers I’d come across. Jero also knocked on my door – at 6:30, knowing I’d be up and keen – to join her for a morning walk to the market.
You need to spend time in a village like Sidemen to really experience a traditional morning market, where chickens are slaughtered right there and then, where rice porridge is sold next to kiosks peddling shirts and flipflops, and where goopy-looking sweet drinks (utterly not tempting to me) are ladled into plastic bags for a morning snack. It’s a relatively small affair, this morning market, but full of color, banter, tiny bills of exchange being exchanged and – on this particular morning, after an overnight downpour – plenty of puddles to wade through.
My visits to this little soulful slice of paradise somehow always end up feeling too short, as if I’ve only just moments ago settled in to the blissfully slower pace of life on this narrow winding road, in a tiny hamlet, that quite literally leads to a dead end… with nothing there, no pot of gold – except for glorious quiet punctuated with a cacophony of bells, cows, goats and frogs, coupled with the most sweeping expanses of green lushness, mountainscape and sky that you could ever wish to see.
p.s. By the way, if you ever get a hankering to avoid all things Christmas (and I mean ALL, as in not a hint of holly, nor a smidgen of Santa – which is no problem for me as I don’t celebrate anyway), Sidemen’s got your number.