Gili Islands to Sidemen
After finishing up our stint in Kuta, Lombok it was time to see what the rest of the island had to offer. We took the bike for a cruise northbound and spent a night in Senggigi. We really were only there long enough to grab a meal and see the sunset, that we’d heard was spectacular as it provides views of Mt. Agung in neighbouring Bali as it sets behind. However, it was rather cloudy and we really didn’t see much of anything besides soft oranges, reds, and yellows. After an early rise we headed up to Seneru, the base town before trekking up Mt. Rinjani to check out two beautiful waterfalls that despite what the locals will try to convince you of, it’s quite an easy hike to do on your own and the route is well trodden. There are two waterfalls, the first is a quick 5-minute hike down and is very crowded, the second, is a beautiful 20-minute walking through a dense jungle and through a couple streams to a much larger and more secluded waterfall AND you can swim in it!
Our morning featured a 2-hour motorbike coupled with a bunch of hiking to and around the waterfalls. After a quick lunch we drove for another 1.5 hours to Bangsal, a cheap port to get to the three Gili Islands. It’s popular knowledge that Gigi Meno is the most lax, sparse, and calm island, Gili Trawangan (commonly known as Gili T) is the busy, condensed, party island, and Gili Air is somewhere in between. We’re all for a balance so we booked a 10,000rp ($0.90) ferry to Gili Air, the closest of the Gilis.
When you first arrive at Gili Air you’re greeted immediately by the clear blue waters, the friendly faces, and the quietness. Since there are no motorbikes allowed in the Gilis, everyone makes do with bicycles and the heel-toe express, which creates a beautiful, calm, pollution free environment (besides the constant burning of garbage – a classic in Indo). While the plan was to head to Gili T after a night on Air, the charm quickly made us alter our plans and we never felt the need to check out any of the other islands. There are a ton of options when it comes to accommodations, and they’re all relatively similar to one another. Anywhere from 125,000rp – 350,000+rp van be found, depending on the quality and location of your guesthouse. During the day you can rent a bike, rent some snorkel gear and circle the entire island looking for the hot spots, or simply the secluded ones (It’s about 45-minutes to bike/push your bike through sand around the island) – It’s a calm, stress-free, and police-free environment so feel free to indulge in anything you see fit to make your stay more relaxing. At night there are cool reggae bars, jazz clubs, and little beach bars mixing smooth house music.
It’s easy to spend more than just a few days but we had some surfing to do and wanted to get back over to Bali. We took the 3pm ferry back to Lombok and departed for Lembar, the port town to Bali. After an early rise followed by a day of travel, we slept in the terminal awaiting the 12am ferry that would dock in Padangbai, Bali at 7am the following morning. The best part about taking the midnight ferry is that you save a day on accommodation and with the help of a couple Gravol you never have to worry about the teetering ship or interesting choice of karate movies being played. We docked, grabbed our scooter, picked up our large rucksacks and hit the road to Sidemen (Pronounced: see-da-min). Sidemen is one of those spots in Bali that you never really hear about, and once you go you want both more people to know of its existence and no one at all, as it’s one of Bali’s best kept secrets.
Sidemen is in Bali’s Eastern central highlands, about an hour’s drive from Padangbai in the East and an hour from Central Ubud. This small town is nestled in a crater with runoff from many surrounding hills and Bali’s tallest mountain, Mt. Agung – all this runoff feeds to mass spectacles of rice terrace systems that run all throughout the town. As the town has recently been growing in popularity you can find some fairly posh accommodations that feature beautiful lookouts to rice terraces and lush green scenery, but the town still offers a few cheap budget choices that are simple and effective.
Most of the guesthouses will offer you a hand-drawn map of the surrounding area so that you can set off on your own little adventure through the maze of rice terraces, temples, and stunning views of Mt. Agung. Since our map wasn’t too detailed we were lost quite a bit, but with the help of hand gestures and pointing we were able to converse fairly well with some of the local rice farmers that didn’t speak a lick of English. We hardly saw any other travellers while we were there and it was a nice break to feel as though we’d found a part of Bali that hadn’t succumbed to the tourism industry.
Although we’d have liked to stay longer we had only 10 days remaining on our visa and a few more spots left on the checklist. We packed our bags, loaded our little scooter and sped off to Ubud – Bali’s apparent cultural centre.