Waking up to the misty valley of Sidemen is like a gentle massage for the senses, making this an ideal Bali staycation. The pretty adults-only eco resort overlooks stunning views and the cool climate is a welcome break.
By Sarah Dougherty.
I’ll admit to being a little weary, aren’t we all, it’s been a roller coaster of a year. An invite to visit the pretty boutique resort, Samanvaya, located in the hauntingly beautiful valley of Sidemen, East Bali, felt like a gift and I accepted.
The drive here is a highlight; threading through traditional villages, past brilliant green rice terraces surrounded by cloud-tipped mountains. You could be nowhere else but Bali. This area has inspired many famous painters and is etched in time by iconic artworks.
Samanvaya is a dream realised for a New Zealand couple who left the land of the long white cloud when their children were grown. A series of bamboo buildings that fan out across the valley, the adults-only resort seamlessly combines the modern and the traditional with privacy and picturesque views.
It’s just the right size, human with 12 bamboo villas spread across the horizon. My friend and I have stylish private suites side by side. Each of us has a generous terrace that opens up to beautiful gardens that spill into the rice terraces towards the surrounding mountains. Mine is a two story bamboo structure with gleaming wood floors, sliding doors that open to the view, a living room and customised furniture designed for comfort and style.
There are quirky features throughout the accommodation, all of which are beautifully designed with a very personal feeling, you can tell that this is a much-cherished project. I don’t need to get out of my gorgeous king-sized bed, cocooned in white cotton, to enjoy the views, which is all the excuse I need to linger a little longer before breakfast arrives. I allow myself to breathe out in a long, deep sigh, I feel calmer and lighter.
Post breakfast, a delicious spread of mushrooms on toast with poached eggs and a fruit platter, I head to the spa for a chakra massage. A mangku is a Balinese holy man and I fall under Mangku Mastra’s spell within minutes. He chants out loud and silently as he finds every point of discomfort, both physical and emotional. It is one of the most incredible massages I have ever had and I float out of there. At times it’s painful, other times soothing, there is nothing predictable about it and I focus on surrendering to the sensations. I’d travel back to Sidemen just for that massage.
After the massage I have time on my hands and hardly feel the need to pick up my phone or even speak. I float for a while in one of the pools and then tame my hair, which has been royally mussed, and then grab a tea and sit with the view.
A SCOOTER TRIP TO PASIR PUTIH, THE VIRGIN BEACH
IT’s very tempting to just settle in and relax here but the scooter trip on back roads through the hills to a no-longer secret white sand beach near Candi Dasa, sounds too good to miss.
The trip to Virgin Beach is every bit as good as the brochure promises. Perched on pillows on brand new bikes, with a carry box equipped with a back rest, we climb on behind our trusty guides and travel past farms and temples, along backroads that weave through the hills and countryside.
We arrive just over an hour later at the empty beach, with white sand and brilliant green waves. We settle in front of a local fish café and order cold beers and barbecued seafood. It feels very old school Bali and before long a pod of dolphins passes by, calling us into the beautiful water.
It’s not the sunniest day as the rainy season has begun, and as we climb on for the ride home it starts to sprinkle. We decide to ride out the weather and meander through the villages on our way home to a hot tub and dinner. We chose to eat in the restaurant and enjoyed a mix of local and western meals that were hearty and delicious. Post dinner and a nice glass of wine, weary from our travels, we settled in to our villas and slept very well.
We had an early start in the morning on our way back to the city but not before we enjoyed a continental breakfast and coffees on the terrace overlooking the view. Samanvaya nurtured our weary souls and showed us a part of Bali that we’ve overlooked for too long. Our taste of this beautiful part of Bali left us hungry for more and I doubt it will be long before we visit again.
BATHROOMS MATTER, SO DOES THE FOOD
It’s often the case when you book an out of the way property that you might be stuck with mediocre food, or details like the bathrooms are disappointing. That is not the case here. The menu isn’t big but it has enough variety to keep most everyone happy. A brand new restaurant has just opened on the property, open to the public with separate access. This one boasts a more extensive menu, a beer garden, live music, its open to families with a beautiful new spa beside it. The resort restaurant and the pool areas are open exclusively for adults-only. New Zealanders are often great foodies and there’s a personal touch to the menus along with some well presented, authentic Balinese specials created by the chef.
There’s nothing to worry about when it comes to the bathrooms either. Made from pink stone and bamboo, mine has a deep bath tub and a rain shower and the hot water comes on strong. The details throughout are perfect. Everything is clean, light and the decorative features are based on local handicrafts, giving character to all the spaces.
Some facts about Sidemen:
Sidemen is a district in Karangasem made up of 9 villages including the village of Sidemen. It took us about an hour and a half to drive there from Seminyak with very little traffic. It may take longer in busier times but not much.
Karangasem is a regency of Bali that encompasses Mt Agung and stretches all the way to the opposite coastline between Amed and Singaraja. This is rich farming country and also famous for its arak and tuak production.
Samanvaya is expanding in a very sustainable way, adding a softly beautiful layer to a part of Bali that is well worth exploring.
Rates and Specials:
Throughout February, Samavaya is offering special rates including: