One cannot go to Bali and not make time to see the Tegalalang Rice Terraces.
Located about 3 miles (10 kilometers ) from Ubud, the Tegalalang rice fields are only 20 to 30 minutes away from the popular town. The rice fields are perched at about 1,970 feet (600 meters) in elevation, therefore benefiting from colder temperatures and rains from nearby Mount Batur. It did feel colder when we reached the rice fields, leaving behind the heat of Denpasar.
Green Galore at the Tegalalang Rice Terraces
We wandered to the edge of the hill overlooking the terraces. And then we met the lush vegetation, the landscape declining all the shades of green. The hills were lined up with wild palm trees, as well as colorful plants and flowers bringing in contrasting red and purple shades.
Our guide Gede, who is a native from Bali and the owner of rice fields himself, explained that the current fields displayed a one-month-old growth so it would be another three months before the harvest. Indeed the community will only pick it up when the rice husks are yellow. Bali rice, which is grown is Tegalalang, takes longer than most rice variations.
There are four different types of rice on Bali:
- Bali rice – originally from China and called Bali by the Chinese
- Black sticky rice
- Red-brown rice
- White rice
Subak Water Management
Besides getting rains from the higher grounds of Mount Batur, traditional Balinese uses a particular irrigation system called Subak. This water system of the Bali rice terraces was developed in the 9th century. The Bali Subak and rice fields are now designated UNESCO World Heritage.
We just stopped for a quick visit of the Tegalalang Rice Terraces on the way to Mount Batur, but one can hike through the fields and get a closeup view. Bruno and I are soon returning to Indonesia, including Bali, and we can’t wait to get our feet in the mud and walk through the rice fields.
Rice Fields – A Bali Tradition
Besides Tegalalang, the rice fields culture is omnipresent on Bali. Many estimate the rice fields to have been in Bali for over 2,000 years. The higher you go, the more impressive these will be, as the temperatures will be cooler and the land will get more water.
We passed by so many rice fields, both in small villages or in the remote countryside. We saw a family of three harvesting their fields in a well-established routine. The man cut the plant and shook the grain out, while the wife separated the grain from the remaining husks using a weaved pan. This process is called winnowing. She then packed the rice into large bags, ready to go to the market for sale or the family storage.
In another occasion, a group had finished packing the rice and loaded the large and heavy bags to a truck for transportation.
Two ladies brought offerings to the Hindu gods after a successful harvest. Bali is predominantly Hindu, and it was very common to see Hindu gods on every building and through the daily life of the Balinese. Gede, our guide, knew we were keen on learning more about the Indonesian culture and made sure we stopped every time we could witness such moments.
The Jatiluwih rice terraces are another fabulous location close to Ganung Batukaru. Even more impressive than Tegalalang, these are however further away, standing at about 50 km from Denpasar. Other areas worth visiting are Sidemen and Tabanan paddy fields.
How to Get to Tegalalang Rice Terraces
We went with a guide – Gede, whose English and knowledge about Bali was just perfect – and a driver, but you can also simply hire a driver for the day. They are a very short distance from Ubud and very reachable from Denpasar.
This visit, as well as my entire Indonesian trip, including the tour of Mini Indonesia in Jakarta or Prambanan Temple in Yogyakarta, was organized and sponsored thanks to the Konsulat Jenderal Republik Indonesia di San Francisco and provided by Marintur Indonesia. Thank you for the terrific opportunity! Our opinion is our own and is not impacted by this partnership.
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