If for some reason you associate green with life and tranquility, you are right. To escape from it all – from the chaos and concrete jungle of the city, most people dream of a drive to the green country filled with trees, fields, and grass. Or to the far corners of the world for a piece of nature. But to understand the many shades of green and to get inspiration from the rural setting, you must get to the rice fields and rice terraces.
In this case, the rice terraces of Bali…
Rice is a staple food in Bali. Before tourism and the construction of thousands of hotels and homes to accommodate short and long-term tourists, Bali was filled with rice fields. Over two thousand years ago the Balinese found a way to fill the slopes of the hills and valleys with rice terraces. The Balinese Subak irrigation system was created in the 9th century.
Every rice field and terrace is a gift from the gods, and a shrine is usually found in each plot of land belonging to each family. At the center of it all is the village temple. The priest is the head of the Subak irrigation system in the village, and the farmers are responsible for maintaining the irrigation system. According to UNESCO, “the temples are the focus of a cooperative water management system of canals and weirs, known as assubak.” It reflects the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana (spirit, human world, and nature).
To visit the rice fields and rice terraces you will have to venture out to Ubud and central Bali. The roads are usually winding and small. The best ways to see these fields is either by hiring a private driver or staying at an eco-lodge by the rice fields.
Or you may want to join a tour that combines a tour of the temples and the rice terraces. For the adventurous, there are rice fields hiking and biking tours. Local farmers work hard for their money. We stood at a distance admiring two farmers working in the over 90 degrees hot and humid temperature without once looking up until our driver yelled out for permission to take photos.
Nyoman, the caregiver of our rented villa, left the fields to work in construction and now manages properties for foreign villa owners. His father and uncles sold parts of their rice fields to build villas for locals and foreigners. Regardless of our opinion, there are always the pluses and minuses of these transactions and transformations.
Here are the three rice terraces we visited:
Tegallalang is located just outside of Ubud village. The best time to get there is after sunrise, to avoid the crowd. You can walk down to the Rice Terrace Café (Teras Padi Café) for coffee or a meal while you enjoy the beautiful terrace.
The café opens from 10 am to 6 pm. It was not open during our visit because we were up early to see the sunrise at a nearby lookout point, but the caretaker let us into the café to view the rice terraces and use the bathrooms.
Tabanan rice terrace is located in Gunung Batukaru region in central Bali close to Jatiluwih rice terraces. We were the only people there besides a couple having a meal at the restaurant.
If you have time for only one rice terrace visit, I recommend Jatiluwih. This UNESCO protected rice field is enormous and less crowded. In case of a torrential downpour, like what we encountered during our visit, you can always get to one of the many restaurants in Jatiluwih. Have a meal or coffee while you wait for the rain to stop and enjoy an unobstructed view of the rice terraces.
Jatiluwih's name implies it is a “Beautiful place!” It is located at 2,200 feet above sea level and with a land area of over 1,500 acres.
Don’t leave Bali without visiting the rice terraces.