Rice fields, I had heard of. Rice terraces? Not so much, until I started researching my recent Indonesia trip that is. And Tegallalang is one of the more popular so I popped it on my list and continued my planning.
What to expect
I packed a visit to Tegallalang rice terraces into my ‘day o’ temple visits’ when I decided to visit as many of the big ticket temples and sites as I could. And since this one is such a big tourist hit it can be a little busy. Since my visit, I’ve heard people say to try Jatiluwih terraces. I would still recommend going if you are a first-time rice field visitor. I will warn you that it is touristy and a little tacky (souvenir and t-shirt shops galore) on the road above the terraces. I went in July so the rice plants weren’t even in full bloom (bloom? is that how you describe rice crops?). I went in late afternoon so the light was good and the heat..well the heat was still mental. Top tip: I would NOT go there at noon, unless you enjoy sweating buckets and slipping around in your own shoes. Grim.
About half an hour’s drive north of Ubud this UNESCO designated site is well worth a visit.
There are plenty of cafes and galleries in the village overlooking the ledges. From there you can absorb the beauty of the sprawling terraces or admire the artists who are attempting to capture the vista for themselves. I paid 15,000 IDR to enter and there are bridge tolls once you are in there, well more a donation for the upkeep of the bridges and pedestrian tracks.
The classroom bit
Rice, is a staple Balinese food and a big part of local culture. You will see rice on every menu and often in the daily offerings to the gods. Cultivation is done according to ancient rituals and for this reason, rice terraces and the process of irrigation and harvesting put it on the UNESCO World Heritage list. This planting and irrigation system of rice field terraces is known as subak. The land is cropped into layers or terraces which allow the water to accumulate and then flow naturally from the hilltop to the lower area. The idea is to cultivate rice, creating a harmonious relationship with the gods, with the ground and within the community.
I spent about an hour at the terraces in Tegallalang. The tourists were trickling out by the time I was half way around so it wasn’t too crowded, although there was a queue at one or two of the staircases.
I did get a few photos of the farmers at work in the terraces but they were kind of in the middle of working. I wasn’t about to go trapesing up to them to ask if I could snap a photo and to discuss how much of a donation was adequate for same. I have heard from others that sometimes there can be a farmer wandering around with a few hats and baskets willing to stand in for photos for a fee. Just so you know.
During my trip to Ubud I must have seen tens of rice fields dotted around the countryside from the comfort of my taxi. Maybe if you hire a scooter you’ll find yourself surrounded by enough terraces as you cruise around and not feel the need to visit Tegallalang. Since this was my first and only rice terrace experience I felt it was worth the trip.