The magic rice fields of Ubud

If you’re going to Bali you can’t miss the lively town of Ubud. This former artists’ colony, with its long winding streets full of yoga schools, shops, galleries and temples, will capture the imagination of any traveller. But make sure you also check out the surrounding rice fields, where the morning sun colours the terraces a bright emerald green.


A trip through the rice fields

A number of good trips can be made in and around Ubud. While you can easily explore by yourself, a guide will ensure that you get to know Bali even better. Many tours start at the Taman Sari Temple and take you through traditional villages and vast sawas to the Bukit Temple. You can also discover the rice fields north of Ubud for yourself by walking from the main street Jalang Raya Ubud towards Kutuh. In Tegallalang, a few kilometres north of Ubud, there is a lovely path along the rice terraces that is easy to follow. The view of the terraces is wonderful – it’s easy to see why this place is pictured on so many postcards.

Rice harvesting

Rice harvesting

Harvesting the white gold

The constantly hot and humid climate means that rice can be planted and harvested in Bali throughout the year. This is a time-consuming and labour-intensive task. While wealthier farmers often have buffalos pulling the plough, most of the work is actually done by people. It may be fascinating to look at but it’s very hard work for the Balinese, who nonetheless remain friendly and smiling. With reed caps on their heads to protect them from the bright sun, they work tirelessly from early morning throughout the day. The rice stalks are cut with a sickle using a powerful downward movement and the women subsequently beat the stems in large bunches against a barrel to release the rice grains. This white gold is then transferred into large baskets. Rice has many uses here: people attending ceremonies are presented with a grain of rice on the forehead, and rice serves as a sacrifice in temples. Of course, you will also find rice on your plate.

Sacrifice to the gods

In addition to being the source of life, rice in Bali is also a valuable offer to placate the gods. Red, yellow, white and black rice is presented to the Hindu saints in a folded palm leaf basket along with flowers and incense. The Balinese bring offerings to temples often 3 times a day. Westerners always have to get used to avoiding these little works of art, as the offerings are regularly just left on the ground. People do step on them by accident, but don’t worry: once the ritual of offering is over, the baskets no longer have value, and dogs and monkeys run off with them.

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