Saturday, February 7, 2009

Day Three in Bali - Walking Through a Rice Paddy

Much to Laura's chagrin, we had an early start this morning. She is much more of a relaxed vacationer whereas I like to keep busy so I wasn't at all perturbed by the hour. Ari picked us up at 7:30am to take a walking tour of the rice paddies.

To get out into the country we drove into Ubud's commercial area and from there had to walk down a narrow alleyway past shops fronting homes, residential compounds and some villas that are available for rent until we were on a worn dirt path heading south. As the trees cleared we could see the terraced fields with neatly planted rows of young rice.

Ari explained that because of the climate they can get two crops of rice per year, one every four months. The water they use to irrigate comes down from the mountains and in order to divert water into your fields you must be a member of one of the local temples, otherwise you have no right to the water. Despite looking plentiful we were told that many farmers divert from their neighbor's fields, especially when they've just planted new rice as water is essential for early growth. He also said that late at night after a field has been freshly planted people often come to stalk the eels that get trapped when the field if flooded for the young rice.

Along the way we saw many rough small structures. These are erected by the farmers who spend almost all day watching over and tending their fields and allows them a place to rest and relax, to eat lunch and to get out of the frequent rain. Dotting the fields we saw white herons and heard, but couldn't see, numerous ducks. We also saw how honey is cultivated. While we use bee boxes they use hollowed out trunks of coconut trees suspended twenty feet from the ground. The bees build their nests in the hollows and the farmer can raise and lower them as they need to in order to collect the honey.

A man cutting grass used for making thatched roofs.

Weeding out the wild rice.

In uniform and walking to school.

An artist who lives and sells his work amongst the rice paddies.

Ari took the time to identify local plants such as tapioca, guava, hibiscus, cacao, teak, ebony and more. He also talked to some of the farmers along the way and at one point a farmer offered to climb a tree so we could try fresh coconut. Having had it before I can say that I do not have enough experience to appreciate such an offer and respectfully declined.

We slowly made our way back into town on the looping trail and from there were taken back to our hotel to relax for a few hours before our brief afternoon outing. The temperature had climbed quickly and we were grateful for the respite. Upon our return Laura and I had a little bit of breakfast before returning to our room. I went for a swim which was refreshing and Laura ended up taking a nap.

After resting Ari picked us up once more to take us to Threads of Life. It's a small textile center where they show the weaving process and have a gallery of textiles from all over southeast Asia. There were examples for sale and the proceeds go back to the weavers in order to allow them to make a living and thereby preserve their craft. Some villages had their number of weavers dwindle to only a handful and now have a hundred or more because as modernity came into their part of the world people gave up their crafts and sought other trades that yielded a better living. Now these artisans can make a living creating their beautiful textiles and make more than a mere subsistence living.

Feeling a little better educated Ari took us to the center of Ubud to set us free so that we could wander and explore. Laura and I walked past and through many of the local shops, stopped to pick up something more to drink, made a couple of small purchases, and slowly made our way back to our luxurious resort.

When we arrived a couple men showed us their roosters that they were training for ceremonial fights for the ongoing celebration of the marriage of the resort owner's son. They essentially pounce on each other until one runs away and the last rooster standing is declared the winner. Thankfully they don't do what is done in the United States and attach razors to their spurs so that they can inflict more injuries on one another.

The path to our room was slightly circuitous but the grounds are extensive and it was nice to be able to see more of them. We relaxed poolside and eventually had some dinner before calling it a night.


  1. Hmmm... the cock fighting kinda makes me a little uncomfortable. I know they don't have razors, but still. Maybe I don't like aggressive cock?

  2. Cock fighting is a part of the predominantly Hindu religious rituals in Bali. Purification rituals require the use of freshly spilt blood and they usually stage a cock fight until the first blood which is used in the ritual. In some of the wealthy villages cock fighting seems to be pervasive with many of the prized fighters proudly displayed in woven cages in front of their owner's homes.