Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Bali Paddy Fields

Early Plantings
One of the must do trips in Bali is to walk or cycle around the paddy fields and there are a couple of particularly popular locations.  We chose Ubud partly because we combined our visit with a trip to the nearby Sacred Monkey Forest and a Bali Dancing show we wanted to see nearby.  Ok, so proper tourist stuff but without knowing when we might come back these things should be seen when on holiday.  It turned out to be a nice mixture of things to do and this was undoubtedly one of the highlights of being on the island.  We took a tour on this occasion rather than trying it ourselves principally because it was a lot easier and saved a good deal of time.  There are self guided walks in the area but we thought it would be fun to cycle for a change.

Bali Sunset Adventure is quite a nw outfit and as such we were able to get a good discount in the hope that we would spread the word about them.  Well I guess I am through the channels of this blog!  Our guide was quite patient with us but his pace was a little slow and this caused a bit of frustration initially as my girls wanted to go a lot faster.  However, later on in the ride it was actually quite a good idea to keep things at a slower pace, partly because of the steamy conditions (it was rainy season in Bali when we got there) and partly to keep ourselves from falling in a paddy field!  It was easier than you might think to do the latter partly because of the narrow paths and partly because of various things left on the paths that would have been very easy to collide with.

We turned right out of the compound and headed along a long straight section of road which enabled us to get used to our bikes and get some speed up.  This was quite important to try and keep up with the traffic as it was quite busy and there were few places to pass us.  It also helped us with some momentum as we crossed a small river valley; one of the countless valleys carved by rivers carrying water very quickly from the upper slopes of the volcanoes in the centre of Bali.  There wasn't a lot of opportunity to look around while on this  road so it was with some relief that we turned right a little further along the road from the valley.  We then found ourselves on a nice quiet road for traffic but there were plenty of other things going on.  The street was beautifully decorated with Penjor, large bamboo poles that hang over the road that are highly decorated.  Each one was slightly different and there looked to be a certain amount of family pride in getting them slightly better than the one down the road.  Despite the fact that they all followed a similar pattern each one was very slightly different.

Temple Guards
We continued along this residential road until the houses ran out on the left hand side and we got views over the paddy fields.  What was very striking was how they were all at slightly different growing stages.  I guess in a tropical climate with no real seasons to speak of rice crops can be grown at almost any time.  The sight that was most interesting was watching the fields being ploughed.  Rice paddies obviously have a lot of water in them and the ploughs have to be adapted to suit this environment.  The farm worker obviously gets very dirty as he pushes the plough around but he isn't alone by any means as behind him were herons and egrets eager to scoop up the frogs and crayfish that live in the swampy conditions.  I found it almost comical watching them - they are Bali's version of seagulls I guess.

Flower Fields
At the corner of the field was a Hindu temple.  Bali is unusual in Indonesia as being a predominantly Hindu island and the province is the only Hindu majority in Indonesia.  It is said that more than 90% of the Hindus that live in Indonesia live on Bali and the culture of the island is as you might expect heavily influenced by the religion.  It is a little different from Hinduism in India however as the caste system has not been introduced here.  The temples have a unique style with intricate carving and are often decorated with gold cloth and guarded by stone carved elephants and all manner of other more scary looking mythical creatures.  Outside the gates you can usually see various offerings, often food and/ or drink in small bamboo trays.

We turned left along a road between paddy fields and then found our way onto another quiet residential street where the only traffic was the odd motorcycle, usually heavily loaded either with household articles or people.  It isn't unusual to see whole families of people on small underpowered motorcycles in Bali (or Thailand for that matter) and I always wonder how the bikes cope long term?  After a few more minutes we left the road altogether and headed along agricultural tracks for the next part of the journey.

Once out in the fields it was interesting to see that rice wasn't the only crop.  There were also fields of flowers and our guide explained that these are largely grown for all the various ceremonies that are held at the temples.  Having seen the number of flowers that are used I had wondered how they managed to get so many fresh ones all the time.  Sadly I couldn't name any of the flowers but pinks, oranges and burgundy red were the main colours.  Instead of hedgerows there were banana trees and I imagine these help protect the crops from the wind.  Canal systems much like we saw in Madeira (lavadas) carried water around and I wondered whether the Portuguese had actually influenced this technology for they had colonised parts of Indonesia.

Out Into The Paddy Fields
The tracks through the fields took sharp turns around the field edges and as we passed by one field junction we dropped down the side of a valley to a small stream below.  Shrieks of laughter came into earshot and we saw a group of naked boys jumping into the stream from a small footbridge overseen by a rather stern looking woman who I am sure was tasked with making sure they stayed safe.  A little further downstream and another woman was doing the washing.  I guess that even on a relatively rich island (by Indonesian standards) mod cons are not necessarily things that all the population has.

Irrigation Channels
We wound around the path that followed the stream and eventually came to a junction of irrigation channels where we stopped to make sure everyone had caught up.  We were kept company as we waited by a large group of ducks.  They were free to come an go but seemed to want to go everywhere together...  They initially shaped up to waddle away but when they saw we weren't a threat they came shuffling back.  We left the road at this point and made our way along the alleyway that runs between the paddy fields and views to left and right now showed a vast expanse of rice growing.  To our western eyes this was quite an exotic sight, especially with the farm workers toiling in the fields wearing their traditional sun hats and accompanied by large numbers of herons who feed on the creatures that live in the swamp like conditions.  We also watched more of the ploughing with much fascination (as did the herons - huge numbers of them!).

Once we had traversed the rice paddies we entered a small palm tree woodland and past yet another temple and regained higher ground to meet the road through the village once again.  There were a lot more people in this part of the village and especially young boys playing games on the road.  As we cycled by we got cheery hellos and enthusiastic waving - a far cry from the sort of reception that we might have expected from similarly aged boys in Britain.  One set of boys were up to no good however; they had found some firecrackers and were letting them off in the street.  They stopped as we went by and continued afterwards, accompanied by peals of laughter.

Our ultimate destination for the tour was one of the numerous luwak coffee farms that try to entice customers with tasting sessions.  The range of teas and coffees on offer was much the same as one we had experienced and we were enticed to buy a couple at the end.  We also had some Nasi Goreng (fried rice) which is something of an institution in Indonesia.  Indeed our driver told us that he has it for lunch every day and never gets tired of it!  I can certainly vouch for its tastiness - whether it tasted particularly good at this farm or whether it was needed after our exercise I cannot be totally sure.  It certainly rounded off an excellent tour and one to be recommended if you are ever in Bali.  Getting out into the countryside in this way will show you a completely different side to  the island besides the massage parlours, cocktail bars and surf shacks of the coast.

Back Into The Forest

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