What it’s Like to Trek Through Bali’s Rice Paddy Fields
On my recent trip to Indonesia, I had three things I desperately wanted to tick off my travel wish list – spotting the Komodo dragons, tasting the delicious cuisine (Nasi Goreng now firmly established as one of my new favourite dishes) and trekking through the famous rice paddy fields. After visiting Komodo Island and discovering the magnificent dragons, and feasting on more traditional delicacies than I probably should have, it was time to lace up my trainers and head out into those lush, undulating hills. Here’s why a trek through Bali’s rice paddy fields should feature on every travel wish list…
Just a short drive from our hotel was Tegallalang, one of the most famous rice terraces in Ubud. We hopped out of the car and began wandering along the tree-lined street, towards the entrance to the village. As we walked, we were passed by barefooted locals, carrying huge baskets of rice on their heads. We continued until we came to a clearing, where rice had been laid out to dry. The locals grinned at us as we marvelled at just how far the rice fields stretched; I had never been surrounded by so much green, and it was so peaceful. There were no cars; the only noise we could hear was the soft chattering of the workers as they tended to the fields.
As we continued deeper into the paddy fields, passing two men fishing in a gentle stream, we came across a tiny village. The peace was punctuated by a joyful scream; a small boy was shouting and waving at us excitedly. He beckoned us towards him, before his mother appeared and invited us into her home for coconut water. As we drank, she kindly showed us around her house and told us about life in the village, describing it as ‘happy and easy’. I put my camera away and listened to the simple way of life she described; I couldn’t help but be struck by how much of a world away it was from London.
We headed back into the rainforest and began making our way up through the rice paddy fields, past towering palm trees and lush gardens. We soon came to a clearing which made all of us stop in our tracks; the undulating fields stretched out before us, the sea of green punctuated only by the odd splash of red – a few flowers in bloom in the distance. As we grabbed cameras from backpacks, our guide signalled we had further to go and we were soon straddling a small stream, inching our way across to the other side of the fields, with just a narrow ledge standing between us and a fairly intimidating drop into the rainforest below. “Keep going, don’t look down,” urged our guide and, after hurling ourselves up one final hill, we’d made it. We were standing at the very top of the rice terraces, and the view was breathtaking.
What could be better than taking in one of the most photographed landscapes on the planet? Enjoying a picnic at the same time, of course! After making it to the top, we were ushered into an open-air café, where a delicious buffet lunch was spread out before us. I tucked into a mouth-watering plate of my new favourite authentic dish, Nasi Goreng, followed by a not-so-traditional brownie with strawberries and ice cream, while entirely surrounded by the paddy fields. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a picnic at such an idyllic spot.
Think of Bali, and one image probably stands out from the rest – that iconic swing, set high above the rice terraces. I didn’t know when I’d be in Bali again, and so, despite being rather full from my picnic lunch, I decided I simply had to try it. Though I have to admit, as I was being strapped into the harness, I did begin to wonder if I’d made the right decision. “Do you want gentle or extreme?” asked my guide. After he had explained what extreme meant – hoisting me up to the highest point, before firing me into the sky – the nerves had well and truly set in. I opted for extreme – when in Bali, after all – to a gleeful grin from my guide.
“Ready?” Before I’d had time to answer, I was catapulted into the air. I let out a scream, shocked by how fast the swing went, and gripped the rope tightly. But soon I fell into an easy rhythm, and I found myself asking the guides to push me higher as I took in panoramic views of that world-class landscape. It was one of the most thrilling travel experiences I’ve ever had, and I know I’ll be back to seek out that perfect combination of peace and adventure in Bali again.
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