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Rice Terraces, Mountains and Dolphins in Bali

INDONESIA | Saturday, 27 November 2010 | Views [1309]


In the late 1980s, our family, visited Bali at least once a year. We stayed in the still popular Grand Hyatt Bali, in the resort compound of Nusa Dua. The children enjoyed the sea and would wake early to collect shells, fly kites and the ex even bought beautiful big conch shells like those you have to dive deep for, from boys who were casually selling them along the beach.

We even brought my mum on a White Water Rafting outing to celbrate her 60th birthday. On the way to the starting point, in Ubud, I saw the beautiful rice terraces. I also fell in love with the tranquility and greeness of Ubud. We took a tour of the much-talked-about Kupu Kupu Barong, a 4 star hotel. The manager flung open a window and the scenery just took my breath away. The glimmering rice terraces were harvest-ready green,the sheer proximity of the hillside terraces, with the sound of the running river, and singing of the birds in the trees brought only one word to my mind. "Paradise". Ever since, then I'd always yearned to stay in the mountains of Ubud, and wake to the scene of rice terraces. I cannot tell if this yearning came from the fact that rice was a symbol of fertility, of plenty, or merely because the terraces themselves seemed a work of art and a labour of love.

I visited Ubud in 2008 again and was absolutely disappointed with the amount of traffic. Ubud has traffic jams!!  In the 1980s, our hired Hotel van was only one of perhaps any three vans on any road in Ubud at any one time. Now there are humongous tour buses carrying about thirty people, each with a Nikon, jamming up the front of the Ubud market. Toyota Vans carrying about 6 tourists each, queue up to rush into any parking lots in front of Ibu Oka Babi Guling. Snaking in and out between these, are motorcycles. Having learned how to negotiate motorcycle-infested roads in Vietnam, I crossed with my eyes closed.

In 2010, I decided to go in search of rice terraces, for my birthday. Since last year, I decided I would go away somewhere, for my birthday. Last year ws Kerala on an ayurvedic, house-boat experience. I spent many hours googling( yes it's become a verb)"Bali rice terraces", to see if they were still in existence, and then if they were accessible. Great news! Bali is the rice basket and Indonesia, and she produces rice for local consumption. Great News... mostly these rice terraces were outside of the usual touristy places, which I much prefer, since I means going somewhere I've never been to.

 I was not insearch of padi fields, and only wanted to see the terraces. What's the diff? Terraces were cout out of the hillsides and the distribution of water to the terraces were calculated according to how much land one owned. the drainage ws cut to ensure your terrace would not be flooded,a snd had just the right amount of water. So if you owned more land, the drains irrigating your terraces would be cut larger. I thought this was just amazing engineering and who came up with the formula? How long did it take them to figure it out? The Subak museum was a wealth of informtaion..if you understood Indonesian( the guide ws very knowledgeable) and could interpret the photos and tools( being from Malaysia a previous rice basket, we learnt some of this in school). "Subak" refers to anone who had anything to do with rice growing - the owner or the tenants and the workers who toiled the land. It is a sort of Club that they belong to.

The Balinese themselves eat the red rice, not glutinous, just red. They mix this in the proportion of 1:4 with the white rice.  There is also a strain of Balinese rice that is not as labour intensive as the imported grain. This is indigenous to Bali. It is harvested by cutting out only the stalks and allowing the rest of the plant to stay rooted to the ground to continue sprouting rice kernels. However, because the imported rice yields either 2 or 3 times a year, most farmers plant these as the staple crop.

So where were the rice terraces?

Tags: rice, rice terraces, ubud

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