Tegalalang Rice Terraces

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Tegalalang Rice Terraces are probably the most famous rice terraces in Bali and with it’s beauty and uniqueness, it’s not hard to see why.

I planned my visit to Tegalalang with a private driver who also took us to Pura Gunung Kawi and the Campuhan Ridge that same day. His advice was to visit Tegalalang early on in the morning; before it got too hot and before the mass groups of tourists had arrived. And boy, was I glad to take his advice because by 10am, it was already heating up and more people definitely started to appear!

The trip to Tegalalang took about 20 minutes from the centre of Ubud, which is where I was staying. Once we had arrived and parked the car, it was time to take the descent down the stairs to the rice terraces. On the walk down we passed a few different plants in which our driver was quite knowledgable about – he explained the differences between banana trees (where some were used for leaves only, and others used for the fruit), pointed out coconut trees (which were hard to  miss) and showed us what a cocoa plant looked like.

Continuing down the path, we stopped by to talk to a couple of local rice farmers who were planting some crop into their terraces. Our driver explained to us that rice was only harvested twice a year – I’m not 100% sure if this is true, but from what he was saying – it sure seemed like a lot of hard, manual labour for not much yield in return.

One of the rice farmers working his field.

Our driver also explained to us what made these rice terraces unique: it’s irrigation system. It’s reported that terraced rice paddies had been engineered as far back as the 9th century by the Balinese using water coming from the mountains to keep the terraces wet all year round.

Some of the rice harvested from the terraces, ready for processing.

A result of this structure also makes getting modern day machinery and large animals (like cows) down to the rice terraces a near impossible task, which means all farming is done manually by the work of a man’s hands. After learning about the time and effort that goes into rice farming – even if the majority of rice we now consume is not farmed in this way – I definitely have a much wider appreciation for every single grain that ends up on my plate.

After about an hour and a half spent soaking up Tegalalang’s beauty and learning about it’s structure, it was time to hit the road and move on to our next stop: the 11th century temple, Pura Guning Kawi. Stay tuned for the next post to come!