The rice field, that is. And plenty of them! We're back on land in Ubud; a town considered Bali's spiritual center. Significant for sure but with beautiful terrain and scenery busting around its seams, I thought it the perfect place to capture the essence of Balinese culture in my final Indonesian stretch.
Indeed I've had a field day in Ubud. Here, rice rules. It's a respected part of all aspects of daily life in Indonesia, not in the least as the food source. White rice. Red rice. Black rice. Fried rice. Sticky rice. Vegetables with rice. Rice wine. Rice Bubbles cereal. Rice pudding. Cue the Forrest Gump-style shrimp soliloquy. My favorite, traditional rice dish? Nasi goreng; a standard Balinese dish of fried rice, vegetables, and meat skewers. A meal without rice in Indonesia would be like not having a hot dog at the ballpark. At least in my world, that's outrageous.
But observing the reverence for rice through its role in religious offerings and rituals as well, provides more appreciation for the production cycle that occurs twice a year in those fields. The verdant, terraced land. The remarkably engineered irrigation system, called Subak, consisting of manmade tunnels and channels that supply water from a higher source for its farming members. (So remarkable that this system made UNESCO's World Heritage list.) The cow-drawn plows trudging through the flooded, muddy paddies. The frequent minding of pulleys tied with cloth over the fields to scare pesky birds away. The back-breaking, put-your-chiropractor-on-alert seed planting by men. And, after four to five months, the sickle-bearing women harvesting the crops. 'It takes a village' has never been truer.
And I got a taste of the process myself. On a daily group walk under an unforgiving morning sun, we happened upon a band of women harvesting their fields before the impending rainy season. Hard at work in their pitched, straw hats and fully "armored" outfits for sun protection, they welcomed us as we inquisitively strolled by only to be followed by an invitation to try our hand at the job. Never thought I'd be so giddy to thresh rice stalks! But the experience was a genuine honor helping these women with such an important task.
This last morning of my trip, I returned to the first rice fields I visited in Ubud during my first week here. The landscape was now dry and golden. The women, sickles in hand, were laboring away. The ducks were being herded to their next paddy meal of leftover rice and bugs. As I stood watching the scene from a distance, I was aware of its irony. They were reaping the harvest and I was reaping the rewards.
The sprawling, lush Jatiluwih rice fields. Known as the best in Bali.
Flags in the fields are often connected by pulleys so farmers can yank them to scare birds away
A typical nasi goreng lunch with a peaceful rice field view
Harvest time in Ubud
Time to give it a shot...
...with a thumbs up at the end!
Heading to the next paddy