There are few places in Bali as picture perfect as the emerald-green rice terraces of Tegallalang Village, a mere half hour drive north from Ubud, the cultural center of this most picturesque island of Indonesia.
From the main Ubud art market, go east to the large statue intersection and head further up north.
Like the Philippines equally famous Banaue Rice Terraces, some of Bali's rice terraces have existed for over 1,000 years, were likewise carved into the hills using hand tools, and like the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces found North West from Ubud, similarly protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I had the opportunity to recently visit these famous rice terraces as part of a Familiarization Tour for Visayas and Mindanao Media courtesy of Cebu Pacific, JG Summit Holdings and Aneka Kartika Tours & Travels of Indonesia. It’s impressive to know how Bali has attracted approximately the same volume of tourists as the entire Philippines, and it’s easy to see why.
The island’s unique culture is of course the main reason why it attracts some 40% of the annual tourist arrivals in Indonesia, contrary to the widely held belief it’s the sea and beaches which bring in the visitors.
Rice Paddies and Terraces
The Tegellalang Rice Terraces are a favorite of tourists who enjoy promenading on its terraced rice fields
For instance, just take the rice terraces (or paddies, if you must). Like stairways for the gods leading up to the heavens, one can immediately sense the spiritual connection between the land and the sky. You can actually feel this like an emotion, as you view the Tegallalang rice terraces located in-between Kintamani and Ubud running alongside the river.
The Balinese consider rice as a gift from the Gods and you can see these from the shrines in and around the villages surrounding the rice paddies.
“All over Bali island we have rice,” explained our guide, I Wayan Widiada “Dada” of the Bali Tour Guide Association. “In the south the rice fields are being reduced because the city is growing so fast. Because of the restriction on the heights of buildings, we need more land for residences and business. So there are few rice fields left in the south because of this as well as the lack of water for irrigation like near Denpasar and Nusa Dua which is very dry.”
The traditional Balinese way of life revolves around the cycle of planting, irrigation, upkeep and harvest of rice.
“Rice is our staple food and for breakfast, lunch and dinner; we always eat rice,” noted Dada. “Because we eat rice so much the government still imports rice from Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan and even India for some restaurants.”
Besides the Tegallalang Rice Terraces, one can also find rice paddies and terraces to the south of Ubud. There are also paddies to the north of Tirta Gangga, nearer the Candidasa and Amed beach resorts.
Paddy tourism in Bali has developed to a point that it’s now possible to book trips and accommodations to the most scenic spots, where tourists can go hiking or trekking, with great opportunities for photography or just time traveling to simpler world where time stops. Souvenir shopping like to the artisan village of Pakudui is also an experience in itself.
Desa Visesa Ubud
Balinese musicians welcome guests at the
grand main lobby of the Desa Visesa Resort
But for those who’d rather experience their paddies far ‘far from the madding crowd’, Desa Visesa Ubud resort provides a unique opportunity to those who wish to immerse themselves in the rich cultural traditions and heritage of Bali.
“Visesa Ubud is a resort of choice for meditation, spiritual retreats and healing senses,” said Gede Parmita, Director for Sales and Marketing. “Visesa is a sacred place where traditional Balinese ceremonies and real daily life are celebrated. Offerings and prayers converging towards the resort majestic temple pervade the entire property with an atmosphere of spiritual harmony.”
And indeed, the place exudes stillness and harmony, a welcome respite for us weary travelers still reeling from our travels from our respective home towns in the Philippines, early morning flight to Denpasar, and coach ride to Ubud.
With the little time we had to enjoy the place, Gede and his staff welcomed us with a pictorial dressed in the Balinese sarong, as we took turns having mementos taken in the lavish throne seats in the lobby, which I believe is patterned after the throne of the King of Ubud, whose family owns this magnificent piece of real estate.
Next we were treated to a 3 courses set menu at the Lesung Organic Restaurant at the Main Lobby, which offers a magnificent view of the 3.5 hectare rice paddies and the resort’s 66 villas and 40 106 rooms nested amidst its organic farm where guests can pick their own fruits and vegetables.
Thanks to the kitchen for the savory mushroom soup, grilled beef tenderloin, Babi Guling (suckling pig) family style, home-made Alfogato Tiramisu and coffee and tea to go!
“We provide fresh Balinese food, and our guests can pick fruits and vegetables from our all organic garden (no fertilizer) and you can also do Balinese cooking class,” Gede said. “Everything here is about Bali.”
The resort has other restaurants like the Lumbung which serves traditional Balinese cuisine where you can view the river and waterfall as you dine; the bamboo Warung Tani beside the orchard and farm, where you can enjoy rice dishes with various types of curry while you enjoy the sedate view of the rice fields; and the Padi Fine Dining restaurant where you can enjoy grilled Balinese fish, shellfish and vegetarian dishes.
After a brief interview with Gede to better familiarize ourselves with the place, we were off in two golf carts turned people carriers for a quick tour of the ten hectare property.
“The hotel is called Visesa Ubod Resort while the village is called Desa Visesa,” explained Gede.
The koi ponds, rice paddies, and overall greenery shows beyond a doubt the resort’s resolve to retain Ubud’s reputation as a privileged place to reboot mind, spirit and body.
First off we toured the children’s farm nestled in the midst of the emerald green rice paddies, where we saw a stallion and his mare, calling out to their frisky colt roaming around the farm; a brace of ducks hurrying to their pond, and one of the local cowboys wrestling with a yearling. Kids may ride the horses or feed the other livestock. Truly a pastoral experience worthy of a traditional Balinese farm.
Now a Zero-Waste Resort, employees knock off work daily at 5PM to clean up the entire complex. We saw staff dressed in traditional Balinese attire doing about their work as we toured the road around the rooms and villas.
Desa Visesa Ubod is a 10 minute drive from the center of Ubud but you can take a shuttle service, 3 times a day. It enables you stay close to the action at the Ubod Art Market, temples and palace, but offers you peace and respite at the end of your day, just like it aims to do.
Cebu Pacific flies to (Denpasar) Bali from Manila four times weekly every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Starting October 28 (Sunday), CEB will be flying DAILY to and from Bali with a lowest year-round base fare of P2,088.
For further inquiries, contact Jl. Suweta, Banjar Bentuyung Sakti, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia Phone: +62 361 2091788