*Author’s note: as there was a bit of an unforeseen 3 a.m. motorbike crash and subsequent trip to the ER to contend with, I was unable to actually make the trip out to Tegalalang. Fortunately, my good friend and trusty squire Kris Wigley managed to make the journey (don’t worry, I’ve forgiven you for abandoning me in that hellhole of a sunny garden villa during my 14-hour coma of need) and took the following photographs of one of Indonesia‘s most iconic scenes.
Bali is world-renowned for it’s sandy beaches, big waves and hedonistic nightlife, but a trip to the centre of the island reveals an entirely different vibe altogether. Here, undulating hills of verdant green dotted by little villages and tranquil river valleys dominate the landscape to create a spectacle straight out of a postcard.
While it’s true that as with many other destinations on the island, Tegalalang’s rice terraces have a distinctly “found out” feel – complete with parking and entrance fees and stalls filled with cheap trinkets – the view really is hard to beat. Though there are a few other places one can go to witness a more spectacular or peaceful scene (the towering terraces of China‘s Yunnan Province and Sa Pa in the northwestern corner of Vietnam come immediately to mind), Tegalalang is a great place to spend a morning or afternoon taking in the sights and sounds of nature and a simpler, slower kind of life if those remote locales aren’t feasible for you.
It’s not without reason that the tourist trap in Tegalalang sprouted up where it did; simply put, it’s the best place in the area to view and take photos of the terraces. But if far from the madding crowd is where you prefer to be, fret not. The countryside surrounding Ubud is teeming with rice fields and terraces of varying shapes and sizes, so a motorbike and adventurous spirit is all you really need to find a more serene setting to take in. And just to prove it to you, I’ll let you in on a little secret: those photos above actually weren’t taken at Tegalalang’s primary viewing spot.
No, my mate Kris (who to his credit was probably a little grumpy from not having slept the night before on account of having to take someone to the hospital and so not up for big crowds) took one look at the sarong vendors and swarm of humanity fighting for a better vantage point and hopped right back on his bike. After 10 or 15 minutes of cruising around the area he stumbled upon the fields that you see, where a friendly local farmer came along and offered to take him on a tour. For free.
His recommendation is that it’s worth it to brave the peddlers and pack for the view and the photographs, but once you’ve done that be sure to explore the area more thoroughly. You might just find something a touch less…touched.
How To Get To Tegalalang’s Rice Terraces
To get to the rice terraces, simply hire a driver (our fearless guide is pictured above) or rent a motorbike (approx. $5 USD/day). From the Ubud town centre, take Jalan Raya as far east as you can go, and then turn north. After about 9KM, you’ll reach Tegalalang and see the terraces on your right.