A Morning Walk Through Balinese Rice Paddies

A rice farmer in Ubud, Bali cuts rice with a sickle.

I love how this morning unfolded. After awakening to a symphony of creatures large and small, Shawn and I set out to explore the rice paddies that surround our Ubud, Bali guest house. Even though it was just after eight o’clock, the rice fields were already twinkling and sizzling under the hot morning sun’s rays.

Shawn headed off on a jog, whereas I decided to take a leisurely stroll. On the path that winds through the paddies, I encountered farmers on motorbikes commuting to work. I yielded the way so that ladies carrying large planks of wood, or bags of grass-clippings on their heads could pass. I was charmed to see a new kind of empty throne to honor Bali’s supreme god – this type was organic. Whereas the ubiquitous thrones in Balinese cities are made of stone and typically carved quite elaborately, this throne was woven out of various tropical leaves, with a wooden seat. It looked quite at home in its natural environment. Since the rice harvest is so important economically, it makes sense that spiritual practices would not cease at the city limits.

I also met two farmers – one tending to a rice field, and another who had just finished scaling coconut palm trees. The middle-aged coconut farmer lamented that he did not have a job, so he picks coconuts, which he then sells to Ubud restaurants. He had picked 10 this morning and he hoped to sell them for 50,000 rupiah ($5.50 or 4€).

The man dabbling in coconuts showed me a golden paddy of rice that will likely be harvested tomorrow. He also removed a few kernels for me to sample.

After I had bid farewell to the farmers, I headed back towards our guest house, watching as a farmer took a sickle and cut through green stalks on a terrace. Iridescent pearls of water flew through the air with each slice.

Another farmer – a regular whom I’ve been observing for the past five days – walked barefoot through the paddy that he tends for hours each day. Imagine working under the boiling sun daily on the same plot of land! Would it be liberating to be free from the cares of the modern-day office, or would the physical exhaustion get the best of you?

I’ve eaten rice so many times in my life, but until this morning, I’d always taken for granted all the hard work that goes into farming it.

It’s something that I love so much about travel – how my degree of gratitude grows each day, along with my sense of wonder about the beautiful world and people all around me.

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • During our 2 weeks in Ubud, we stayed at the pretty and tranquil Nirwa Homestay (affiliate link), run by Madde and Ayu. The family-run guest house was surrounded by the the rice paddies featured here, and our soundtrack was that of nature: babbling canals, cricket sopranos, and confident roosters. If you stay at Madde and Ayu’s, be sure to order Ayu’s legendary green banana pancakes for breakfast.
  • Need more inspiration? My Bali guide shares all of my highlights from the island.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All rights reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

19 thoughts on “A Morning Walk Through Balinese Rice Paddies

    1. Many thanks, Marina! I’m glad that you’re enjoying my images from Bali. As my husband and I were driving on a day trip outside of Ubud today, I remarked how many thousands of photo opportunities exist on seemingly every Balinese block. I see that you’re originally from Australia. Have you ever visited Indonesia? It’s so much fun to meet others through my blog, such as you, who share similar passions (travel, yoga, etc.).

      1. I haven’t been to Indonesia as yet – I traveled all the way over to the Northern Hemisphere so that I could eventually travel downwards, back home. ;) (that’s a nice dream, and a great reason to photograph forever!) My sister studied indonesian at school so she’d practice her skills on the staff on the cruises we’d go on from Sydney to the South Pacific. The waiters especially liked it when they were referred to as ‘ganteng’. It was so funny! PS Great to meet you via the blogosphere too!

      2. How cool that your sister studied Indonesian – I just added a new word to my Indonesian repertoire tonight (ganteng). On a side note, We’re currently trying to decide where to venture next. Australia seems so tempting, but we’re not sure if we’d be able to squeeze in much wildlife/dramatic landscapes in about 10 days. So, we’ll probably have to travel downwards, as you say, sometime in the future.

      3. you must go to Australia – even if just to the North (The Northern Territory or North Queensland). There’s plenty to photograph and I know you’ll love it! If you do, I cannot wait to see your photos. Glad I taught you a new word! It, “ganteng” sticks out in my mind of funny times!!

      4. I regret to say that we won’t be making it to Australia, at least during this leg of our sabbatical. We’re next heading to Malaysia, then northward. I think Australia is a destination worthy of a month or so – here’s hoping that we’ll be able to make it there soon!

  1. I love this Tricia. The farmers are amazing aren’t they? Herding the ducks through the fields from morning till night. It’s so lovely to stay near a rice field but the ducks are so noisy! Still, with nothing to do but wander and take in the day, it doesn’t matter. Lovely photos again, looks like a perfect Ubud morning.

    1. Another fun aspect that I love about staying near the rice fields is the firefly show that we get each night! Two nights ago, as I was half-asleep under the mosquito netting, I saw that a lone firefly had journeyed into our room. It was beautiful as the little insect flitted about!

      Hope your trip preparation is proceeding well! Do you have a countdown going?

  2. loved reading it. specially the way you ended it with the self realisation bit. very rightly said we all have had so much of rice through our life without seeing the hard work going into it.

    1. Hi Sudip and thanks for your message! The self-reflection that takes place during travel is what makes it so special, isn’t it? I love seeing new ways of doing things and the creative energy that’s generated as a result! You have some incredible images of everyday life in India on your sites, by the way, and I look forward to enjoying more (and hopefully visiting India in the coming months). Hope you’ll drop by again!

  3. I thought I’d come check out your Ubud travelogue! Needless to say, I was thoroughly entertained and glad I made the ‘click’.
    In answer to your question, we were there in 1992. It was a short visit, just two nights, as part of a week long stay on Bali. We only had three weeks holiday and started in Hong Long, where we got engaged! Then Bali, Jakarta (just Yogyakata) and Lombok. Lombok was quite off the beaten track in 1992. We snorkelled from Gili Trawangan which was almost tourist free then. I was surprised to discover recently that there are quite a few hotels on there now.

    1. It sounds as though you had quite a whirlwind adventure in Asia, Rachael, and it’s exciting that you were engaged in such an exotic locale!

      We haven’t yet gotten the chance to make it to HK, and we were so relaxed in Bali that we decided to stay there the entire time (Jimbaran & Ubud). But, we’ve heard great things about Lombok and the Gili islands. It must have been special being to those spots (particularly snorkeling) before so many others started flocking there. Were you the sophisticated shutterbug that you are now – back in 1992?

      1. I had an SLR but only used auto mode. But I did take a lot of photos, despite the cost of film and processing. On our honeymoon in ’93, to Zimbabwe and Mauritius! I used up 51 rolls of 36-exposure film! I wish I could find the negatives from all my pre-digital trips.

  4. Hi Tricia, I found you through Lucy at On the Luce…glad I did. I have been in Bali in the last 3 months, but heading back to California soon…(so sad to leave). Ubud was one of my fave parts of Bali. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos!

    1. Desirée, so happy connect as I just enjoyed perusing your pictures from Bali too! Were you in Bali on holiday or for study or work? We enjoyed our 3 weeks in Jimbaran and Ubud immensely.

      I see that you also stayed at a homestay? Our time with a Balinese couple in Ubud made the experience ever more special! I miss seeing the hostess place spiritual offerings each morning in the family’s temple. Enjoy the rest of your time there!

      1. Yes, we stayed at a homestay :)…much more our style, instead of a fancy hotel (although, that is kinda nice from time to time). My husband and I were on a working vacation for our landscape & design business, and I was working on some creative projects of my own…it’s amazing how much travel can spark new ideas and give you a different perspective on things while you are away. I love it, crave it, need it! LOL. :)

      2. Desirée, I can see how Bali would offer great inspiration for your business! We went on a 5-month Asian sabbatical last year, and Bali was our first stop. It was the perfect place to unwind, let go of mental & physical tension, and start feeling relaxed, allowing us both to be creative. I look forward to seeing more of your parting images and posts.

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