Ubud & the Rice Fields
Since arriving in Ubud, I had been trying to work out where to go for a run. The streets were jam-packed with vehicles and the narrow, uneven pavement was not runner friendly. I decided to test my luck on a route that ran parallel to the Campuhan Ridge walk (the underwhelming trail I experienced yesterday), hoping it would be more picturesque. I followed a sign that read ‘Subak Juwuk Manis (Magical Rice Fields in Ubud)’, which looped up with another walk I had read about online, Sari Organik, and prayed it would turn out well.
It. Was. Stunning. For the entire journey I was on a footpath, not a road, so there were no cars forcing me off to the side. Occasionally a scooter whizzed by, but there weren’t so many that it become a nuisance. I passed rice field after rice field, each offering glassy grey reflections of the early morning light. Every now and then I came across a guesthouse with tourists eating breakfast by the fields, or locals going about their business, but in general it was very peaceful and secluded. I ended up spending more time taking photos than I did running. It was far more rewarding than the Campuhan Ridge walk.
After a couple of kilometres the path became almost non-existent. I was forced down an overgrown track no more than 20 cm wide that hugged the edge of a creek. I slowed to a walk through this section, knowing I would probably fall into the water if I tried to speed up. Once the trail opened up again, I returned to my running/photography tour all the way back to town. The loop was only about 4 km long, so I decided to head back out for a second time but with less camera action.
As soon as we had eaten breakfast, we hired a scooter and drove out to Tegallalang rice fields, a popular tourist attraction. Passing through the entrance, we were immediately awestruck by a sweeping view of rolling hills layered with rice terraces. Paths led off in every direction, and there was no clear route to follow. Every few steps we were presented with another superb view; my camera was having a serious workout today. The steep hills seemed to trap the humidity, and it wasn’t not long before we were pouring with sweat. It felt like they had turned up the thermostat just for our benefit.
Dotted around the top edges of the rice fields were giant swings that you could be strapped into then pushed out high over the valley. It looked like fun, but they weren’t tempting enough to fork out the money they were asking. Also for rent were bright dresses with long trains that floated out behind you on the swing. We saw plenty of women taking advantage of this, and I was sure they came away with many Instagram-worthy images. The annoying part to all of this were the swing operators, who yelled excitedly each time they pushed someone out (and I mean on every single push). I wasn’t sure how this added to their experience, but it certainly didn’t add to ours.
Back in town we hunted around for a good deal on a Mt Agung hiking tour. Mt Agung is the tallest mountain in Bali, and we had read online that the difficulty rating was fairly high. Naturally, I had to do it. We chose a street vendor offering the cheapest price, who made a call to his tour operator. No tours were running tomorrow. Tomorrow was our last full day in Ubud, so if it didn’t happen tomorrow it wasn’t going to happen. The second vendor we tried gave us the same news. Finally, we entered a more official-looking tour office and spoke to a woman who knew multiple agencies that ran the tour. Thankfully, one of them said yes, they could take us. Relief! It was more expensive than what the first two vendors were offering, but we would have gladly paid anything right then.
I was keen to show Danny around the ‘Magical Rice Fields’ that I ran around this morning, but he was exhausted and just wanted to stay out of the heat. So I returned alone, this time slowly meandering around and taking my time to soak it in. The light was now coming in from a different angle, justifying my need to take photos of every sight all over again. Even in the middle of the afternoon, it was quiet and calm.
Dinner was eaten on the front porch of a local house-turned-restaurant, a small setting with only 4 tiny tables and a limited menu. Our dumplings and curry took a while to prepare, but they were freshly made and had that comforting home-cooked taste to them. Then it was off to bed early for our big trip tomorrow.