I was not sure what to expect when we decided to stay in Ubud Bali, as we had heard fellow travelers express vastly different opinions. It seemed like people either loved BalI or hated it. After staying a month I can see a little bit of both sides. The traffic is horrendous and Ubud is overrun with tourists making it impossible to walk around and also contributing to the erosion of traditional Balinese culture. But then there were these other qualities that make it a beautiful place to stay: the incredibly kind Balinese people, the art, and the stunning terraced rice fields.
While in Ubud we were fortunate to be staying outside the city and were able to avoid the absolute madhouse of the city center. Our house, built in the traditional open-air style, was surrounded by rice fields. Staying there gave us a glimpse of the slower pace of traditional Balinese life. In the morning while sipping our coffee, we would watch the wildlife and the farmers tend to their fields. In the evening the fields become a chorus of night noises with the flickering light of fireflies that I found immensely soothing. Watching life pass by in the rice fields was what made me fall in love with Bali.
During our month stay, we took to wandering through the rice fields just to explore and see where it took us. In our wanderings we discovered a place that is rich in natural beauty and traditional farming practices where little has changed in centuries. There was one walk in particular we really enjoyed with the trail meandering through the rice fields around Ubud. Along the path there were restaurants to relax at, artists displaying their crafts and a natural beauty which the likes I have not seen before. During our month stay, we became such a fixture on that trail many of the artists and farmers of the rice fields began to recognize us and wave as we walked by. Several times we took the time to stop and speak with some of the artists and enjoyed learning a little bit about traditional Balinese art. The time and detail put into some of the paintings is truly amazing.
Along the trail we also enjoyed seeing the wildlife including frogs, herons and even snakes. Yes! I did say even snakes which included both the non-poisonous and poisonous varieties. Here is a good lesson learned; poisonous snakes in Bali can look harmless. During one of our walks along our favorite trail, Jason stated there was a snake and promptly stopped where he was. I, on the other hand, asked where and blithely walked passed it, while Sydney let out a blood-curdling scream. All this commotion resulted in the snake poking his head up wondering what was going on. Finally ascertaining the exact location of the snake and studying it from a distance, I noted that it did not have a triangle shaped head and felt reasonably sure that it was not poisonous. I tried reassuring Jason and Sydney that it was not poisonous and perfectly safe to walk past. But they would not budge and told me to walk by it if I was so sure that it was safe. Of course I had to prove my point and casually made a wide circle around the snake back to Jason and Sydney. Even after my bravado, Jason and Sydney still would not budge. Finally the harmless looking snake decided we were not that interesting and went slithering away. After our walk we looked it up on the internet and as it turned out it is a teensy bit on the poisonous side. It was in fact an Indonesian spitting cobra. Doh!
Anyway, don’t let our experience with a spitting cobra dissuade you from wandering in the rice fields in Bali. I really hope that you too take the opportunity to be able to experience Balinese culture. Just tread carefully.
In case you would like to try our favorite walk through the rice fields, here is a map: