The Ceking Rice Terraces, also known as the Tegalalang Rice Terraces, is a world where emerald-green landscapes stretch as far as the eye can see, and ancient terraces whisper tales of a rich agricultural heritage. Come meander with me on an extraordinary journey to discover the awe-inspiring beauty of the Rice Terraces and the UNESCO-recognized subak irrigation system.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine standing on the edge of rolling hills adorned with meticulously carved terraces, where vibrant green rice paddies cascade down the slopes like nature's staircase. The sheer grandeur of this living tapestry will leave you breathless, while the tranquillity of the surroundings will soothe your soul.
As a seasoned traveller, I have always been drawn to destinations that encompass not only natural beauty but also cultural significance. The Ceking Rice Terraces, nestled just a stone's throw away from the bustling town of Ubud, Bali, epitomize this blend. It is a place where the legacy of rice farming intertwines with the rise of tourism, creating an enchanting tapestry that captivates the hearts of all who venture here.
There are many different rice fields to explore around Bali and Ubud (check out the Kajenng Rice Trail Walk) that are much less touristy and totally dedicated to growing rice but this is the place where those stunning social media photos are taken. This particular area has become incredibly popular with tourists and, predictably, the village is full of tourist services, from restaurants, hotels, and bars to souvenir shops and the inevitable Bali Swings. The rice continues to be an important source of income for many but tourism is becoming increasingly dominant.
In this post, I will be your virtual guide, sharing my experience and some practical advice to help you navigate your way through this captivating landscape. Whether you're a solo traveller, a photo buff seeking iconic shots, or simply someone who yearns to witness the wonders of nature, the Ceking Rice Terraces is something truly special... and for those looking for a Bali swing experience, that can be found too!
Getting to Tegalalang/Ceking Rice Terraces
Once you've decided to go to the Ceking Rice Terraces, the first step is getting there. The terraces are approximately 30 minutes by vehicle from central Ubud. As mentioned in previous blogs, there is no public transportation system but fortunately, there are several transportation options available.
You can choose to take a taxi or scooter taxi, using the Grab or Gojek app, or negotiate with one of the many drivers who look for fares along the main streets. I paid 40 000 IDR for a scooter taxi to Tegalalang but 60 000 IDR on return. Always negotiate the price before starting the trip. If you are wanting to visit several different places on the same day, a private driver or a day tour might be your best choice.
You might also choose to rent a scooter and drive yourself. Officially, it is required that you have a motorcycle license and wear a helmet (even though many locals don't), and of course, to follow the local traffic laws (although watching the traffic it may seem like there aren't any traffic laws!). Check your travel medical insurance as multiple companies consider driving a motorcycle to be a high-risk travel activity and will not cover expenses related to injuries sustained while riding.
The History of the Ceking Rice Terraces
To truly appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty of the Ceking Rice Terraces, I think it's important to understand the rich history and cultural significance that underlies these lush landscapes. Bali has a deep-rooted connection with rice farming.
The exact timeline of when rice farming began in Tegalalang is challenging to determine with precision. However, rice cultivation has been a fundamental part of the Balinese agricultural heritage for over a thousand years. It is safe to say that rice farming in Tegalalang, as well as in other regions of Bali, has been practiced for centuries.
Rice has been a staple crop in Bali for centuries, shaping the island's culture, economy, and way of life. The Balinese people have meticulously cultivated rice fields and developed complex irrigation and farming co-operative systems. Central to Bali's rice farming heritage is the subak system, an ancient cooperative irrigation method. This system embodies the Balinese philosophy of "Tri Hita Karana," which emphasizes the harmonious relationship between humans, nature, and religion. It is so unique that it is recognized by UNESCO.
The subak system involves the coordinated management of water distribution, cooperatively built by the farmers. Canals, small waterfalls and intricately designed rice field layouts create a sustainable irrigation network, providing the necessary water supply to each field.
The Ceking Rice Terraces have evolved over time, shaped by both natural and human factors. Initially carved by hand, the terraces were painstakingly constructed to adapt to the natural contours of the hillsides. As generations of farmers passed down their knowledge, the terraces were refined and expanded to maximize agricultural productivity.
In recent years, the rise of tourism has also influenced the terraces' development. The increased influx of visitors has prompted the local community to attempt to strike a delicate balance between preserving the agricultural landscape and catering to the needs of tourists. This symbiotic relationship between rice farming and tourism has resulted in the terraces becoming a captivating destination for travellers from around the world but has also strained some relationships between the farmers and the tourism industry.
The Rise of Tourism
As the Ceking Rice Terraces have gained recognition as a must-visit destination, the rise of tourism has brought both opportunities and challenges to this idyllic agricultural landscape. At street level, Tegalalang feels like an overdeveloped and cluttered tourist trap. The main street, Jalan Tegalalang is lined with shops, attractions, warungs, bars, hotels, and restaurants. Once you start trekking through the terraces, you will come across multiple drink stands, Bali swings and tacky props to be used for photos. Some farmers will ask for a fee to allow you to walk through their fields or to pose for photos.
The influx of visitors has undoubtedly contributed to the local economy and provided livelihood opportunities for the community surrounding the terraces. However, it has also led to increased footfall, infrastructure development, and changes in the traditional way of life. Balancing the preservation of the terraces' natural beauty with the demands of tourism is an ongoing challenge.
To ensure the longevity of the Ceking Rice Terraces and minimize our ecological footprint, it is essential to embrace sustainable travel practices. Stay on designated paths, don't litter, and avoid damaging the rice paddies. Be mindful of the fragile ecosystem and the importance of preserving the natural beauty and the livelihood of the farmers.
Since I had visited several different rice fields during the previous weeks of my visit, I felt well-informed about rice cultivation and the fascinating subak irrigation system. I had already enjoyed some time on Bali Swings and to be completely honest, even though I had an absolute blast, I think there are so many swings, it has become very clichéd. One swing experience would have been enough for me. For those enjoying their first experience in a rice field or swings, however, you may want to organize a short tour or spend some time in the Ceking Visitor Museum. You can buy a ticket that includes a bunch of swings, or you can pay-as-you-go, or just choose to walk through the terraces.
Most people will start at the Uma Ceking Resto and Swing on Jalan Tegalalang (the main road). There are different entry fees depending on where you choose to access the terraces and what activities you want to do. You may also be able to use certain entrances for free, often a pathway or set of stairs between businesses. On the eastern side of the valley - along Jalan Raya Cebok - the fee is 10 000 IDR and from Ume Ceking it’s 50 000 IDR, with additional fees for using the swings or buying professional photos. I entered at Uma Ceking Resto and Swing.
Exploring the Ceking Rice Terraces
As I got past the restaurant and the swings, I stood at the top of stairs, surrounded by a symphony of vibrant green hues and captivating natural beauty. The Tegalalang rice terraces use Bali’s ancient Subak irrigation system, with rice paddies arranged in descending layers. I stopped to take many photos from here and then followed a path down into the valley. On the day I visited, there was light rain for the majority of my visit. I found the rain to be refreshing and it also kept many tourists away. While I certainly passed other tourists, I never felt crowded and spent a lot of time without anyone close by or interfering with my enjoyment.
This is not a beautifully manicured and paved path. It is poorly signposted. There are many sections that are narrow, muddy and occasionally quite steep. The trail starts out pretty straight-forward but the further you go, the more choices you will make where the paths intersect. At most of these intersections will be a rough sign pointing to "trecking" or "rice terraces". Trecking will take you along the top of the valley and through the bamboo forest. The Rice Terrace routes will lead down into the valley along trails though the terraced paddies.
Your path may take an hour, or you might be like me and find enough paths and things of interest to keep you occupied for 4-5 hours. You'll see many swing sites and drink huts, some derelict and obviously abandoned, others well-kept with attentive staff. There are sometimes toilets near the drink huts.
Some trails are much steeper and tougher than they may first appear. Hiking boots are not required but you will want footwear that can handle mud and rough patches.
To fully appreciate the grandeur of the terraces, be sure to visit the viewpoints along the trekking route. These vantage points are located to offer sweeping vistas of the intricate patterns and contours of the terraced fields.
During your trek, you'll encounter hidden gems along the way, from rather terrifying bamboo bridges to charming traditional huts nestled amidst the terraces. These moments provide perfect opportunities to pause, capture photographs, and soak in your surroundings.
Remember to take your time and embrace the journey. Allow yourself to get lost in the beauty of this natural wonderland, and get lost in the harmonious dance between human ingenuity and the bounties of nature.
... and don't forget to put on some insect repellent. Rice fields are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes!
Exploring the Ceking Rice Terraces from Ubud is an unforgettable experience filled with natural and man-made wonders. The green of the terraces will be a treasured memory and guarantee super photographs. While there is no doubt that this area is in danger of complete overdevelopment and is quite touristy, the fields are remarkably beautiful and serene once you venture further away from the street and into the valley. On the other hand, after spending several hours trekking around, those restaurants and warungs overlooking the fields are perfect for enjoying a meal and admiring the view. I recommend including a visit to Ceking Rice Terraces during your Bali travels.
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