As a mature casual budget traveller, my wanderlust often leads me to seek destinations that offer rich experiences beyond the typical tourist hotspots. I'm not one for late-night parties or crowded bars; instead, my joy is found in immersing myself in the history, culture, and natural beauty of the places I visit. And when it comes to travel, safety and value are of utmost importance to me, especially as a solo female traveller.
During my month-long adventure in Indonesia, I based myself in central Ubud. Ubud is renowned for its vibrant arts scene, lush landscapes, and serene rice terraces. It is a place where history whispers through ancient temples, where culture dances with traditional performances, and where nature calls to my soul with its awe-inspiring beauty. Central Ubud is busy, noisy, and full of people but is surrounded by beautiful forests and serene rice fields.
In my quest for an authentic experience where I could walk and enjoy an authentic, non-touristy side of Ubud, I was scrolling around the Google map of Ubud when I noticed a trail called the Kajeng Rice Field Trail that looked promising. The route winds through picturesque rice field and showcases the intricate Subak irrigation system that has been used by the Balinese people for centuries.
As a casual budget traveller, I always strive to get the best value for my travel dollars. The Kajeng Rice and Subak Juwuk Manis walk perfectly aligns with my travel ethos, offering an immersive and affordable adventure that allows me to truly connect with the essence of Ubud. With safety as a priority, I've found solace in exploring this serene destination, surrounded by warm and welcoming locals who ensure a secure and comfortable journey.
In this blog, I invite you to join me as I meander the Kajeng Rice and Subak Juwuk Manis trails in Ubud. Together, we'll navigate the path less travelled, explore the vibrant Kajeng Market, stroll through the charming Kajeng village, and relish the breathtaking beauty of the rice fields. I'll share practical tips for fellow travellers, ensuring that you can make the most of your trail walk.
Overview of the Kajeng Rice Field Trail
The Kajeng Rice Fields Walk is a path on the west of the main street in Ubud that goes through the working rice paddies. Its original purpose was to be a pathway for the farmers to move around the rice paddies. In more recent years, entrepreneurial types have opened hotels, cafes and stores along the route. It is not as popular as the better-known Campuhan Ridge Walk, so it is quieter and less-developed.
Combined with the Subak Juwut Manis trail, the route is a loop that will take about an hour and a half to complete, longer if you choose to stop for a meal or lots of photographs.
Getting to the Kajeng Rice Field Trail
You have a choice of starting points, both found off Jalan Raya (the main road) in Ubud. One choice is from a laneway with a sign directing you to Subuk Juwuk Manis (Magical Rice Field) or at the entrance to Kajeng Village between Ubud Palace and Saraswati Water Temple. Both roads start out wide and paved for cars, but soon narrow into paths only fit for scooters and foot traffic.
This is a very easy trail. It has no elevation gains and most of the trail has a decent surface. I chose to start at Jalan Kajeng and walk through the market and Kajeng Village before joining the trail.
Walking through Kajeng Market and Village
Kejang is one of the small, traditional villages that make up Ubud. Ubud is actually 14 small villages, each with its own temples and unique cultural practices. For most travellers the borders between one village and the other are unclear and many don't even realize that these are separate communities. Kejang village is known for ancient temples and the Rice Field. The temples within the village include the Pura Penataran Sasih and the Pura Dalem Kajeng
Jalan Kajeng, beside the Saraswati Water Temple, is the main road of the village and is lined with market stalls and small shops, warungs, and restaurants. The market sells clothing, handicrafts, and traditional items. You'll notice that the road is paved with etched concrete stones that offer inspiration, advertising, and other random celebrations.
Engaging with friendly vendors is an experience in itself. Expect to be called to look at their wares and buy something. You will be warmly welcomed and urged to step into the shops and stalls for a closer look. If you do choose to buy, make sure to haggle for a good price. Almost all prices in Bali are negotiable. It's a good idea to get a feel for prices before beginning to bargain. I learned that I could usually negotiate prices 50-75% lower than the vendor's opening price.
I recommend dedicating time to browse the stalls or to enjoy a delicious and refreshing blended juice or smoothie at one of the restaurants (you might want to use their toilet as there are no facilities on the trail).
At the far end of the market the road narrows and turns into a pedestrian and bike route only as it goes through the village and out to the rice fields. This short section is shaded, so enjoy the coolness while you can.
Experiences Along the Kajeng Rice Field Trail Route
At the end of the paved road, the buildings are left behind and the sprawling rice fields stretch as far as the eye can see. I followed the path through the lush green fields admiring the gentle swaying of the rice stalks in the breeze and the views of the fields.
The Subak irrigation system is a fascinating sight to behold. Subak irrigation is the lifeblood of rice cultivation, throughout Bali. Its intricate network of canals, water temples, and cooperative management reflects the ingenuity of the Balinese people and their harmonious relationship with nature.
The history of the Subak irrigation system dates back to the 9th century when Hindu settlers from Java brought their agricultural practices to Bali. Recognizing the need to manage water resources for rice cultivation, they established Subak organizations to regulate water distribution among farmers and ensure fair and equitable access.
The Subak system requires a lot of planning and cooperation between the farmers who divide the landscape into subaks that contain several different rice fields. The canals, called subak canals, are designed to divert water from rivers, lakes, and springs to the fields and provide drainage to prevent flooding.
Water temples are crucial in the Subak system. Not only are these spiritual centers but they are also where decisions are made for coordinating water distribution, resolving conflicts, and making sure that the water is distributed equitably. The farmers work together to maintain the canals. The Subak irrigation system has gained UNESCO World Heritage recognition for the cultural landscap
The fields were at various points in the growing process. Some had just been harvested, others had just been planted. Some fields were ready for harvest. As I wandered, I saw many farmers working in the paddies along the way. Their weathered faces greeted me with wide smiles as I watched them work. I was often encouraged to come closer to get my photos and to chat. I was delighted as several explained the process and I was even invited to try my hand at threshing the rice from the stalks by hitting the stalks against a bamboo basket & net structure which released the rice husks into the basket. The next step was removing the husks by using a bamboo sieve. I wasn't nearly as efficient as the farmers but they praised my efforts as they quickly removed me from my task. I was told that the rice collected would be spread out on the tarps for drying before it would be ready for use or sale.
Some rustic shacks and humble homes are tucked near the back of the fields that provide a charming subject for photos. There are a few warungs where you can stop for a meal or beverage. Behind the rice fields, the walk also unveiled hidden gems of natural beauty. Dense foliage, vibrant flowers, birdsong, and the gentle gurgling of nearby streams created an enchanting atmosphere.
A few vendors can be found selling handicrafts laid out on blankets beside the path. During my walk, I encountered a weaver with stunning sarongs and a man making mosaic-style bowls.
As I continued my walk there were a few areas that were nicely shaded which made a nice break from the intense heat of the day. The upper-end hotels and spas along the route looked like wonderful and peaceful retreats. I enjoyed the strategically placed seating areas outside these hotels. I'm not exactly sure how guests with luggage would be able to get to them as the trail cannot accommodate cars and it would be a heck of haul to walk with your suitcases.
Tips for Travellers
As a solo female traveller, safety is always a consideration when planning activities. Although I encountered very few tourists, I felt extremely safe at all times. I was greeted warmly by everyone I met along the route. It costs nothing to do the walk, so it is an ideal activity for those on a tight budget. There are tours offered which will give you a deeper understanding of the process and history of the area but the trail is so picturesque that a tour isn't necessary to enjoy your walk.
Rice paddies are full of water and are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitos. Insect repellant or long pants and sleeves will save you from all but the most determined beastie. There is little shade, so sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water will serve you well.
I encourage every Bali traveller to consider walking the Kajeng Rice Field and Subak Juwuk Manis trail during their visit to Ubud. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Kajeng Market, explore the charming village, and embrace the serenity of the rice fields. Let the Subak irrigation system captivate you with its ingenuity and sustainable practices. Embrace the experience and you'll uncover one of the lesser-known gems of Ubud.
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