I don’t know about you, but even though we returned from Bali weeks ago, my head is still in holiday mode. One of the stand out events of our whole trip has to be the morning we spent with Bali Eco Tours doing their rice paddy tour. Now, I can hear you saying, “Rice paddies? Aren’t those just for Insta pics?” But oh my goodness this tour is so much more than just a walk in a field, it really is something quite special.
Bali eco tours is a really cool company. They’ve been doing eco-educational work in and around Ubud since 1999, and they really do deliver on being an ethical and community enriching company. There are so many rice paddy tours going around Ubud, but Bali eco tours really made me feel like my money was going to the people involved in the tour, not some massive corporation. The tour guides are locals who really love their company, and the businesses that they support on the tour are locally run and owned.
We also stopped regularly to take pictures of any trash deposits we found in the rivers and paddies. These photos were sent back to the owner of the company so that they could help organise cleanups and keep an eye on the ever-growing plastic problem in Bali. I was left with the feeling that booking through Bali eco tours was a good way to ensure that my travel didn’t harm the beautiful environment I was enjoying so much, and that is a rare and awesome thing to feel these days!
The Rice Paddy Tour
When we were picked up we immediately headed to a coffee plantation for some breakfast snacks. Satria Coffee Plantation serves a variety of coffees and teas that they produce on site, and being Bali, this includes Luwak coffee. For those that don’t know, Kopi Luwak is produced by harvesting the coffee beans that the ferret like Luwak have eaten. As it is called in Bali, you really are getting a ‘cat-poo-cino’.
Now here is the rub. Luwak only eat a small amount of beans, and beans are only a part of their diet, meaning that the coffee is super expensive to produce. As it has gained popularity, unethical producers have begun to capture and cage, or even breed Luwak, force feeding them coffee beans exclusively. These battery farms produce a higher yield, but are desperately unethical.
It is really difficult to find information about what plantations are ethical and which are not, short of actually going to see for yourself. Even then, I got the sense that the workers knew exactly what to say to assuage our fears, and make us comfortable to buy their products. This being said, Satria coffee certainly looked like the real thing. There were a few caged animals, but this is unfortunately common practice to show tourists what the animals look like.
The Luwak at Satria looked healthy, and were paired in their cages, which were on the bigger side of what we saw in Bali. There was also no interaction with the animals, who are nocturnal, so that was good as well. The employees had job descriptions such as ‘poop hunter’, and they were adamant that they did not force feed the animals.
I saw the plantation and I didn’t see any battery farming happening, so I can only hope that this is true. I also hope that because the plantation is community run, and the money goes back into the community. As is often the case, animal rights and human rights don’t necessarily match up, but I can only hope they do here. use your discretion.
Unfortunately if you do any package program in Bali, whether it is a a rice paddy tour or anything else, you will end up at a coffee plantation that sells Kopi Luwak. If you are worried, buy the tea and coffee that doesn’t involve the animals, so that the allure of Kopi Luwak can lessen, which would be good for everyone involved!
Rice Paddy Tour Temple Stop 1:
After the coffee we ventured off to Pura Mengening, which is probably one of my favourite temples in Bali. Forget the crowds, this temple feels ancient, and when we were there, there wasn’t a tourist in sight, there wasn’t really anybody but us! This temple is in the village of Saraseda, and it is situated on the site of a holy spring. Around since sometime in the 11th century, the temple has two pools for bathing, separated for men and women. Walking down to the pools, the whole temple feels as if it is being slowly reclaimed by the surrounding forest, and it is cool and quiet.
Our amazing guide told us that temples such as these have traditionally been really good sites for finding your potential partner, as people from all the surrounding villages will come at certain points in the year, and you can check out the dating potential outside of your village. Early speed dating I guess!
After visiting the temple we took a walk through the forest to a nearby waterfall. Now with all that I had heard about waterfalls being super crowded in Bali, I was not expecting to have one all to ourselves! We jumped in and cooled off from the humidity, and it was only when we were packing up that another couple came along with their guide. It was a magical dip, and we felt so lucky to have had it alone.
Rice Paddy Tour Temple Stop 2:
The most spectacular temple that we encountered on our walk came next, Gunung Kawi. This 11th century tomb is dedicated to Bali’s Queen Mahendradatta, and her consort King Udayana. The funeral complex houses 10 massive stone monuments, each around 8 metres high. On the one side of the Pakerisan river, 5 monuments are said to be in memory of the king, queen, and their 3 sons. Whilst across the river 4 more monuments are thought to be for the king’s concubines. The final monument is dedicated to the prime minister at the time.
Walking through the forest meant we missed the 272 steps to the temple, but it would be worth even that climb for the beauty and immensity of the complex. The area also has ancient stone dwellings for monks who would make the journey to recieve knowledge and blessings through meditation. I can certainly see why, as even with tourists around, the area is calm and quiet, and the rock is cool even in the heat of the day.
What would a rice paddy tour be without a little bit of a saunter amongst the rice? After the grandeur of Gunung Kawi, we settled into the rice paddy part of our tour. At times walking on paved sidewalks, other times gently passing between, or when we had to, in the rice paddies, it is easy to see why people fall in love with this iconic image of Bali. Our guides come from rice farming families, and could answer every question we had about the rice and the way of life surrounding it.
After seeing people planting rice in the heat, I have so much more respect for rice farmers. That was one of the many gifts that Bali gave me. An appreciation for where my food begins. Seeing the actual plants, whether it is rice or a cinnamon tree, or a cocoa tree, really puts our supermarket centered life in perspective.
We stopped at a really cute home on our way, where we enjoyed coconuts and Balinese cakes, which are really just the most amazing treats that rice was ever involved in making. We spent time with the family that lived there, and it just felt really cool to be a part of the small business that they are slowly growing.
To end the rice paddy tour we stopped off at a beautiful organic restaurant for one of the best meals of my life. I’m not exaggerating. Included in the price of the tour is this massive plate of goodness, including a lemongrass chicken curry that may have changed my life. To make it even better, the view out into the forest was spectacular, and I could have spent the afternoon eating and napping there quite happily.
So should you go?
If you haven’t noticed by now, I did actually quite enjoy the rice paddy tour! But all jokes aside, the tour was absolute value for money from start to finish, and our time in Ubud would have been incomplete without it. It is also a super organisation to support, and you know exactly where your money is going. The guides are wonderful, great at English, and super story tellers so you will be laughing your day away in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the world. Yup, you should go.
The rice paddy tour is going to cost you $38 per person, although if they only have 2 bookings they will let you know a few days in advance and you can choose to cancel or pay a bit extra to get the tour for just the 2 of you. This happened to us and I am insanely happy that it did, it was awesome just to have the 2 of us. Definitely worth the extra money, $136 in total.
Pick ups in Ubud are around 8 o’clock depending where you stay, and you’ll get taken back to your place afterwards. It is technically a half day tour, but we got back around 2 pm, so plan to give it most of your day, it’s worth it!
All your entrance fees are included in the price of the rice paddy tour, along with sarongs so you can enter the temples, and water in eco friendly steel bottles. You also get lunch and two sets of Balinese cakes to snack on. Wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and muddy, and bring a hat, sunscreen and bug spray. Don’t forget your camera, this walk is Instagram heaven!
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