Rice – be it sticky, rice, coconut or sweet – comes with everything in Indonesia, but it’s not just a food staple. It represents life, prosperity and family fortunes, and the rice goddess Dewi Sri, or Shridevi, is worshipped on the islands of Java and Bali.
Unless Indonesian food isn’t your thing, you’ll find yourself eating rice at least once, if not twice, a day in Bali. Rice for breakfast hasn’t yet caught on for this traveller, but it’s only a matter of time. The rituals of rice farming – the cycles of planting, tending, irrigating and harvesting – shape a Balinese farmer’s life, and the paddy fields and cleverly designed streams which trickle down terrace after terrace form the lush green landscape that epitomises this island.
Those little grains are the product of hard graft, something best appreciated on a rice paddy tour. I’m glad to be wearing walking boots. Snakes, including the Indonesian spitting cobra, often hide in the paddies and while I appreciate their importance to the ecosystem, I require no evidence of their healthy presence.
We stop at a small shrine surrounded by beautifully presented flowers and fruit offerings. “This is for Dewi Sri, our goddess of rice,” says my guide, who calls himself Jonny. We continue walking on the edges of the paddy. “That’s my uncle,” he says, pointing to a man knee-deep in water. Uncle waves back, the first of several family members we meet. It looks like back-breaking work for all of them.
Rice may be cheap, but it comes at a price. A tour I won’t forget in a hurry.
Bali expert Joan had a magical experience at a hotel in Ubud, famed for its picturesque rice fields. Here's why she recommends it to everyone!