Uncovering Bali’s Ancient Rice Terraces of Pupuan, Bali

Balinese farmers have harvested rice for over 2000 years. The rice terraces were created using primitive tools to carve the hillsides in order to support traditional-subak agriculture. The result is the beautiful terraced landscapes that still grace Bali today. Caring for these structures takes a lot of hard work, and that’s why farmers have passed down the maintenance of rice terraces to their kids for thousands of years. Local tourism initiatives have also started up in order to provide additional income for rural farmers.

Pupuan is located in the western part of Bali, which is a legendary spot for fantastic landscapes and greenery. This spot is remote, and you’ll have plenty of time to admire the terraced landscapes, get to know the local farmers and acquaint yourself with their daily lives. The Pupuan rice terraces are not as expansive as Jatiluwih or Tegalalang, but the region is definitely worth a visit.

The cultivators have retained their old way of cultivating their land with the help of buffalo. As padi grows profusely in the area, a deep green covers the landscape, resembling a vast emerald rug laid on the slopes of the hills. The cultivators of these crops share an intimate relationship with nature. At harvest time, the cultivators cut the paddy with traditional equipment called anggapan. Standing in rows, they sing while they glean their harvest.

The ridges of Pupuan’s rice fields are one of the magical examples of how talented the Balinese hands are; it astounded me to learn that the beautiful, vast terraced rice fields were man made. These enchanting fields, which are arranged in a series of terraces to follow the natural contours of the landscape, offer some of the most stunning views on the entire island. That’s right; the rice fields of Pupuan are so picturesque that once you’ve seen it, you might think that it was created as if the emerald green shade from a painter’s palate had been generously spread over the land.

The agricultural community in Pupuan has more or less remained untouched by the impact of tourism. Instead, many villagers seem to maintain a simplistic lifestyle that concentrates on the continual cycle of harvesting their crops and their strong faith in the Hindu religion. There are frequent ceremonial rituals prepared by each family of farmers to express their gratitude to the gods for the provision of earth, water, and all of nature’s components that allow mankind to exist.

Another interesting aspect is the organised irrigation system, known as the Subak, where farmers share water in a tradition that dates back centuries and has united generations of farmers in their common need for this highly valued resource. As for visitors, the opportunity to wander through the fields and watch the birds as they attempt to steal rice grains from immature stalks is an inspiring experience.

With that being said, spectacular rice fields are not all that Pupuan has to offer. Ascending inland through the smooth, winding road of Pupuan will also lead you to Vihara Dharma Giri, a Buddhist temple that has flown under the radar of many visitors to Bali.

In roughly the same area as Jatiluwih, the farming village of Pupuan features beautiful rice terraces, together with cocoa, clove and coffee plantations. There are even groves of rare tropical fruits, such as mangosteen and durian. Head off in the early mornings and you can catch a glimpse of the farmers tending to their crops, or laying out cloves to dry on the roadsides. Off the main paths, the area also features tropical forests with hidden waterfalls and streams.

Different from the other parts of the area, the town at Pupuan is bustling with life. From here, if you take the scenic road through the hills that lead to Negara, the capital of the Jembrana regency in West Bali, you’ll drive past several villages interspersed between the vast sections of green views of the surroundings. Just follow on the main road, and you’ll come across the one of a kind natural wonder knowns as Bunut Bolong in Manggisari village.

Bunut Bolong means “a tree with a hole” and is a sacred tree with a big hole cut through its base – so big that even a truck can go through it. It is situated on the ridge of a hill flanked in the east by a clove plantation and on the west a gorge bordered by a lush green tropical forest. The road is constructed through the tree as the tree is too big to allow the road to be built around it. Moreover, in Bali, cutting down a sacred tree is out of the question – especially since it is believed that there are two tiger spirits residing in every tree.

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