One morning we decided to try the rice paddy walk recommended in the Lonely Planet guide to Bali. The guidebook said that it would take about 1 hour, but as we stopped to take pictures and talk to people, we took slightly more than 2 hours.
The route starts along a pathway behind one of the guesthouses off Jalan Raya. As there was no map, we were a bit confused as to which path to take (there were about three dirt paths), so we did our eeny, meeny, minny, mo and randomly selected one.
About 5 minutes down the path, we hear someone cheerfully call out to us. This brown Balinese man waved and asked us where we were going. When he realised it was to the rice paddies, he indicated another path parallel to the one we were on but divided by a drain and a wall. We were going to back track when he suddenly emerged and told us to follow him. We clamoured through the drain and a smallish hole in the wall to reach the right path. He was all smiles and offered to pick us coconut. This was the start of many cheerful greetings and offers of coconut.
After about a 5-minute walk, we reached the paddy fields. It was a bright clear day, and the sky was beautifully reflected in the pools of water in the terraced fields. There were ducks following each other in neat lines and farmers ploughing the land. The most common response to us was frantic waving and more offers of coconut.
About a third of the way through our journey, we encountered a young farmer/artist. He first struck up a conversation based on harvest times and farm work, but gradually moved on to his artwork and talked about us possibly making a purchase. We politely smiled and said "later" and went on to taking pictures of this rustic scene so far removed from our urban lives.
Twenty minutes later, I saw two traditionally dressed ladies with goods balanced on their head coming our way. The lady in front smiled and said, "Take picture! Take picture!" which I did. They stopped to look at my digital picture and spoke to me in Balinese. I didn’t understand till they switched to Bahasa Indonesia and said, "Ada wang? Ada duit?" (Any money?). I pretended to be angry, but they were smiling and laughing, so I gave them 1,000 rupish (about S$0.20) just to keep up the good humour.
About 1 hour and a half after we started, we reached the end of the fields and crossed a small bridge into the lush rainforest. The canopy blocked the sunlight, and it was dank and cool. We balanced on narrow concrete dividers to cross several small rivers and were thankful we didn’t fall in it. It was amazing to see how the locals can maneuver through this terrain so effortlessly, even when on a motorcycle laden with huge baskets of vegetables and other produce.
We finally emerged into civilisation at the end of Jalan Kijang, where we met out artist friend F. Malek. In his small shop he displays and sells his artwork and specialises in black-ink drawings (done with dots and short strokes) of rice fields and other traditional scenes. As we were hot and tired, we made the long walk down the road (which connects to Jalan Raya) in search of a good wayan for a well-deserved meal.