Ubud is Bali’s cultural capital. We found accommodation with a view of the surrounding rice patties. After running up and down the island to see the temples, if you want to avoid tourists, finding accommodation close to the rice fields is the perfect way to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Cocowayan is a “business” run by a rice patty owner. You'll find him sitting on a bench overlooking the fields selling homemade coconut oil and herbs. Telling visitors about the history of Bali and the rice patties is also part of his “business.” We sat down with him one afternoon and listened to his stories. His family has owned the fields since 1700. At the time there were different kingdoms all around the island.
When the Dutch invaded Bali in 1906, Ubud’s kingdom was too high in terms of elevation and they therefore only arrived in Ubud later in 1920. In 1975 there were no streets in Bali, just clay, stones and rice fields.
Around the year 2000 many hotels were built and Bali changed radically. Many fields owners sold their land since they were attracted by the new money flow, but Cocowayan’s dad told him: “Don’t sell the land. Land is mother.” He never did.
Many of the locals who sold their land didn’t reinvest the money and became poor quickly. We asked our new friend how travelers can help locals and he said: “Stay in the houses of locals. Don’t book your stay before you come. Locals will find you a cheap place to stay.” I think that’s a great idea for young backpackers. Balinese people are welcoming and kind and they will open their houses to the curious explorer.
Bali’s food is simple.
Three typical dishes include: Mie Goreng, Nasi Goreng (noodles and rice with chicken and veggies) and Nasi Campur (combination of chicken satay, fried fish, egg, veggies and rice).
Two of my favorite spots to eat:
In Sanur, Anna Warung (recommended dish: tuna satay). In Ubud, Bali Yoga Restaurant (recommended dish: tropical chicken lime) and finally Sweet Orange. This last one is surrounded by rice patties. It closes at 7PM so try to go for lunch or early dinner. The lush green and the melody of ancient Hindu songs will accompany your meal.
During our car rides to explore the temples we learned a lot from our drivers who often turned out to be precious guides. Bali’s culture is based on rituals, celebrations and symbols. One of the most interesting aspects of it, is that when locals want to build the house they have to first consult a priest, who will tell them when and where to build.
The Balinese calendar has 35 days and it’s good to pray during full moon days. There is one God and many Lords. You will see a lot of cloths surrounding statues, shrines or outside of the houses. Colors have different meanings. White means Holy and Yellow means Pure. But White combined with Black represents good and evil. When White and Black are combined with Red, they represent the Lord Shiva.
The word that most represents what we learned about Bali is harmony.
People live in harmony with each other and with Mother Nature.
Three natural elements are always present in their lives: bamboo, coconut and flowers. They build with bamboo, coconut is the main ingredient in the kitchen and they use flowers to make religious offerings.
If you go to the see the rice patties in Ubud and you’re curious to know more, you can find Cocowayan right in front of the fields:
Kajeng Street +62 85 738 481 121