Photograph of the week: Tegallalang, Bali
Located on the island of Bali, Tegallalang is without question one of the most unique landscapes you can witness in all of Indonesia. For centuries, the Balinese have cultivated rice in these beautiful terraces using the Subak System to irrigate the paddies. Although you have several options to witness this ingenious system, which is so important to the culture and way of life on the island, there are simply none quite as picturesque as the fields at Tegallalang.
Standing in the middle of the jungle at 600 metres above sea level, the site is only a fifteen-minute drive away from the popular centre of Ubud. Although these days the majority of Balinese in the area make their living through tourism, thousands still work in the rice fields day in, day out.
Rice is the staple of all Indonesian cuisine and is often described as the lifeblood of the Balinese. The cascading formation of rice terraces is key to cultivate the grain in these steep areas around Ubud. Each individual plot is called sawah and is contained by dykes of black earth. Water flows seamlessly from one plot to the next on waters glides contained in bamboo sleeves. Every farmer owning a sawah in Bali is a member of an agricultural society that controls the distribution of the precious irrigation water to its members.
Even though this site has become a hotspot for tourists, in the early morning it remains as tranquil as it’s been for hundreds of years. Visiting before 9 AM is highly recommended. Save for the clicks of a few cameras from the photographers who braved the sunrise wake-up call, all you can hear are the birds singing and the occasional howl of a monkey coming from deep inside the jungle.
To reach Tegallalang this early, the simplest way to go is on your own two wheels. You can rent a scooter from any accommodation in Ubud for only a few dollars per day and the road to the site is quite straightforward and in very good condition. Just don’t forget your helmet and international drivers license! If you aren’t comfortable on a scooter, you can always grab a taxi or hire a private driver for the day.
As photographers, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect location for sunrise than the site at Tegallalang. You can walk the paths here for hours, but we prefer to make our way to the far end of the site to appreciate its beauty with fewer people around. An extra donation to Wayan, who looks over our favourite part of the site, grants us access to shoot in a fenced-off portion of the terraces. From here, the drone gets launched high into the air to capture the majestic site with Mount Agung, the largest volcano on Bali, looming in the background.
Thank you to Sam Dowal of mapping along for permission to share the photograph.