Magical Mystery Tour in Tabanan Bali


Now and then if you’re lucky, you stumble into a once-in-a-lifetime magical moment that makes you remember why you love being alive on this earth. Today was one of those.

It began as an invitation from a trusted friend (emphasis on TRUST) to be a guinea pig for a subak tour. What’s a subak? Since Bali is a country of vast expanses of rice paddies, the subak is the engineering miracle that brings water from the mountains to thousands of acres of farmland.

My friend told me we would meet our ride at 9 a.m. and arrive an hour later in Tajen village in the Tabanan Regency. The only other thing I knew for sure was that it involved a walk and lunch, two things I do quite well.

The Tabanan Regency is home to Jatiluwih, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features the most glorious expanse of rice terraces imaginable. The Bedugul Botanical Gardens are also in Tabanan as is Mount Bratan and the spectacular scenery from the rim of the crater to the lake at its base. So even though I didn’t know Tajen, the opportunity to revisit an area that I love and learn more about the subak system, was irresistible. I told my friend to count me in.

On the drive,  Bapak Gusti  told us that the people of Tajen have organized the subak tour to provide visitors with a better understanding of rural life. The tradition of tending paddies with water buffalo and Hindu ritual, are being replaced by machines, pesticides, and growth enhancers. “We are trying to preserve the old ways,” he said. “Tourists who want to see traditional Bali must come to Tajen. The tours will provide jobs for the people of our village.”

We arrived and I began to be amazed. It wasn’t just the beauty of the landscape and the grandeur of three mountain peaks rising purple against the sky, or the complimentary walking sticks and conical woven hats provided to keep us balanced and shady. Nor was it the waterways themselves, rushing alongside grassy paths, or the boundless knowledge of our guides. What was it then?

Right now I’m searching for words that will do justice to something that must be experienced to be understood.

Perhaps it was this: although we were in a remote rural town, I felt I was communing with the princes of Bali. Our hosts spoke English with a fluency rarely encountered. The finest hotels in the world couldn’t match their hospitality and gracious attention to our little band. When we met the women they were like you’d want your mothers and grandmothers to be: strong, funny, sweet, kind. And as so often happens on this island, it was more like walking a prayer than touring the subak.

Now you’ll look at the photos and you’ll want to come to Tejan, meet these wonderful people, and take the subak tour. I asked Bapak Gusti when they will be ready for business. “As soon as possible, maybe January,” he said.

Mountains, paddies, and a farmer bringing in the harvest on his motorbike.

Hats, check! Walking sticks, check! Ayo! Ayo! And off we go!

Our thirst is quenched with young coconut water. The mellow sounds of the rindik players follow us while a Balinese mother and grandmother demonstrate the intricate beauty of canang sari offerings. Bapak Gusti patiently answers questions and we are given the welcome blessing by a ninety-year-old grandmother.

Delights appear around every turn. Rice flour pastries filled with fresh coconut and drizzled with palm sugar syrup are cooked over a wood fire while we watch. Yes, more please!

The women pounding rice…the women. My tribal heart beats to their rhythm.

The women…






Mothers and grandmothers…

and food!

Thank you, Tajen villagers, for sharing your subak, your smiles, and your gracious hospitality with us. We will tell our friends, and we’ll be back!


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sageblessings
    Dec 18, 2016 @ 13:08:59

    Wow, what a delightful day. Extra fun to be the first of what will become many tours. Loved the photos too.



    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Dec 18, 2016 @ 20:51:27

      Yes, there is something very special about being the first. I know they will accomplish their goals. Many of the team members on this project have worked on cruise lines, hence the exceptional English and impeccable hospitality!



  2. Janice
    Dec 18, 2016 @ 15:28:13

    Looks like a great day!



  3. Susan Wiste
    Dec 18, 2016 @ 15:53:13

    IS there ever a chance that you would organize tours to the places of which you write?



    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Dec 18, 2016 @ 20:54:50

      I prefer to leave the tours in the capable hands of people who know what they’re doing! But I can certainly point people in the right direction and help them with the contacts to do whatever it is they want to do or see.



  4. healingpilgrim
    Dec 18, 2016 @ 20:36:35

    Lovely story, Sherry. Tajen (as in cockfight?!) looks and sounds much like the village I came to know in Penatahan (Tabanan) too. Glad you enjoyed the lush experience!



  5. Marilea
    Dec 19, 2016 @ 20:41:45

    Thank you for a super adventure story well written to make me dream of such a place of comfort and spiritual awakening.



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