Our first day in Ubud promised to be a fun experience and I can unequivocally say it did not disappoint. Our awesome guide from Destination Asia picked us up at 9am from the Wapa di Ume, and we headed in our ridiculously large van for about an hour outside Ubud. There we were welcomed into a beautiful family compound and the start of our adventure with Bali Rural Commune.
On the way, were were informed that in the villages, the families tend to live in compounds. There are buildings for sleeping, for children, for cooking, and a small family temple for prayer. When a son marries, he can either choose to start his own compound, or (often), but builds a new building for his family. These compounds get passed down generationally through sons, so when the new son takes over responsibility of the family compound, they move into the main building.
At the compound, we were welcomed with coffee, tea, and three Bali desserts, Pisang Goreng(fried bananas), Dadar Gulung (sweet crepes with coconut), and Nagasari (steamed banana rice cakes). After getting our fill (really, I could have eaten the plate of fried bananas, but I stopped myself), we saw the other family who would be joining us. They were a nice couple from England, with a son the same age as my daughter. My two kids were shy, but their son was not. He got right in and started playing soccer with the children who live at the compound. My daughter quickly got persuaded to join in, but my son never quite worked up the nerve. But soon he was playing with the English boy, and the Destination Asia guides were able to get him to interact and join a picture eventually.
Then we were off. We took a walk along the road to the other compounds. Here you could quickly see the wealth disparity. There were compounds with elaborate decoration, large buildings, and big new cars parked right inside. And there were simpler compounds, with the barrier made of plants, and buildings that had seen better days. To the groups credit, we were able to see both types of compounds. We got to go in and see a farmer who makes a liquor out of coconuts climb the tree and bring some down for us to try. As we were walking by, my daughter got interested in a woman cooking in her kitchen. She was invited in, and offered rice and fried egg to eat for her curiosity. We were also able to see a woman making coconut oil by hand in her compound. The area was large, but the tools were simple, and it was all done over a fire stove. Most compounds had a pig stye or two. As one farmer pointed out, it’s like a savings account. You buy it small, feed it your scraps, and can sell it or eat it when it gets bigger.
In another compound we got to see a blacksmith work the metal. He showed us his simple tools (he made himself from found rebar and metal scraps) and how he heats up the metal from a word burning stove, and works it with his tools. He gave each of the kids a try, but they were more interested in playing hide and seek with their new friends from the village. Then we went over to a more wealth compound to look at the family temple. We never made it, there was a puppy the kids were fawning over, so we spent our time playing with him and his adorable owners.
After the village visits, we walked up the road to the rice patties. At this point, you could see various fields flooded and ready for planting (or had just been planted). We walked up this beautiful lush green area until we got up to a terrace with tables, chairs and a covering. We were greeted with coconuts to drink and a fun challenge. A farmer was there and anyone who wanted to, could get muddy. The kids didn’t think twice, thier shoes were off before he finished talking and the three of them ran down to get in the mud and ride the plow. I hesitated then relented. When else do you get to get in a rice patty? So I took off my shoes, dropped my bag with my husband (who refused) and went down. While one farmer was giving the kids ride on the ox driven plows, I got in to plant. This job is no joke. When you step in, your feet sink into about a foot of mud until it hits a surprising hard surface. Then you need to plant deep in the mud, by hand, two or three rice seedlings at a time. And it should be perfectly spaced. Let’s just say ours…weren’t. After riding the plow, both kids wanted to try there hand at planting as well. My daughter and son were planting all over the place, driving my organized mind crazy. I cut them off quickly (I didn’t want this poor farmer to have to clean up too much of their work in case they actually use this rice we plant) and we got out to hose off our feet and hands.
After our “hard” work, it was time to eat. We went over to the patio, were we were treated to a wonderful three course meal while overlooking the rice patties. The meal consisted of traditional food, all generally gathered locally. The main course, chicken with a tomato sauce over sweat potatoes was amazing. And the desert was fresh tropical fruit with a chocolate brownie. The kids devoured that one.
One of the fun things was watching the kids bond during the trek. The boys were playing together like they were best of friends, playing on the bamboo xylophone. My daughter ran around the trees and patio, playing her pretend games and putting on shows for all. Then the kites came out, and even the dads got into the fun trying to get these giant kites to fly.
Unfortunately, it was time to head back. We dragged three sad kids out of the rice patties and back to the village so we could catch our van back to the hotel. We were sad to go, but glad to have had such a rich experience. We always talk about what was our favorite part of the day. Today, the kids could not pick just one, they wanted to remember it all!
This trip was part of our series Robin Turns 40 – Celebrating in Bali, Indonesia
*Stared photos taken by Atma Photography