Cycling through the Bali rice paddies
When I was zipping around Seminyak on my hot pink motorbike and saw people cycling through the cluttered streets, my first thought was: ARE YOU CRAZY? Smog, potholes, crazy drivers, the need to create your own lane and create your own throughway in a world without the authority of traffic lights or dotted lines. And it just seemed so…slow. The pure chaos of Bali was already rubbing off on me.
And then I arrived in Ubud. Deep breathes. Yoga breathing. Rice paddies. Fresh air. All of a sudden, cycling was looking a lot more promising. I decided to escape the crowded Ubud Market and skip a yoga class, and instead head out with Banyan Tree Bike Tours to cycle through the scenery for a morning.
First stop: breakfast. After a 7:30 hotel transfer and an hour twisting and turning into central Bali, we end up at a restaurant overlooking the volcano: a scenic backdrop for a breakfast of pineapple pancakes and Balinese kopi.
Next stop: Pick up our bikes. A hodge-podge of mountain bikes in different colors and styles.
Up next: a typical Balinese family compound. One of the guides leads us inside his family’s compound and explains how a family compound tends to work, as well as gives insight into typical Balinese practices like teeth-filing and cremation. My main takeaway: the Balinese family unit is a very, very integral part of the social structure.
We brake for spiders. Someone spies an enormous web up in the trees. Our guide laughs it off—that’s just a baby!
The scenic stretch. The vast majority of the day is spent cycling through roads curving through Bali’s signature rice paddies, wide swathes of luscious green under endless blue skies.
More rice paddies. The fresh air is rejuvenating. While the work must be back-breaking, I can’t help but think how wonderful it would be to wake up in surrounds like this every day, to have this natural beauty as your office.
“Many people fall off into mud. Haha!” The last bit of the tour goes off-roading, trading in the sealed road for a mud path. Did I mention that it absolutely bucketed down the day before? We all get bogged, testing out different ways to make it to the other side without falling off into the ditch. Walk the bike? Ride with one foot? Ride at full speed? It’s a test of trial and error, and all I can do is thank my lucky stars that my shoes were muddy before the tour.
We ended the morning with an incredible spread of homemade food: chicken satays, sauteed veggies, three different types of Balinese sweets. I was absolutely stuffed from both the food and the surprisingly strenuous cycling, but very glad to escape the urban chaos for a stretch of rice paddy beauty.
Note: Banyan Tree Bike Tours kindly offered me a complimentary tour, but all opinions are my own.