Tegallagang… the name is a bit of a tongue-twister. I had wanted to visit Tegallagang for some time since I had heard so much about it from several people, so one day I finally took that drive north of Ubud, Bali. I must say the drive in itself was lovely, I passed literally hundreds of hand-craft stores selling all sort of creations made by skilled artisans: jewelry, gold and silver works, woodcarvings, Balinese masks and paintings, all quality work Bali is famous for.
At the roadside where we parked, the air was cool and breezy; we immediately understood why the spot is so well-known for tourists. The scenery over this ancient valley is simply fantastic, and the photos I had seen of the place, however wonderful, did not capture its real beauty.
Tegallagang has that special feature Bali has become famous for: rice fields, and it has to be one of the most photographed spots on the island. I started to walk down the steps to reach the first levels, where there are souvenir shops as well as numerous art kiosks and cafes near the ledge, all offering stunning views over the rice paddies. I stopped at a couple of the usual Bali sarongs, t-shirts, bags shops where the sellers seemed a bit pushy; I tried my bargaining skills but to no avail. You may be luckier! Next, a farmer invited me to try some coconut milk and to purchase a woven hat he makes from coconut leaves. I denied both but took a picture of him, after which he simply said: money. A few steps down there was also a little girl asking if I wanted to have a picture of her, and further down, beautiful Balinese children tried to sell me postcards and begged me for money to feed their sisters, brothers, parents etc.
I was tired at that point and decided to walk back up and pick one of the cozy little cafes to sit and have a coffee and a cake while looking at the scene. At most of these places you can have lunch or a tasting of teas.
The terraces were nice indeed. The Tegallagang outlook sprawls down before you and away to the rice terraces on the slopes across the valley. No wonder painters and nature lovers enjoy visiting this dramatic spot.
I noticed how groups of tourists were descending into the valley and then climb up again, some continuing as far as to the top of the next hill. I talked to a group from a neighbouring table, who told me they had done the trek, and that it was an amazing first hand experience – provided you wear trainers and not flip flops, as the track can be hard, steep, muddy and slippery. They were stopped twice and asked for a donation (to maintain the bridge) of 10,000 IDR. They did strongly recommend the trek, so make sure you have 1 hour to spare and proper shoes.
On a closer look I could see the original subak cooperative irrigation system, and in the near distance, in between the paddies, other crops were cultivated: cabbage, tomatoes and more.
By the time I left, more and more tourists were arriving, some in huge tourist buses, so I left just in time to avoid the crowd. In fact I recommend to visit Tegallagang early in the morning, when you get the best light and the place to yourself. It may be a bit of a tourist trap, but in my opinion the views of the lush rice fields, the cool atmosphere and the chance to trek justify a visit.
Tegallagang is half an hour’s drive north of Ubud. From the main Ubud art market, head east to the large statue intersection and then turn left and head up north. A taxi should charge you 150,000 IDR there and back. Wear trainers and take water, a hat and an umbrella with you as it can get very hot (no shade) or very wet.