What do you do when your guide on a walking tour turns out to be an obsessive nose-picker –
– and then, when you get to a steep step down onto a narrow path between two rice paddies –
– he offers you his hand?
Do you … a) say breezily, ‘no thank you, I’m fine’, confidently jump down, and risk toppling straight over into the flooded rice paddy?
or … b) decide that touching his mucus-crusted hand is the lesser of the two misfortunes, and take hold of it with gritted teeth?
I chose option b, so I remained dry, but spent the rest of the walk wiping my hand surreptitiously on my clothes.
The rice terraces in Bali are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But then so is pretty much everywhere in the world it seems – apart from anywhere I’ve ever lived. UNESCO has never shown any interest in Kuala Lumpur, Bedford or Tooting Broadway, as far as I’m aware.
But the rice terraces are spectacular –
At the moment they’re a brilliant green, as the rice isn’t ripe yet,
and men in conical hats work away in the water –
… no idea what they’re doing, but they look very picturesque.
The raised paths between them are just wide enough for two people to pass comfortably, and we saw plenty of people along the way, and my guide seemed to know all of them –
I thought this man had a bag of rice on his head –
– but it turns out that it’s rice straw, to feed his cattle. Even if it’s not as heavy as rice, it’s still given him amazing abs for his age … and I don’t think he was breathing in for the camera.
In fact, most people in Bali look pretty damn fab … even with a basket on their head –
or half a ton of metal –
or even a whole ton of metal –
The only exception to this rule of fabulousness was a group of women I saw in one of the temples, and I have to admit that I became slightly obsessed with them –
There were six women, working in two groups of three, moving this huge pile of earth, basket by basket, from the bottom of the steps to a site at the top. They worked in complete silence, digging, filling the basket, lifting it and carrying it –
They were as rhythmical as clockwork,with the two groups meeting and passing at the top of the stairs every time, and they were all hefting large sticks, in a way that made me think of Old Testament prophets
I wondered if this was some Sisyphus-like punishment, and when they had moved the whole pile to the top, they would then start to move it back to the bottom again.
But then I realised that it was lunchtime, and that was quite enough fanciful wondering for one day, so I left them to it.