What do you do to take a break from watching the waves crash onto the white sandy beaches of Bali?
You go shopping amid its bustling bazaars filled with gaiety and color and find yourself in a delightful dilemma of where to spend that shopping dollar.
Will it be curios, paintings, clothes or perhaps intricate wood carvings? The choices are endless when you’re in Bali.
Bali is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. The Balinese have an inborn talent of absorbing different cultural elements and blending them with their own to produce creative hybrids. Over the years, Bali has soaked up Chinese, Buddhist, Indian, Hindu, Javanese and Western influences creating a culture of diverse artistry.
Now, if you’re anything like Rebecca Bloomwood from Confessions of a Shopaholic, Bali will drive you bonkers! Apart from its ancient temples, white sandy beaches, delightful resorts and spas as well as distinctive food, Bali is an island oozing with radiant clothes, spellbinding artwork and great bargains.
Eclipsed with Frangipani trees everywhere that one would think is indigenous to the Island of the Gods, Bali is known for its hot spots such as Legian, Kuta, Sukawati & Ubud that boasts a variety of shopping experiences for those with a keen eye for the exotic and rustic design.
As an avid shopper for the curios and quirky, one can’t help but stumble upon the local arts and crafts markets that exist in every township. Arresting your attention, like a moth to a flame, the only advice to be heeded is – always bargain for a 60 percent discount off its original price to find a meeting price (or halfway price) of something more acceptable than what was initially offered.
You will find most markets along the beach or a short walking distance away from the beach side.
Restless waves and clear blue waters can sometimes seem pale in contrast to the tantric call and mesmerizing colors of these psychedelic bazaars. With a treasure trove of fine art, wooden and lime stone carvings, traditional and ceremonial masks, handmade jewellery, paintings, furniture and fabrics, Bali is nothing short of gaspingly amazing.
Some may opine that the markets in Ubud (Central Bali) are much more costly than those in Kuta or vice versa. Possibly true, if haggling is not one of your best skills. Only cash is accepted at these street bazaars but many handicraft stores accept credit cards as well.
If in Kuta, visit the art market which has one end of its street located next to a small temple on Jl. Bakung Sari. It is holy ground in terms of beach wear, fabric sling bags, flip flops and trinkets. The Kuta market which also sits next to Kuta Square (designer labels stores) splits into two main lanes and spreads into tiny alleys on each side.
Make sure to check the whole market out before settling for the kill. Some peddlers may even give you a far better discount as you venture further into the market.
If you’re not one to haggle, a best stop for some fine Balinese crafts might be Daun. It’s a cosy gift shop located next to the Kuta market on Jl. Bakung Sari Kuta Blok E26-27. One can find a variety of home decorations from abstract art to traditional figurines and batik sarongs to ceremonial masks.
Purchasing artwork at the bazaars isn’t altogether a bad choice but what they lack in authentic Balinese art can be found in many art studios in Sukawati or Ubud known to many as the heart and soul of the art world.
Just before heading to Ubud, stopover at the Dewa Putu Toris Art Studio at Br. Tengah Bantuan, Sukawati. The studio run a by a father and son duo carries many painting styles including traditional Balinese and Kamasan style of painting. Also stop by the Sukawati art market located in the Gianyar district. It is situated on the main road and is considered the biggest in Bali having a wide range of clothes, temple umbrellas, leather puppets, wind chimes and jewellery selections.
While in Ubud, visit the Ganesha Bookshop on the corner of Jl. Raya and Jl. Jembawan for new, used or out of print books. One can also find informative books on the island of Bali written by locals with tales and stories not found in books written by most travelling authors.
Amid the hills of Ubud, visit the Monkey Forest, a natural reserve inhabited by wild and mischievous monkeys alongside interesting meandering paths that lead to a temple surrounded by lush remnants of the ancient past. Just off the main temple square, a lovely arched stone bridge leads to the Hindu elephant-headed God, Lord Ganapati who overlooks a moss-covered pool where schools of Koi swim at his feet.
Mythological wooden and lime stone carvings are in abundance in most craft stores around Ubud. The ancient Balinese were once animists, meaning they believed the soul is present in all things — humans, animals, trees, rocks and even in thunder and lightening.
When Hinduism arrived on its shores, the Balinese took the religion and made it their own infusing into the religion their own animistic beliefs. This is one reason why Hinduism practiced in Bali is different from the one practiced in India from whence it came. The great Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata take on Balinese nuances when they are retold the Balinese way.
Visiting at least two townships is enough as far as “shopping at markets” goes. Once you visit more bazaars or markets you will find they carry identical items and could possibly be a waste of time.
The only difference would be on how low a trader is willing to go in terms of price. If you’ve seen one or two markets/bazaars… you’ve basically seen them all, in a way providing more time for adventure, mysticism and pampering.
Went shopping in Bali recently? What were your quirky finds?
Heading to the capital? Read about the Textile Tycoons of Old Jakarta.
This post was originally published in the Jakarta Post