Bali is a shopper's dreamland. The main tourist roads are lined with
stores, shops and stalls selling crafts of all types. Lists of local
specialties are found in the relevant practicalities sections; below
is a general picture of what to look for.
The first price is not the last price in Bali. You should attempt to
learn the art of bargaining while you're here. Unless you're buying
in a shop or hotel arcade (and often here too), it is expected that
you join in. Restaurant meals, items in supermarkets or department stores,
and room rates at the larger hotels are generally fixed in price, but
nearly everything else is fair game.
First ask the price that the vendor expects and then counter offer.
Ask for the "best price" and keep smiling. Your initial offer
should be much lower than the price you really want to pay. It is advisable
not to seem too eager to buy. Keep a sense of humor about the whole
thing. There's no such thing as a "right price." You usually
pay more than the locals, but that's the way it is.
For the widest selection of souvenirs, go to JI. Legian in Kuta/Legian,
Ubud, or the Sukawati Market on the way from Denpasar to Ubud.
Mas and Kemenuh are the main spots for polished wood carvings; check
with Tilem Gallery in Mas. Batuan is the place for wooden panels. Pujung
and Sebatu, to the north of Ubud, specialize in painted carvings and
giant statues. For masks, go to Mas, Singapadu, and Batuan.
Traditional Balinese stone carvings made from volcanic pumice (paras)
are made in Batubulan.
Bali is a weaver's dreamland. The ikat factories are centered in Gianyar,
but Klungkung and Singaraja are also known producers. For the fancier
songket with gold and silver threads woven into the weft, go to Sideman,
Blayu (between Mengwi and Marga), or Singaraja. There are beautiful
woven selendang (temple sashes) in Batuan, Ubud, and Mengwi, but the
exquisite geringsing cloth is made only in Tenganan.
Woven textiles from Sumbawa, Sumba, and Sumatra can be found in Kuta
The batik worn by Balinese and found everywhere is made in Java. When
buying, be sure that you're getting real hand-drawn or stamped batik,
and not the manufactured "printing" which employs traditional
designs on machine processed fabric. Balinese-made batik is lighter
and brighter, much of it on cool "crinkle cotton".
Ubud is the mecca of Balinese painting and the surrounding villages
of Pengosekan, Penestanan, Sanggingan Peliatan, Mas and Batuan are all
lively breeding grounds for the arts. The Neka Gallery & Museum,
the Agung Rai Museum of Art and the Puri Lukisan, all in Ubud, display
some of the best work from around the island. Smaller galleries and
art shops in Ubud may be your best bet for reasonably priced local work.
You can also visit artists in their homes. For traditional calendar
and "wayang-style" paintings, visit Kamasan village near Klungkung.
Kuta and Denpasar are hunting grounds for antique dealers on the lookout
for keris daggers, ornate beds, palm-leaf books, fabrics, masks, Chinese
ceramics, sculpture and primitive statues from all over Indonesia. Be
aware that the antique reproduction market is a lucrative one. The best
insurance is to shop around until you have a good sense of quality and
prices. To export anything older than 25 years old you must have a letter
from the Museum Section of the Education and Culture Department.
Celuk, Kamasan (south of Klungkung), and Bratan in Buleleng are the
traditional centers for gold and silverwork. The silver is 80%-90% pure.
If you don't find anything you like readymade, then custoni-order. For
modem designs, go to Kuta. Gold is 22K-24K. Sukawati is the traditional
gold working village, or try the gold shops in Denapsar on JI. Hasanuddin
and JI. Sulawesi. Be sure to bargain.
Vendors on the beach, especially Kuta, are obnoxious. Period. They sell
everything from "pigs making bacon" to their sisters. They'll
drive you nuts with boxes of copy watches and offers for massage, "braid
your hair" or "Monique" (sic). Good deals on sarongs
and bikinis, but you have to bargain hard. Start out at 20% of their
asking price and settle at 25-30%. To avoid them, lie on the beach sunbathing
and pretend to be asleep, but sometimes, even this doesn't work. Key:
Never make eye contact.
& Freight in Bali
Shipping goods home is relatively safe and painless in Bali. Items under
one meter long and 10 kg in weight can be sent via most postal agents.
All the packing will be done for you at minimal charge, although it's
always advisable to keep an eye on how it's done. Buy insurance.
Larger purchases are best sent by air or sea cargo. In Bali, freight
forwarders are almost as abundant as watch peddlers. Forwarders will
handle the whole process for a price, from packing to customs. Many
retailers are also prepared to send goods if purchased in quantity.
Air cargo is charged by the kilogram (10 kg min), and can be costly.
Sea cargo (min. one cubic meter) is $250-$300 to the US or Europe and
takes about 60 days. Get insurance.
When shipping cargo, you are responsible for clearing customs back home
and for the transportation from the port of entry to your destination.
This can cost up to $500 so cargo is only economical for large purchases.
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