I’m quite picky when it comes to shopping especially when I travel because I hate having to carry heavy baggage back. There are only a few places in the world that I will travel to and shop to my hearts content and one of them is Bali, especially in Ubud. Why?
Because even if you have no intention to shop, you’ll still end up buying something anyways; some of the things you’ll find here are fascinating and too irresistible to not bring home! Ubud is known to be a treasure trove of fine art and wood work and if you’re into flea markets, handicraft and semi-antique pieces like me, you’ll be spoilt for choice! Here are some items you should look out for while shopping in Ubud for yourselves or for souvenirs.Paintings & Wall Art – If you’re looking for paintings to add to your travel collection and want to pay homage to your time in Bali, then Ubud is the right place to go because it is the centre of Balinese art. They are hand painted and unique showcasing Bali’s scenery and people. We got one of a Balinese dancer.
Barong Mask -You’ll find this at almost every street and art market in Bali. Although it may look intimidating, it’s important to know that the Barong is a protector according to the Balinese mythology and signifies good health and fortune.Carved Skulls – I thought these were beautiful artwork to be honest, until I found out these were actual skulls of ox that were carved on!
Painted Figurines – If carved skulls are too much for you, you can go for handmade ones in Calavera de Azucar style. Or you can choose from little Buddhas, Ganeshas, elephants, turtles, cats, you name it. I got the Three Wise Monkeys as a tribute to our trip to Ubud.
Phallic Woodwork – From bottle-openers to key chains, you’ll find these phallic woodcraft painted in bright colours everywhere. A fun souvenir for the less uptight people in your life. Here’s a tip in case you didn’t know; the phallus or Lingam is a symbol representing Lord Shiva and signifies fertility, harmony and life.Sarong Batik – Batik is wax that is used to create patterns on the fabric before it is dyed. Balinese sarongs are one of the staples in my wardrobe that will never go out of style (in my opinion). In fact, high-street brands try to imitate batik sarongs every summer at prices that are at least 3 times higher. Sarongs are so versatile especially while travelling; use them as a wrap around, a belt, a headscarf a towel, a beach mat and even a carrier (yes, you can do that).
Silver – It is not only one of the top things to buy in Bali, it is the thing to buy in Bali! Bali is known to have the world’s best silversmiths and craftsmen and they even have villages specialising in making silver from tribal to dainty designs. I even saw a Tiffany bracelet but nah, not for me, I’m more for the Buddha bracelets.
Rattan Bags – All the rage now and where most of the boutiques source for their rattan bags then sell them for 5 times more than it’s actual price. Take note that the sellers will try to sell you these at high starting prices because they are aware that these are trending now. I managed to get mine for SGD$15 (after conversion).
Shell Dishwear – They are so beautiful, I bought so many, lol! Bowls, tissue holders, soap dish, decorative plates, I couldn’t get enough of these. They would look so beautiful as sets in our bathroom, spa-like feels, I’m definitely getting more of these when I come back.
Shell Chandeliers – I’m in love with them but they were quite pricey. Most of the stores that sold them had starting prices at SGD$80 (after conversion) and these were the smaller ones. They would look great on your porch or balcony.Rattan Holders – All things rattan can be found in Ubud and there were an abundance of rattan holders and baskets of different sizes that can be stacked into each other. You can use them to store your jewelery, sewing kit, laundry, flowers and even food like bread and fruits.
Incense Sticks & Essential Oils – I don’t think you can ever go wrong with Incense Sticks or Essential Oils as souvenirs, it adds natural fragrance to your home and it’s not tacky. Where better to get them from than from Bali where inscense and oils play such a big role in their every day life.Kopi Luwak – Otherwise known as Cat Poop Coffee. It may be poop but it’s also the world’s most expensive coffee and it originates from Bali. Makes for a great gift for the coffee-lovers.
Key Chains & Magnets – And of course, there are the keychains and magnets. I collect magnets from every place I visit and I like my magnet to signify an event or a memory of the trip. I chose a barong magnet since I couldn’t bring back the mask.
- The best time to shop will be in the morning and ask for Harga Pagi (meaning Morning Price in bahasa). The local superstition says that if they sell something first thing in the morning, they’ll have more fortune coming in for the rest of the day so there’s a higher chance you’ll get purchases for your asking price. If you’re the first buyer of the day, you will notice that the shopkeeper will tap your money all around their shop for good luck!
- Its normal to bargain in the markets and getting a good price really depends on your bargaining skills. I would suggest to start with 30% from the starting price given and work your way from there. But take note that once an agreement is made on the deal, it’s not nice to change your mind.
- Don’t worry if a shop does not have your size, colour or design. Pop down a few more stalls and you are likely to find more shops that will have similar items.
- Bring cash, most (if not, all) shop don’t accept credit cards.
Ubud Art Market
A bargain shopper’s dream, almost everything you’re looking for can be found here from fashion, home to recreational needs! I did the bulk of my shopping here.
Ubud Art Market is huge and it is connected by a maze of alleyways so you might get lost. I guess you can say it’s the Chatuchak of Bali? Shine and myself shopped here for 2 days and we still didn’t manage to cover everything! Definitely coming back here on our next visit, totally worth the trip if you’re making your way from anywhere else around Bali. Also note that you’re sharing the pathways with motorbikes so do remember to watch out for yourselves and your belongings.
Left: Alleyways of Ubud Art Market.
Sukawati Art Market
Rather small compared to Ubud Art Market and very crowded because parking for the coaches is just outside the market. We paid Sukawati Market a visit because I’ve read reviews from TripAdvisor and travel articles recommending this market for Balinese woodcraft and paintings and I was eager to get some for our home. However, when I arrived there, I was disappointed. Nevermind that it was small; most of what are sold here, you can find everywhere else around Ubud but it was a long way to go find that out. The only consolation to us for shopping here are the t-shirts that you can buy in bulk and bargain for as low as you possibly can.
Sukawati Market feels more like a wholesaler’s market and great if you have a huge family to buy souvenirs for but I wouldn’t recommend making special plans for.
Right: Offerings to Lord Ganesha located at the entrance of Sukawati Art Market.
I hope you find this helpful for your next shopping trip in Bali! Do let me know if you’d like more shopping guides and tips on what, where and how to purchase from the places I’ve travelled. Happy shopping!