Monday, August 4, 2008

Bali Bargaining

Bali is a haven for souvenir hunters. Everywhere you go, there are so many interesting stuffs to buy and bring home. Unfortunately, the airlines companies recently reduced the allowable baggage for all travellers. Thus, it's really difficult to bring as much as we want. 

If you don't want to venture outside the hot Balinese weather,  there are numerous finds in Discovery Mall along Kuta. From the usual keychains, t-shirts, ballpens and letter openers. They have nice selection of traditional soaps, body oils, scrubs, lotions, and shampoos. Most of them utilizing the essence of Frangipani, the sweet-smelling flower that grows everywhere in Bali.  They're delicate, beautiful  and has become one of the symbols of Bali.

But the best and cheapest place to get Bali souvenirs are from Sukawati Market.  It's a must-visit for souvenirs shoppers.  1hour drive from Kuta, Sukawati is a shopping complex but with the atmosphere of a public market. The price is 50% below the price of the shops in Kuta.  They have everything!

We didn't get to take photos of the place because we were busy bargaining. If you love to bargain, your skills will be perfected in Sukawati. Don't be shy, they expect you to bargain more than half price. Then, you can take it a little bit higher. If the vendor is still adamant, you can pretend that you will just come back & look around first, surely she will pull you again, and give you her final price.

Our best buys are 5 sets of beautiful paintings.  There are so many great artists in Bali.   From sculpture, dance, songs, and paintings.  Their favorite subjects are mostly the beautiful sceneries of like ricefield,  beach, ritual scenes, and the images of their Hindu gods.  Unique and really beautiful... and affordable!

Coincidentally, the owners of our travel agency (my colleague's sister & her dad) were also doing shopping in Sukawati. Aside from their travel agency business, they also export Bali paintings to Europe. They have sent more than 1,500 Bali paintings to Europe! They referred us to one of their suppliers, and we got our own paintings for a huge markdown!

 We also bought small paintings. They are, I was told,  made by artistic Balinese kids, using colored ballpens. They're beautiful when framed. We also bought masks for our collection, several bags, shirts, and balinese slippers. 

My officemates in jakarta love the bali slippers. They usually change to slippers whenever they say their prayers. It's a good thing we bought 2 extra luggages. Otherwise, we have nowhere to place all the goodies we bought. 

Personally, what I really wanted are the Balinese statues and outdoor home decors.  They're so beautiful and cheap!  But it will be next to impossible to bring them home because of the weight!

After a grueling shopping expedition, we then proceed to the next stop in our itinerary....Ubud. 

Ubud is the center of arts in Bali.  This is where the most artists reside and sell their wares. If you're the type of tourist who prefer hiking, trekking and all those activities, away from the beach, Ubud is the place for you. 

There are few big hotels in Ubud.  The biggest is Four Seasons.  But there are a lot of home-stays. We chance upon one eatery, located in a typical Bali home, with all the works (temples, pavillions). The place is called Canderi Home Stay. (  Homestays is one of the cheaper alternative to backpaper hostels.  One gets to mingle with the locals, 24/7.

We didn't go around Ubud that much since we're already done with our shopping. Moreover, the views in Ubud, are mostly rice paddies, attractive to Europeans, but for us Filipinos, it's nothing new.

We dropped by the Sultan's Palace in Ubud.  It's ornate, beautiful and well-maintained. Apparently, the Sultan still lives there and there are ceremonies every night. 

Our last stop in our Bali adventure is Tanah Lot .... The temple by the Sea. It's about 1hour from Ubud, but the drive is worth it.  It's the only temple, under a cave and on an island by the sea.  We got there on a low tide, and can go directly by foot to the island.  There were so many people!

Unfortunately, Tanah Lot is commercialized in a sense that it's one of the most visited places in Bali. There are so many shops selling, not just souvenirs, they even have Crocs sandals outlets and Polo Ralph Lauren shops!

The temple faces the pacific, and during sunset, the sun casts a fantastic glow on the old edifice.

 Definely, Bali is one place that I will surely go back...