The time has come for the things to buy in Bali. We covered the most popular landmarks of Bali so far, famous temples being among the first. And I did mention a few things I bought in Bali, but I feel I should dedicate the whole post to souvenirs and things to bring from the island. Why? Well, maybe because I was surprised by a few places I visited but also because none of these things were expensive and they help the community and local craftsmen singificantly.
Things to buy in Bali
Remember the sarong I mentioned in one of the previous posts? It’s the so-called batik, typical for Java and Bali. It’s a fabric richly decorated using a special dying technique. Many batiks are used as sarongs and I bought one before going to the Mother Temple. Given that I knew I am going to visit various temples during my travel to Bali, and that I would need a sarong and a sash, it seemed like a better idea to buy batik, than to rent a sarong every time. Bali produces some exceptionally fine hand-made batiks in small quantities. A single cloth can take years to finish!
When going around the island, make sure to stop by one of the textile workshops where women are making batiks from scratch. I was fascinated by their skills in dyeing cloth in so many details and such variety. Batik is wearable art for the average Indonesian. Colorless cotton fabric becomes the canvas for wax vibrant designs of both religious and natural subjects. Applied colors are made from handmade dyes.
There is a huge variety of batiks to choose from, and for every taste – from expensive, textured silk sarongs with traditional motifs and handmade colors developed in isolated villages, to casual day wear featuring pop-art styling and simpler dye color technique. A batik has to be among the things to buy in Bali, don’t you think?
Visiting one of the workshops is one of the best introductions to the Balinese tradition. You can even take part in the batik class taking lessons with a skilled teacher. Either way, buying one will come in handy when going into temples and it will also serve as a unique souvenir you can use later on. I still cherish mine, always washing it in cold water by hand, since it’s handmade and so rich in colors and patterns which can be damaged otherwise.
If you are visiting the town of Ubud, bear in mind that this is the center of cultural heritage crafts. There are Balinese villages and workshops renowned for their craftsmanship in silver, woodcarving, and painting.
I told you about the Bali Dance I went to see. Well, I was fascinated by Barong’s face, the scary expression with large teeth, that can be represented by a lion’s head or some other animal. Even though Barong is the good deity according to the local tradition, its face is represented as scary to chase off evil spirits. And they say that if you put the mask of Barong on your front door, those spirits will never even consider coming near your house.
Since my guide took me to one of the wood carving workshops in Ubud, this was a great opportunity for things to buy in Bali. This time – a mask or two. The beautiful Barong mask is still decorating the wall in my study in Serbia and I am so proud of it. It went halfway around the world to be placed on that wall!
If you want to see the Balinese craftsmen work, making a piece of wood into one fine art, a visit to Ubud is a must. Balinese villagers are always friendly and will even let you try out your own woodcarving skill. If you’re more interested in paintings, you’ll be happy to know that here you will be able to appreciate the famous Balinese-style paintings on display.
Silver and Gold Jewelry
And now, one of my favorite stops in the area! I don’t know if you are into jewelry or not but let me tell you – I have been a fan of silver, especially silver rings, for years. You can guess how thrilled I was when I found out that not only can I visit the handmade jewelry shop in Bali, but also the workshop itself!
The gold and silver items crafted here are of high quality and feature unique designs. If by any chance you go to the Celuk village, it might be interesting to know that almost all of the households here are home to jeweler families and that each villager possesses artistic skills in developing intricate designs and patterns. Here you can find souvenirs, rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, broaches, etc.
So, I entered one of the jewelry shops, thinking to myself that “I don’t really need another silver ring”, and that I should just go browsing around. It was really interesting to see how people were curving silver strings into patterns and beautiful lines, combined together into one lovely design of the necklace. The workshop itself wasn’t big, it seemed like a dark place where people were leaning over to their delicate work.
The shop entrance was interesting, one could guess it was the jewelry shop judging by the decoration. And when I entered the shop, well, I immediately forgot about “having enough silver rings”!
Magnificent jewelry was on display all around. The guide came in with me but after seeing my astonishment in the rings’ section, he just said “he’ll be outside”. And well, yes, it did take a while. I was in awe while going from one ring to the next, it seems that the next was even more beautiful than the previous one. I took one just to try it on, then the other… Oh my, what a variety!
But then, there it was, like waiting for me, displayed above the elegant black box – one beautiful silver ring, with my name on it! I knew that this would be the loveliest souvenir I got on Bali, it was not just something you can find or buy anywhere, this was a unique, perfect piece. I didn’t even want to bargain for it, I paid the highest price they asked – and it was still more than a half less than what they would ask back home.
And also, I saw people who made it, how amazing is that!
Next: FOOD, VOLCANO AND RICE FIELDS (7)
The full Bali SERIES
I’m always looking at what to buy when I travel to a new place. I love taking home a little something handmade by locals. I’ve done batik in Malaysia and it’s not easy work. I think I’d buy some gold or silver in Bali.
Really, you’ve done the batik? Oh, it must have been great. For me it looks extremely hard, it takes so much skill and patience. 🙂
So many beautiful things! I remember being fascinated by the process of making batik when I was younger – but I’ve never seen it done in a traditional environment, so I am very jealous. And the wood carving looks phenomonal
I was fascinated as well, such an admirable skill!
Ubud has some interesting handicraft centres. I am reminded of my visit to Batik and silver jewelry centre. The women there are so talented. I hope they are amply compensated for the hard work they put in.
It really is the real mastery, so many skills to admire.
I love the Batik designs, they’re so pretty and it’s really cool to know that you can visit a workshop and watch those women do it from scratch. Also, the Barong mask, it’s something you would find in almost every souvenir shop in Bali and its cool that your guide took you to a wood carving shop where you bought a mask. I remember in Sri Lanka, I visited a factory where they create paper from elephant poo and although it sounds really bizarre, it was interesting to learn about the process. You’ve got some really cool suggestions here, thanks for sharing!
Oh, me too, I love batiks and I still cherish the one I bought in Bali. 🙂
Really, the elephant poo-paper? It sounds interesting, I’d have to keep that in mind, thanks. 😀
I love this post! I think it’s actually a topic people don’t write about enough, but everyone goes overseas and ends up wanting to buy souvenirs – I find that I usually buy too early because I don’t know the type of stuff I can get and I get something I would have bought as a second preference. I would love to get a sarong from Bali though, and it’s so cool to know that you can visit textile workshops to watch women making batiks from scratch.
Thanks, Meg. I agree that it’s important to know these things. Not only because it’s a suggestion on what to buy as a souvenir, but also to have in mind that it’s a way of helping the local economy. Even more so if it mainly relies on tourism.
Not to mention that crafted pieces here are really lovely. 🙂
As I was told, each village or area specializes in a particular craft. I would have loved to see the batik artisans at work I was only in Bali for a short while so I “hired” my sarong to visit the one temple I went into. What a thrill to buy your own sarong to use each time you visit a temple in Bali.
Yep, and you can use it afterwards as well. Mine served as a great beach scarf few times in different destinations since Bali. 🙂
What a great article, and what great crafts! I love batik, the detail in the designs, and how they are able to use wax and dyes to make such beautiful artworks. My mum bought me a sarong from Malaysia 20 years ago and it’s still going strong! I too have a silver addiction – I’m sure you needed that extra one 😉
Heheheh, thank you for understanding when it comes to silver. 😀
I keep telling myself that I just had to have one more ring at the time. But, there, you said it as well. It’s not just me! 😀 😀
I also always look for something unique to bring back on my travels. Like you I like silver so I am certain that I would have found something perfect for my Troll beads chain that I wear constantly. Watching the craftsman at work gives it a more personal meaning as well.
It does, doesn’t it! Just imagine, they might have made that thing you’d think it’s just perfect for your chain. 🙂 It makes it even more special, I agree.
This is fascinating, I love learning about local culture and crafts. And these are much better souvenirs than a magnet or postcard – as you say, helping the community and local craftspeople is really important. And those sarongs are lovely! I’m not sure a mask would fit in my bag but there is always room for a batik 🙂
Well, you know what – I took a small carpet halfway around the world, from the Middle East once, and it made it home in one piece. Comparing to the carpet, a batik is easy to pack, hehehe, so true. 😉
Thank you, Claire. 🙂
Sandy N Vyjay
I like this fresh perspective of Bali. Bali is of course well known for its exotic beaches and resorts. But the arts and crafts of Bali are equally fascinating. I was just amazed by the Barong mask and the skill and finesse with which it is made. I think every traveller must show interest in this area to promote sustainable tourism.
My thoughts exactly! <3
And you don’t have the picture of the ring?!
Can’t believe I somehow overlooked your comment, sorry. 😀
So true, hehehehe, I should have posted the ring picture. But, here are the links where you can check it out. 😉
One place that will surely hold the heart of every lady, is the Celuk Village. Bali is famous for its Celuk Village as it one of the best spots for shopping in Bali. Rated among the best shopping places in Bali, it is known for fine gold and silver jewelry and handmade exquisite designs. Beautiful rings, bangles, chokers, earrings, hairpins, head gears, brooches and many more accessories of high quality and elaborate designs decorate the shops of this village. Dont miss out on pearl jewelry.
Thank you for the suggestion. I’ve always loved a piece of good jewelry. 🙂