Denpasar, the capital and largest city of Bali, is a primary hub for authentic Balinese market shopping. It’s hectic, intense, chaotic but also lively, fascinating and full of color. We both found unique, handmade souvenirs for $5 – $10 and had such a fun experience that we’re considering going back for more. The toughest part was getting there with a two-hour round trip riding tandem on a motorbike.
We’re currently staying at Bingin Beach in Uluwatu area, so visiting Denpasar is about an hour each way. We considered hiring a driver for half-day, but we had already rented a motorbike for the week… why not utilize it, right? Well, driving in Bali is intimidating. No one regards lanes to have any authority. People swoop in and out of lanes, no matter the direction, to zig zag up and around the thousands of motorbikes, cars and trucks in their way.
Honking is not used as a form of expression or sign of emergency, but instead used as a sort of indicator that you’re present and possibly taking over a lane. It’s like, beep-beep I hope you hear me so we don’t crash. Or, beep-beep I’m behind you so don’t slam on your brakes. It’s interesting to get used to nearly constant honking, since we’re used to it being so alarming at home.
Shaun was most worried about the main motorway, since faster traffic could get bad quick… It was actually the best maintained road so the easiest to navigate, but to keep up with traffic we were going as fast as 70 km, which feels like 100 mph when you’re on a motorbike (although it is only 43 mph). The worst that happened was riding smack dab between two cars with only inches to spare on each side. At one point, Shaun rode up onto the cobblestone sidewalk to bypass truck spitting out deadly black smoke.
Once we arrived safely in Denpasar, we did most our shopping at Badung Kambasari– an exciting and highly recommended experience. The external of the marketplace resembles a sketchy and semi-empty warehouse but once you reach the third floor, you’ve fallen in love around every corner. The place is full of both Hindu and Buddhist artifacts, statues, masks, art, decor, everything- so full of color and texture.
And, it’s so cheap!! Initially the sellers will ask for a pretty ridiculous price, because bargaining is expected from both ends. The rule of thumb I’ve heard and practiced is basically ask half for what they first offer.
The Indonesian Rupiah (their currency) runs in thousands, so you have a lot of paper in your pocket and it feels like you’re spending so much more than you are. 5,000 Rupiah? = $0.37 USD… 100,000 Rupiah? = $7.50 USD. After haggling between just a few thousand Rupiah and debating whether to purchase or not… it’s easy to forget how little you are really bargaining between. Often only a few bucks.
Shaun bought a beautiful hand carved wooden mask for about $6 and I bought hanging wall decor fixture for about $7. If I had unlimited space in my backpack to bring stuff home, I would’ve bought dozens of items.
We had planned to shop mostly at Pasar Badung (right across the river from Badung Kambasari), after researching on TripAdvisor and our Lonely Planet book. It sounded like the main hub to explore, but we arrived and all Pasar Badung signs pointed to a deserted warehouse half burnt down… Granted, our Lonely Planet book is from 2009. No clue how long ago the fire was, but there was not any activity of reconstructing.
We also shopped at Krisna Bali and Erlangga, both just down the street but they were lackluster. It’s more of a Westernized mall selling cheap Indonesian souvenirs, prepackaged in plastic and sold by the hundreds… It didn’t feel genuine or of good quality. Perhaps visit Krisna if you’re seeking dorky tourist tees and you’re too lazy to bargain (they sell at fixed prices).
Jalan Sulawesi (below) is the parallel street to the Badung Kambasari, an entire street of textiles and sarongs. Everything from $1 (or less) polyester sarangs to chic silks and amazing prints. Again, if I didn’t have to worry about backpack space…
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