Bali is a shopper’s paradise when it comes to fine art and handicrafts, antique furniture, paintings, jewelry, stone and wood carvings, masks and woven fabrics. Unlike in other countries, the Balinese refuse to create schlock when it comes to their crafts because to the Balinese, art is an expression of their religious experience; hence, the quality of art and crafts is quite high and the prices are good, too. Walking around (jalan jalan) and looking (lihat saja) at merchandise in Bali is a wonderful way to spend the day and Ubud, the country’s arts and crafts capital, is the place to do it (followed by the villages of Batuan and Samasan).
If you’re interested in buying fine art, you should visit the Neka Art Museum to get a feel for Ubud-style paintings, which capture Bali’s landscapes and scenes from everyday life. Then head to reputable fine art galleries such as the Komaneka Fine Art Gallery to discover the works of modern artists like I Ketut Suwidiarta and Wayan Kun Adnyana.
If you’re interested in carvings, Balinese sculpture uses natural substances like wood, bones, horns, stones and gnarled tree roots. The best wood carvings can be found in wood carving, Tegallalang, Pujung, and Sebatu. Bali’s Mask carving is a specialized art form as the masks are used in religious dances. Some masks use real hair and feature huge teeth and bulging eyes. The mask carving centers are in Mas and Puaya. Soft volcanic rock is used for stone carving and the centers for stone carving are in Kapal and Batubulan.
Balinese jewelry tends to be handmade, and silver pieces are made from silver mined near Singaraja. One of the best places to buy silver jewelry is Celuk, which is well-known for its rings, bracelets, pins and necklaces. Kamasan is the place to buy traditional pieces made of gold and silver.
Bargaining or haggling is expected and welcomed in Bali and the best way to get a good price. Another way to get a discount is to buy in bulk. (Remember: You’ll need souvenirs to give to your friends and family back home, won’t you?) When you bargain, keep in mind who wants the transaction to succeed more — you or the seller? If you really, really want an item and you want to get the best deal, wait until the seller is alone because that’s when she or he will likely cut you a deal without anyone else knowing about it. Expect to take a long time — bargaining is a long process in Bali — and be prepared to walk away.