Bali is an incredible place for tourists with so much to see and, experience. The problem for a majority of tourists is time being on a restricted holiday plan. However, we all love shopping [although I am not a great lover of it] and the areas of Kuta and Denpasar have a fabulous experience for those wishing to experience Balinese culture.
I am talking about markets. Not just your usual tourist markets, although I have included those, but traditional markets as well. I think it’s the buzz of the colour and culture and the opportunity to bargain for your purchase that is an exciting experience; as well as satisfying.
I have this penchant wherever I travel in the archipelago of Indonesia and that is for traditional markets. It gives me a buzz just walking around checking out the goings-on and the manner tourists handle bargaining and the ilk. There are numerous markets in Bali; some good and some that are totally gross.
The general tourist markets are interesting but in my opinion, the traditional markets are the best. You will find these in just about every village and town on the island. However, if you are just searching for the cool T-shirt, weird object d’art or a souvenir as a gift for a friend, then most of the stuff you see on the street stalls you will inevitably find in the markets.
Most of the markets you visit will be so rich and alive with colour and activity as well as having delicious traditional Balinese food for sale. A good idea is to get to the market as early as possible, stroll around and have breakfast. One hint – get there early in the morning because the later the morning becomes, the hotter and busier it is.
Kuta Art Market: Located in Tuban behind the Matahari Square complex and opposite the Stadium Café, the Kuta Art Market is one of the big drawcards for tourists visiting Bali. At times this place can be overwhelming with its cacophony of narrow alleys crammed with various ‘tourist’ fare.
The market is a great place to visit but best done in the morning. If it all gets too much for you then simply walk to the back of the markets to the beach which backs onto it. Also, here you will find kaki lima selling some delicious traditional Balinese foods.
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Wake Bali Art Market: Located on Jalan Kartika Plaza in Tuban the relatively new Wake Bali Art Market is doing a good trade. Unlike the pushy and somewhat uncomfortable markets around the area, the Wake Bali Art Market offers a relaxed atmosphere in which to shop at your leisure. Their choice of Balinese handicrafts is quite good and reasonably priced compared with its counterparts in other places on the tourist strip. The Wake Bali Art Market is a great place to shop for those special gifts or if you desire is to decorate your home with that Balinese touch, this is the place to go.
Pasar Badung: This is the largest market in Bali and acts as a sort of clearing house for many island goods. Sarong vendors in Padangbai may buy their wares at Pasar Badung. Fruit and vegetable producers from around Bali may bring their goods to market at Pasar Badung, so the market is humming with activity 24/7.
Around the ground floor areas of Pasar Badung, especially outside the stairwells, one can observe older Balinese ladies preparing and selling traditional Balinese snack foods, complete with ground chilli’s, vegetables and an array of other items. You may not know exactly what you’re eating but it could be a wonderful experience and one that will not break the bank.
Pasar Kumbasari: Another market that is also worth a visit is Pasar Kumbasari. This 4-storey traditional art-market is located across the Badung River from Pasar Badung. Pasar Kumbasari is purely an art market, stocking sarongs, paintings, textiles, woodcarvings and other souvenir items. You can walk from one market to the other in 2 minutes.
Other markets in Denpasar:
Pasar Burung: This is a smaller scale open-air market located on Jl. Veteran, north on Alun-alun Puputan. This market does not sell food or sarongs, but specializes in live animals, particularly live birds. No doubt the conditions of the market are not up to western standards, but one has to put this kind of thing aside for the moment in order to check out the place. Tropical birds of all kinds can be found there.
Pasar Malam: Located next to a busy street, these places look like a disaster area during the day, a combination or bare cement, corrugated iron roofs, piles of garbage and parked food carts, this is a great market to visit. Things found at a pasar malam will be all things goreng (fried). Giant wok1 1 meter in diameter are set up on jet engine-like burners, each containing about a gallon or 2 of vegetable oil.
Locals have figured out by now that this is the easiest way to knock out food fast, away from a proper kitchen. Ayam goreng (fried chicken), served with rice and lalapan (raw cabbage, green beans, mint leaves and sliced cucumber, with a portion of hot sambal) is a good choice. No doubt there will be a soto ayam (chicken soup) seller and of course a corner stall cranking out pisang goreng (fried bananas).
Other sources of tourist fare can be found at the numerous factory outlets located in the Kuta area and Denpasar. Although all goods for sale are fixed price, most of what you can purchase is of good quality and reasonably priced.
Balinese markets are not as scary as they look and you can have a good time checking them out.