A Guide to Buying Balinese Handicrafts
Bali is renowned throughout the archipelago of Indonesia and overseas for their handicrafts. You could say that Bali is a mecca for arts and handicrafts. You might browse what is on offer in the Kuta area, but if you want the genuine article and not just a ‘copy’ [as so often seen in the tourist strip] it is far better to visit the village of origin for the particular handicraft you re seeking.
Of course there are handicraft centres located in the tourist strip which sell the genuine handicraft but I have so often found the products to be mass produced. Even so, these places are well worth checking out before you head up country. This way you can get an idea of quality.
If you are an independent traveller then there are local buses to the villages that specialize in various products, but, it’s easy to get the places mixed up. Most organised tours to the major tourism objects in Bali travel through a majority of these handicraft villages and stop at these places so you can peruse the particular handicraft associated with the village.
Batubulan: Here you will find stone sculptures of all sizes lining the street are there are many stone figures and statues. These include Buddhas, demons, and ornaments for family shrines. You can actually watch the carvers at work in certain places.
Batuan: Known for traditional woven cloth, craftsmen in this village also create carved and decorated painted wooden panels.
Celuk: Famous for its weaving, gold & silver. Celuk is a mile long street lined with silversmiths. You can buy ready made stuff in one of the many large shops or order custom work to suit.
Bona: This is a place known for its traditional dance performances, however, there are places where you can purchase some excellent bamboo furniture. It is also a centre for plaited baskets, hats and sandles.
Puaya: This place is located close to Sukawati and is renowned for its puppets made from old Chinese coins. Leather puppets also made here.
Mas, Peliatan and Ubud: These villages are located in the cultural heart of Bali, Ubud. They are carving & painting centres. Some of the best carvers are found in Mas.
Penestanan: Known for its paintings and beaded purses.
Goa Gajah: Although the main attraction here is the Elephant Cave, this place is known for its baskets and shell carvings.
Bangli and Tampaksiring: In these villages you will find handicrafts made from coconut, cattle-bone, and buckhorn carvings.
Klungkung: Wood carvings, hornwork, bone carvings and fine woven silk is the major handicraft. Also there are shops selling Chinese porcelain, ornamental gold and silver jewellery. Take the time to walk around the small shops and down back alleys.
Blaju and Gianyar: The famous weaving centre of Bali. There are many fine pieces of sarong in the various shops and weaving centres. Although a good place for textiles, you will find the prices a bit steep and in a lot of the places they are fixed price.
The above are the main handicraft areas in Bali but there are smaller villages each with their own speciality. Take time to explore when you travel in Bali. You will be pleasantly surprised at what you find.