Denpasar’s Chinese style shop-houses and small selection of departments store are not as interesting as the traditional markets in the city. The largest Balinese market in Denpasar is Pasar Badung, located in a massive 3-storey building on the banks of the Badung river in the center of downtown, close to Jl. Gajah Mada. Pasar Badung has plenty of parking, however the entrance at Jl. Sulawesi may seem a little hectic. Parking is also found along the streets leading away from the market. Some people have reported that local women offer their services as ‘guides’ but this does not seem to be the rule. You do not need a guide to explore Pasar Badung market and wandering around by yourself is truly an education in Balinese culture and commerce.
Pasar Badung 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 chili’s, vegetables and and 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.
The lower floors of the market are reserved for meat, fish, fruit and veg. The upper floors for spices and traditional Balinese and Muslim attire. Also sold are Balinese ceremonial equipment such as umbrellas and baskets.
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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.
Pasar Burung 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.
Night markets or ‘pasar malam‘ are part of life in Indonesia. 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. They come to life at night time and one can wander up to partake. 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). These are actually good and cost 1,000rp for 4 in Seminyak.
Balinese markets are not as scary as they look and you can have a good time checking them out.