If you are in Bali, love shopping, like to indulge in bargain shopping and wish to see some of Bali’s best goods under one roof, you have to visit the Sukowati market, about 10 kms outside of Ubud in Central Bali. The proposition gets even more interesting if you are female as most of the stores stock goods that aim to woo female travelers across the world. This is the place where you can get authentic Balinese goods at local prices and I promise based on my personal experience that these prices would make your mouth open wide in wonder and make you catch the first flight to Bali just to shop here.
To start with, the Sukowati market is not your fancy shopping mall, but an association to promote the goods manufactured and hand-crafted by the people living in Bali. It is due to this very vision that the prices here are the cheapest in Bali. In fact, most of the shop owners in the tourist areas of Bali buy/procure their goods from here.
The market is open from 7 AM through 4 PM all days of the week. There are small stalls around the market to take care of the hungry and thirsty shopper. These establishments dish out some of Bali and Indonesia’s best drinks and dishes making it a street culinary cum shopping experience. If you get lucky, you might see a temple procession go by, like how I saw on one of the days I was shopping at Sukowati.
The people running these shops are poor and hence look to start their opening prices very high, just to land a significant profit somehow. But, they do not like to lose a prospective customer and hence are always open to bargaining. In fact, bargaining is welcomed with a warm smile here. Depending on the goods you purchase and its volume, the final price can be as much as 20% to 30% of the opening price. Sometimes, even 10%.
Like I said earlier, this place is primarily for the female traveler with beadwork, necklaces, lots of clothes that include alibaba pants, dresses, tops, t-shirts, sarongs, beachwear and more, and Bali Batik handbags. The motifs are vibrant and colorful in a way like the Balinese culture, which is very warm and graceful. If you have good bargaining skills, you should be able to land a dress for $1 to $2 per piece. And a Bali Batik handbag for $1. That is how cheap this place is and the quality is the same as you would see in a shop in Kuta or Ubud. The cost is just 5 to 10 times lesser.
For the men, there are the usual clothing items like T Shirts and shorts. But, the more interesting ones are the Balinese paintings, Bali masks, Barong motif designs, a variety of statues, wooden carvings and intricate work, the garuda works and stunning metal work. In addition, one can find the usual souvenirs like Barong T Shirts, Fridge magnets, Bali batik work, wooden crafts and more.
For me, it was the Balinese paintings that piqued my attention. These very beautiful and creative paintings would be designed by local artisans and kept at parking lots on under the shaded roof of another shop for lack of money to rent out shop space. These paintings depict everything from Balinese culture, the countryside living, Balinese temples and homes, paddy fields, underwater life and generic stuff like flowers, waterfalls, gods and more.
Even though these Balinese paintings are set by the roadside and in sidewalks, they have to be the hottest selling item in the entire Sukowati market. The price for this quality of painting (A2 size) can be as low as $2 or $3. Personally, I was very tempted to pick at least 4 of these paintings, but due to the fact that I was going to travel for many more months, I gave up the thought. But, on my next Bali trip, I know the first thing that I want to buy.
Like the batiks are Indonesia’s culture symbol, I think the masks of Indonesia are also one of their main culture icons. Each island of Indonesia and to be more specific, each region of each island has their own style. Bali has its own style too and it resembles the Bali Barongs and in fact, it similar to the ‘asuras’ of India with more vibrant colors and vivid definitions.
Whatever your taste may be and whether you like bargain shopping or not, you should visit Sukowati market just to see all of Bali’s work in one place. It gets even better when you can carry it back home for an affordable price. The Bali’s umbrella shaped temples draw a lot of attention. Bali’s surfing waves and pristine beaches are world famous. I think the Sukowati market falls in the same category. The main positive outcome will be the money spent by us will go right to the roots, to the actual people creating and producing these goods. Do not forget Sukowati market, Bali’s true shopping paradise.
Note: Sukowati market does not have bus service from Denpasar, Kuta or Ubud. The best way to get here is a rented motorcycle or a taxi.