What to Do in Ubud? Visit The Central Market and Craft Villages

Ubud’s neighboring villages are each known for a speciality: weaving, silver, painting, wood carvings, stone carvings, furniture, bamboo crafts (all within a 5 kilometer/3.1 mile radius of the Central Market) and that’s all we saw on the ride from Seminyak to Ubud. Shop after shop along the road with fabulous looking “stuff” to buy. I cried big crocodile tears mourning there was no time to visit the individual villages; a big blow to a compulsive shopper like me. Still upset over this, I was determined to buy one of the smaller Balinese demons for our garden until the guide said:

– Don’t buy a stone/concrete sculpture. It will crack. Instead, buy one made of volcanic pumice. One teeny problem with this advice. They are not available in this area;

– Even the smallest sculpture weighs a ton; and

– If I could get one safely packed, pay overweight on the plane(s) back to America, was I going to schlep this around Indonesia for the next two weeks, on and off cars, boats and planes?

You know the answer. Or, you can guess Steve’s response. Hysterical, screaming, hissy fit, promising me that someone in America will sell them. As I’ve since discovered, they don’t! Do I dare say, “Maybe next time”?

Balinese temple statue, Ubud


There are markets, and there are markets. Ubud’s Central Market overflows with T-shirts, souvenirs, all kinds of “kitsch”, and sarongs. This is where we bought our sarongs in preparation for Batur Balinese Temple on the East Java tour. Both men and women, must wear a sarong and temple scarf to enter any Balinese temple. Cheapie, cheapie sarongs cost 25,000 Rupiah – $2.50 U.S. (good enough for our purposes) and range on up to 100,000 Rupiah ($10 U.S.) for better ones. Nothing looks more ridiculous than two overweight Americans (us) wearing a sarong, not a pretty sight, but they do make good cover-ups in a pinch.

two levels in Ubud Central Market, Bali

cheapie clothes for sale inside the Ubud Central Market, Bali


Haggle fast and furiously, then walk if you don’t get it for the price offered. The moment you show interest in anything, the shop person immediately says, “For you a small discount,” and the small discount can be more than 50% off. Hang tight and don’t blink. If you don’t buy from that vendor, another will have the exact same item a short distance away. Bali is a major tourist destination and everyone speaks English. July and August are the super busy months when Bali is loaded with Europeans on holiday.

hundreds of bangles for sale in Ubud, Bali

carrying wares through the Ubud Central Market, Bali

crowded Ubud Central Market, Bali


In addition to the two jam-packed levels and tiny stalls right on top of each other, every single street in Central Ubud is lined with stores. Counterfeit DVD’s are big in Ubud. If you buy 20 DVD’s at $1 each, the store will usually throw in eight for free. Many are defective. Don’t listen to the seller when they say all will work. Won’t! But for that price, what have you got to lose?

"speak no evil" in Ubud's market, Bali


A mish-mosh of shopping advice.

– Ubud Central Market is the place to buy souvenirs;

– We stood and watched many of the sellers using shoe polish on their crafts. No worries if the item will just be sitting on a shelf, but what if you use the gorgeous platters (see photograph below) to eat from? I’m not quite sure about that; and

– If you are tempted to buy one of the decorative knives and/or machetes, we had knives confiscated by Chinese Airport Security when the suitcase was scanned; even though suitcase had a TSA combination lock on it!

shoe polishing a platter in Ubud Central Market, Bali

selling knives and machetes in the Ubud Central Market, Bali


Another thought while walking around in the afternoon rain. When a guidebook says that rainy season extends through April, they’re not just whistling Dixie. It came down in buckets every afternoon in Bali. Hopefully, the weather will get drier when we head east to Lombok and Flores.

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