A paradise filled with sun, sea … and silver.
Autumn/winter accessories are all about bold jewelled statements with a focus on necklaces, necklets and pendants. Bali has an abundance of markets pulsating with precious finds – I was bound to find the ultimate piece at a fraction of the price.
My first encounter with local products was on the beach in Kuta. Balinese men and women alike comb the seafront in the hope of selling their goods and services. Sarongs, henna tattoos, manicures, massage, fresh fruit and beads galore. The bracelets, anklets and necklaces on offer were uninspired to say the least. Even venturing into the market near the beach proved disappointing. It became clear that the goods being flogged were aimed at the western tourists. There were loads of knock-off handbags or luggage sets and t-shirts with crude slogans or touristy phrases. Some brightly coloured strings of beads caught my eye here and there, but again, nothing unique. The only thing I would consider purchasing here, were a few cheap sundresses or sunnies, just so I wouldn’t ruin my best pair if I dropped them in the sand or the sea. Below a woman is enticed by the mobile vendors.
Commercial Kuta and Poppies 1 market
Poppies 1 market was garish, congested and noisy. Aside from the market square, there are also little shops. Some are filled with clothing, wooden crafts and mosaic glassware whilst others are lined with racks and racks of beads. Again, some were pretty and a great bargain at IRP 50 000 (under £3), but still not the ethnic fashion piece I was searching for.
Bali is renowned for its use of silver and semi-precious stones. Eager to find something infused with a bit of the Balinese culture and craftsmanship, I headed north. Ubud is often referred to as the creative hub and cultural centre of Bali.
Not long after turning off the busy main road evidence of this began to emerge. Sukawati is inundated with large signs hanging above private driveways offering silver jewellery for sale – in bulk or made to order. I picked a couple of stores at random. As the car pulled into the various drives there was a scurry of activity – the shop attendants rushed to switch on the display lights and open the doors.
Silver in Sukawati
Finally, the first signs of beautifully designed local products. The glass cabinets gleamed with little treasures. Silver bracelets, rings, necklaces accentuated with fresh-water pearls or coral. Pendants fashioned from chunks of semi-precious stones.
Prices for the more substantial pieces range from anywhere between one and three million Indonesian Rupiahs. You will be relieved to know that this converts into roughly £100 to £300. I was also told that I could bargain. Often this means you can purchase things for half the asking price, if not less – depending on your bargaining skills!
I continued on my journey and was delighted to come across several art galleries, extraordinary wooden crafts (including the famous carved and gold painted doors) and glassware stalls along the way.
Upon arrival in Ubud, I headed straight for the market. I could sense the difference in ambience almost immediately. There were indigenous fruits and Indonesian spices for sale amongst the woven baskets and batik sarongs. And the jewellery!
Ubud market and what I bought for under £50
Perhaps not as ornate and extravagant as some of the items I had come across in the stores, but worth the journey to say the least. A thorough search of all the stalls and some exceptional bargaining saw me leave with an armful of items for under £50!
Later that evening I attended the Kecak Ramayana and Firedance at the open-air stage. The performance was spellbinding and the costumes phenomenal. At last the spirit of Bali had emerged and revealed itself to me.
After my adventure, I felt more driven to explore the island and its god-centred people. Once back at the seafront, I ventured away from commercial Kuta. Seminyak and Legian are a short distance from here but offers a refreshing take on market shopping. Again, some repitition with the goods on offer but the further away I travelled from the tourist hotspots, the more I began to discover.
Legian has a little market and tons of stalls lining the backstreets. The best place to find some locally designed clothing, sandals and wooden crafts is in Arjuna (Ex. Double Six) Street. It was on this street that I also managed to find a few jewellery stores with items reminiscent of what I had seen in Ubud. There were a smaller variety of the straw bags and baskets too – lacking the grassroots feel of the market, but for those without the means to travel inland, it will definitely suffice.
Legian: best for locally inspired markets and stalls
If you do choose to stray back onto the main roads, Seminyak has a variety of independent designer stores. I found traces of western fused with local inspiration. Metallic straw bags, jewel collared dresses and bubble skirts. For the ultimate in Bali designer you must stop at one of Paul Ropp’s boutiques.
Designer boutiques in Seminyak
My sense of style for the upcoming season will definitely be influenced by the local culture. The traditional garb worn by Balinese women carrying baskets of flowers to make offerings at the temple or religious shrines has left me inspired. Bold printed floor length skirts, fitted lace trimmed shirts with bright coloured sashes at the waist are all elements that will give an ethnic edge to any dowdy winter wardrobe.
The statement neckpiece is already mine. What else does Asia have on offer?