Oberoi, Seminyak & Petitenget, oh my! (Seminyak)

There's no denying it.  Bali is a haven for shop-a-holics, with Jalan Laksmana/ Oberoi and Jalan Raya Seminyak acting as Seminyak’s answer to 5th Avenue and St. Mark’s Place respectively.  (And don’t even get us started on Jalan Petitenget!)

Visitors to South Bali could easily spend an entire week browsing the shops of this neighborhood and never happen into the same boutique twice.  But with so many other great attractions in Bali, why would you want to?We only had half a day in Seminyak.  And thus, you can bet our shopping excursion was cut down drastically to include only a handful of the “bestest.”  And so without further adieu, we offer you our quick run-down of the spots you really should not miss, and naturally, the reasons why...

Best Place to Find a Gift for the Person Who Has Everything - Carga:  Our first stop on Jalan Petitenget (on the way to Seminyak proper from Kerobokan) set the stage for what was to follow, namely quality.  Everything in this designer housewares store, from the upscale batik prints to the intricately beaded glass vessels, was a virtual work of art.  Since we had just started our trek though the neighborhood we opted to “save ourselves” for other options that might come down the road.  It’s a shame since we never made it back to Carga, or its many treasures that could have eventually populated our apartment in Santa Monica.  Set of Drifters tip:  Have any friends back home that have just got engaged?  Just about any object in this place would make for a nice, and unforgettable, wedding gift!

Carga - Jalan Petitenget 886, Kerobokan, Kuta  80361, Bali, 011 (62) 361-847-8173

Best Place (in Bali) to Find Gorgeous Vintage Fashions with a Surf Slant - Press Ban Cafe & Boho Boutique:   We’re not quite sure exactly what a “Press Ban” is, but we saw signs for them all over Indonesia.  (We think it has something to do with car tires?)  Ironically, we equally as puzzled as to what exactly this establishment is most trying to be, a vintage fashion boutique, a bookstore, a tea house, a restaurant?  Who knows, but whatever these cats are up to, it is working!  The vibe here is clearly retro-surf, but not in a dazed hobo kind of way.  Those plunking down their rupiah here will so because the merchandisers at Press Ban have found some of the grooviest - and best quality - vintage duds of yesteryear.  The men’s swimsuit collection is ace while we think the ladies will be “oohing” and “ahhing” over the sunglasses and jewelry. 

In addition to choice threads, Press Ban sells knick-knacks, toys and other oddities as well out front of its tiny “tee house” kitchen.  The boutique also has an allegiance to a local recycling foundation and you’d be kind to purchase their reusable water bottles to help promote more eco-friendly practices in this almost improbable region of sustainable decadence.

Press Ban Cafe & Boho Boutique - Jalan Laksmana/ Oberoi 50XX, Seminyak, 011 (62) 361-730486, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Press-BAN-CAFE/148490555180928

Best Place to Find Unique Souvenirs That Will Remind You of Indonesia - BombaAlas, a visit to Jalan Basangkasa’s Bomba boutique revealed that, unfortunately, we are not as brilliant as we thought we were, or at least not as original.  Let’s explain.  You see, while previously downing bowls and bowls of delicious “bakso” in Java with our tour guide Herman, we had devised alternate lyrics to the classic Village People tune “Macho Man.”

“Bakso, Bakso man, I want to be a Bakso Man.”  You get the point, and clearly, so did someone else, for what did we see peering out of the window of this cool little shop?  None other than a hipster apron that featured the exact same lyrics.  They text was positioned over a silhouetted image of a man pushing a traditional Indonesian bakso cart.  If only we had thought of it first!  At 300,000 IDR (about $32 USD), the price was a bit steep for an apron, and yet, what a unique, and useful, souvenir it would have made.

Aside from a bevy of gritty girl’s threads, Bomba also serves up some rather wicked artisan “street signs” that showcase many of the funny words and phrases one will encounter throughout Indonesia.  (Our favorite was “HATI-HATI!,” a typical roadside warning that accompanies construction zones or places with an increased number of pedestrians.  While we did not spend the 200,000 IDR for a sign at Bomba, we did later take the inspiration to a woodworking vendor in Sanur who made us a custom-made sign of our very own - see below.)

Bomba - Jalan Raya Seminyak, Basangkasa 3X, Kuta, Bali, 011 (62) 812-36072845, https://www.facebook.com/Bomba.store

Best Place to Find Cool Designer Duds... and Scary Baby Doll Toys - 100/ Horn Emporium:  Ooooh, we loved this place.  The two-story shop along Petitenget is so new that it was not even finished when we visited in October of 2011.  The clever street fashions for men and women are just the beginning in an environment that owes as much allegiance to Frida Kahlo and Mexican wrestling as it does to Shiva or cockfighting.  Our favorite brand up for grab was the label Green Rock.  We could have easily spent every last dime in this joint if we weren’t so efficient in utilizing will power.  The folks at 100/ Horn Emporium clearly have their eyes and ears to the street, and if their oddball collection of second-hand retro housewares is any indication, they’ve got a nice dark sense of humor as well!

100/ Horn Emporium - Jalan Petitenget, Kerobokan, Kuta, Bali, http://www.hornemporium.com

Best Place to Stick to Tradition - Teratai Wood Carving & Handicraft:  Even though Seminyak is home to some rather wacky findings - see Aman Shop below - there is also plenty of tradition afoot as well.  Looking for Lacoste?  Desperate for Dior?  Chances are, you’re gonna run into them sooner or later!  As for handicrafts, our money is on Teratai.  This cozy little shop along Jalan Basangkasa is bursting at the seams with some of the best wood carvings you will find outside of Ubud, and at prices well below what others in Seminyak are charging. 

We may have picked up half of our souvenirs for friends and family back home in this one shop alone.  (The kind shopkeeper will probably knock down the prices if you are buying multiple items.)  Teratai also happens to be the place where we finally found the perfect carved owl to add to our ever-growing collection of travel talismans from previous trips abroad.  Make sure to tell the artisans of Teratai we said hello!

Teratai Wood Carving & Handicraft - Jalan Raya Seminyak 38, Basangkasa, Kuta, Bali, 011 (62) 081-1385699

Best Place to Find a Mirror-encrusted Ganesha Statue - Aman Shop:  Just when you think you have seen it all, along comes Aman Shop!  Though it was closed during our nighttime visit to Basangkasa, its storefront windows easily gave its whimsy away in spades - and diamonds!  Simply put, this place is nuts.  Filled to the brim with sparkling light fixtures that more closely resemble gas planets, this is where Bali’s vibrant mixture of classic culture and modernism comes to a feverish pitch.  A nude female mannequin sitting side-saddle on a motorcycle is made extra-kitschy by the fact that both objects are covered, like a disco ball, in tiny mirror facets!  And it doesn’t stop there.  Buddha, Ganesha and a host of other spiritual pop culture references are given similar treatment.  (Many of them even light up from within.)  We still haven’t figured out which of the incredible pieces we will be ordering from their online catalog, but we’ll let you know when we find out.

Aman Shop - Jalan Raya Seminyak 38, Basangkasa, Kuta, Bali, 011 (62) 361-733786, http://www.baliamanshop.com

Monkey Forest Road (Ubud)

If you’ve come to Bali only to hit up the chic boutiques of Seminyak, you will ultimately be missing out on a much larger shopping opportunity.  Believe it or not, there’s an even higher concentration of goodies to be had in the town of Ubud, and specifically, its “Monkey Forest Road.”  We suppose it’s a bit odd to see such a large conglomeration of art, clothes and jewelry boutiques positioned just meters away from one of the most sacred locations in all of Bali, but it certainly makes things convenient for a nice half-day excursion!

While you may not find as many brand names on Jalan Monkey Forest, the fair prices and high quality of the local handicrafts makes this a shop-till-you-drop experience you simply cannot miss.  Oh, and did we mention Ubud’s Pasar Seni art market lies at the very top end of the street?  Well, not yet, but we will (see below).

If you’re into the same kind of stuff that we are, plan on spending at least two hours for your trek up or down the 1 km. stretch of road.  We often found ourselves popping into one store for five to ten minutes only to head right back into the very next store on the block.  Yes, it’s that good.  Some of our favorite shops on Monkey Forest Road include:

Monkey Monkey:  Hey, when on Monkey Forest Road...  This shop caters to, what else?, fans of monkeys.  A slew of clever knick-knacks, toys and clothes for all members of the family is highlighted by some fun Christmas ornaments, wickedly clever T-shirts and some rather attractive artisanal pillows featuring characters from the “Barong.”

Monkey Monkey - Jalan Monkey Forest 4, Padangtegal, Ubud  80571, Bali, 011 (62) 236-444517

Makassi Shop:  Those looking for colorful, kitschy and frivolous fun will have no issues with Makassi’s merchandiser.  Expect trendy hand-bags, purses and backpacks that pay homage to Bali’s street signs as well as ‘80s throw-back wallets and key fobs that look more like vintage cassette recorders or walkman tape players.  Like video games?  This shop’s cornered the market on Japanese anime-style toys that any girl, boy or older girl and boy or boy-girl would love!  If it’s wacky, it’s at Makassi.

Makassi Shop - Jalan Monkey Forest, Padangtegal, Ubud  80571, Bali, 011 (62) 361-975906

Pygmees:  The Balinese outpost of this international brand took us by surprise.  We had never heard of the shop before, but its colorful Rudi Gernreich-style mod prints and textiles had us swooning.  While a men’s clothing line was kept to a bare minimum, ladies who look up to Peggy Moffitt should have a field day here!  Block print black A-frame dressed are splashed with stripes, cut-out and polka dots in all shades of red and fuchsia.  Make sure you check out those cool Mondrian-inspired messenger bags!  Your credit card may need a break after this one!

Pygmees - Jalan Monkey Forest, Padangtegal, Ubud  80361, Bali,  http://www.pygmees.eu/

Sidhi Becik 1 Bali Beads Centre:  Your Set of Drifters are not usually ones to where glass beaded jewelry, but many of our family and friends are.  This place is for them.  Though the overall operation feels a bit cheap from the entrance (particularly thanks to an end-cap that sells faulty flip-flops), once inside it’s hard to ignore the sheer magnitude of Sidhi Becik’s collection.  Necklaces, hair clips, earrings and bracelets are available in every shape, size, color and material.  More industrious shoppers can even pick out their own assemblage of beads or art pieces from a virtual bead warehouse in the back and have them strung by a jeweler in the shop.  We were quite impressed and spent more than 20 minutes here working though our decisions.

One item that was a no-brainer was the “body cuff” belt, somewhat of a gag-gift for our friend Audrey that had been joking about for more than a decade.  Available in silver, carnelian and a few other colors, the wide, chunky belt is made out of beads and clasped with a large wooden disc.  Too cool.  If you are not sure what to get that certain friend or family member for a souvenir, yet know their favorite color, this is a great place to solve your dilemma!

Sidhi Becik 1 Bali Beads Centre - Jalan Monkey Forest, Padangtegal  80571, Ubud, 011 (62) 361-971315, http://www.sidhibecik.com

Natasha Art & Furniture:  Just because a place may be out of our budget does not mean we cannot praise it.  This shop, closer to the southern end of Monkey Forest Road, is stunning, and if you happen to be looking for a statement piece to add to your home back home, you’ve come to the right place.  Aside from a bevy of perfectly weathered antique statues, masks and ceremonial costumes, the furniture pieces here are simply out of this world, or at the very least, fantastic carvings from the Irian Jaya peninsula.  Even if you have no room for a large wooden dining table and matching benches, we recommend stopping in to take a look.  Whoever “Natasha” is, she sure has good taste.  

Natasha Art & Furniture - Jalan Monkey Forest, Padangtegal, Ubud  80571, Bali, 011 (62) 339-491599

Oleh Oleh Outer Island Treasures:  This wonderful shop follows a similar pattern to that of Natasha’s, albeit on a more affordable scale.  Here, ethnic woodcarvings, masks and talismans are assembled from villages located in every pocket of Indonesia.  The staff is friendly and, in a comfortable, relaxed setting, is willing to assist in the transportation of any item too big for your suitcase.  We opted for small Balinese woodcarvings of double-headed mermaids that required no shipping at all, but either way, with 25 years experience under their belt, you can be assured that you are in good hands at Outer Island Treasures.

Oleh Oleh Outer Island Treasures - Jalan Monkey Forest, Padangtegal, Ubud  80571, Bali, 011 (62) 361-976235, http://www.outerislandtreasures.com

furniture, statues and more in Tabanan and Sanur

One of Bali’s best attributes is the insane level of artistry and attention to detail that goes into the creation of its products.  This dedication is perhaps best spotted when driving along the smaller roads that connect one village to the next.  Here you can see woodcarvers or stone sculptors, seemingly deep in meditation, toiling away at intricate teak wood doors or large statues of Ganesha.  These lovingly-created items eventually end up in shops that line the more major roads that pinwheel out from Bali’s capital of Denpasar.

While en route to Munduk from Seminyak, we were simply blown away by the amount of shops selling carved shrines, elaborate wood carvings and pieces of furniture that would make any interior designer’s mouth drool. On the hunt ourselves for a small wooden shrine for our cat, we randomly stopped off the main road near Tabanan and managed to pick up a nice carved piece for only about $12 USD!  If we had more time, money, and a container to ship items back home, we probably would have continued our spree with a set of outdoor rattan furniture, some matching tiki-style lamps and perhaps a driftwood table much like the ones we kept seeing along the side of the road into the mountains.

We eventually ended up spotting some great artsy items in the last place we expected it, the super-touristy Sanur Beach.  In hindsight, we wished we had not spent most of our money already since it seemed antique Indonesian treasures abounded in even the plainest looking storefronts.  One of these spots, Yulia’s Art shop, lies on the main drag in Sanur, sandwiched between a few restaurants and some junky souvenir stalls.  Here, we found a startling array of beautiful wooden and stone statues and some rather large antique shadow puppets simply collecting dust!  (We couldn’t even contemplate taking these fragile things home with us.)  The elderly man who purveyed this unusual shop explained that it was actually his wife who had really ran the store prior to her death over a year ago.  He was basically selling off all of his stock and we picked some rather cool antique statues for only about $8 USD.  (There are certainly more treasures to be found here, so don’t miss it!)

We had another great experience at nearby Flower’s Shop Made to Order.  Here, an assortment of pre-carved wooden signs is just awaiting your customization.  Many feature beautiful renditions of many of Bali’s most prominent Hindu heroes.  As a unique souvenir that we will always remember from this trip, we ordered a “barong” carving with the words “Hati-Hati!” (“Caution!”) emblazoned below.   A quick turn-around time assured us that, even though we submitted our request on the evening before leaving the country, the sign would be available to us by 12:00 PM the following day, and at a relatively cheap price of only $20 USD.  Score!

shops near Tabanan - about 10 km. from Denpasar on the main road to Singaraja

Yulia Art Shop - Jalan Danau Tamblingan 28, Sanur  80228, Bali, 011 (62) 361-288089

Flower’s Shop Made To Order - Jalan Danau Tamblingan 32B, Sanur  80228, Bali, 011 (62) 338-687564

“Oops, I forgot the oleh-oleh!”

Shop-a-holics beware!  The island of Bali is chock-full of ways to do damage to your credit card, and it’s not just high-end artwork, custom made furniture or island fashions that could end up doing you in.  Produced by dedicated communities who clearly care about the aesthetic of their work, even low-end “oleh-oleh” (or souvenirs) can be hard to resist.  So where do you begin, and how do you make sure you are not getting ripped off? 

Perhaps you have already read Set of Drifter Doug’s report on the "art of haggling" at local markets.  (If not, we advise you to check it out now.)  We feel that many of these same tenets carry over to shopping smartly in Bali as well.  But sometimes haggling is just a pain in the you know where.  If a price seems fair, you buy the item, right?  Perhaps, but not if you are visiting Ubud’s famed Pasar Seni art market.

While you probably will not feel the need to debate the cost in many of the more chic stores that frame nearby Monkey Forest Road, be ready to duke it out with the ladies at Pasar Seni.  These tough cookies are the queens of “the haggle” and if you express even the tiniest interest in an item, they will continue to badger you with lower quotes until you come to an agreement.

No wanting to be stung by a bad bargain, we entered the market feeling determined to stand our ground.  Overall, we believe we did pretty well, thanks in part to some useful phrases you may want to commit to memory now.  “Kasi mura” means “give it to me cheaper” while “tidak mau” translates into “I don’t need it.”

We recommend heading to the Pasar Seni with a goal in mind, browsing only the items you really want or need.  Otherwise, you might end up wasting your time - and the vendor’s - haggling over something you don’t even care about.  (Trust us, this is not the way to win friends in Indonesia.)  Start your opening price much lower than what you are actually willing to pay, and if the vendor simply won’t go there, just walk away from their stall no matter how bad you really want the item!  We guarantee the shopkeeper will come for you, throwing out crazy prices until you both meet somewhere in the middle.

Pasar Seni is a great place to load up on souvenirs for people back home - as long as you get in on the right price.  While much of the inventory is a bit junkier than what you’ll find on Monkey Forest Road, there are some gems if you can muster the mad-cap energy inside.   

Outside of Ubud and its crazy market, we found a couple other spots we think might impress you in terms of their overall variety and cost for quality.  One of these, Bali Jeggeg, was located near the town of Mengwi on the right side of the road from Denpasar to Singaraja.  The proprietors of this large shop have culled together an impressive load of traditional Indonesian items at very affordable prices.  We picked up most of our presents for friends and family here, including an assortment of coffee beans, spices, batik clothing, jewelry, housewares and even carved wood statues.  In retrospect, we wish we had known about this place before buying anything in Java, as we could have purchased everything here more inexpensively and would not have had so much heft in our luggage to boot around.

Going Bye-Bye Bali?  Another viable option for cheap souvenirs is available to you just before heading out of the country!  If you’re still looking for some last minute crap to add to larger gifts, look no further than Hawaii-Bali Oleh Oleh, a huge emporium located only about two miles away from Ngurah-Rai Airport.

While we cannot vouch for the quality of all items here, you can be assured that you’ll find variations of anything you may have missed in other shops, and at prices that will quickly make you realize you’ve already paid too much for items you once thought a steal.  Most of the T-shirts, sarongs, batik, bags and scarves here are sealed in plastic wrapping that shows its base price, making Hawaii-Bali a relatively haggle-free experience.  (We’ll bet, however, that you could get even better deals with some of the salespeople!)  Set of Drifters tip:  Save your rupiah for your departure fee from Indonesia!  Hawaii-Bali Oleh Oleh gladly accepts your withered credit card, making your final shopping horde all the easier!  

Pasar Seni art market - located in the southeast corner of Jalan Raya Ubud and Monkey Forest Road, Bali

Bali Jeggeg - about 20 km. from Denpasar on the road to Singaraja

Hawaii-Bali Oleh Oleh - Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai 28X, Tuban, Bali, 011 (62) 361-766171, http://www.hawaiibali.com