A decade ago shopping in Bali was all about the markets. In fact, there wasn’t much to choose from apart from markets.
Those ubiquitous and endless stalls specialised in Bintang singlets, football jumpers, cheap knock-off handbags, DVDs and CDs, and $5 cotton dresses that weren’t made to last much longer than your seven-day holiday.
Jump ahead to today (do people even buy CDs now?), and you will find that Bali shopping has had a couture makeover of epic proportions.
Big brand international labels are now on sale beside emerging Indonesia designers like Aylin Kanginnadhi of STRAW, Astrid Soedjono-Astbury of Saint X Sinner and Kukuh Zuttion of The Story Of.
The best shopping in Bali for local designer clothes in Bali is centred around the Seminyak and Petitenget areas.
Biasa is arguably one of the highest-profile local brands.
Their flagship Seminyak store, over two floors on Jalan Raya Seminyak, is full of clothes inspired by the Indonesian lifestyle and Italian design. The brand is known for its free-flowing creative cuts and hand-loomed fabrics.
If you want luxury “household name” brands, head to Bali’s international style malls that have completely changed the architectural landscape of Bali.
Kuta Beachwalk, the best place to start your shopping expedition, is a modern and imposing landmark. It spreads out over 3.7 hectares on Jalan Pantai Kuta Beach Road. Behind the curved façade and natural gardens, you will find Armani, Versace, Pull & Bear, Tommy Hilfiger, Yves Rocher and Stradivarius. There’s a cinema and ample western-style eateries including Johnny Rockets and Tony Roma Ribs.
Away from the beach, Kuta Square is also a busy, if slightly older, shopping area.
Here you will find surf shops (Billabong, Quiksilver and Rip Curl), fast food outlets (McDonald's), fashion boutiques and the Kuta Art Market. The biggest attraction here is the Matahari Department Store which, at four storeys high, towers above everything else. On the ground floor, you will find traditional Balinese trinkets. The higher the level, the more western influences that appear on the shelves. You can find some great bargains here, but you will have to look hard.
If you want better quality Balinese souvenirs, then the Kuta Art Market is the place to buy timber face masks, sarongs, and island shirts. Bargain hard here. It is expected and a huge part of the fun.
Kerobokan, a 30-minute taxi ride from Kuta in traffic, is home to most of the best homewares stores in Bali. Focus Design offers a stunning range of blown glassware and ornate mirrors. Kenny Furniture is organised chaos, but the showroom is cluttered with quality teak indoor and outdoor furniture. There’s only one guarantee here – good prices. If you want ceramics, then visit Kevala Home Batubelig. All the items are produced locally and most of the good island restaurants use plates and bowls made by Kevala.
It is getting much easier to ship big items back to Australia. Ask the stores for pricing. Remember all timber will have to go through Australian Customs.
If you want artworks, then take the 80-minute drive from Kuta to the mountain area of Ubud.
Ubud is at the centre of the arts community in Bali with a plethora of galleries and art sellers packed to the rafters with colourful, and uniquely, Balinese artworks.
When buying artwork, never pay the first price. Remember that a good monthly wage in Bali is about 6 million Rupiah, so use that as a guide when offering to buy art.
If you think jewellery is modern art, then head to the John Hardy Workshop or Studio Perak in Ubud to check out some of the best silver creations in the world.