Bartering for Souvenirs in Bali

We arrive in Ubud and I instantly notice it’s a lot more Westernised than Munduk up North. My initial first impressions of the main town is that it’s quite cute – lots of cafes, shops and restaurants lining the street. It’s bustling with people and super lively. It’s a nice change of atmosphere and quite cool to experience a completely new place in Bali.

We check into Bali Bohemia Huts, our hotel for the next few days and head off to go explore Ubud for the rest of the day. The hotel is located at the entrance of the monkey forest and we have to walk along a narrow pathway through a myriad of cheeky little monkeys to get to the centre of town. After a few jumps and scares, we make it the end of the pathway and our first stop is the iconic Ubud Market to find a cool souvenir to bring home with us.

Whenever Ciaran and I go on holiday, we always try to bring something quirky back with us as a nice reminder of the trip – in Prague, we brought back a beer mat from our favourite brewery and had it framed, in the Maldives, we brought back a few beautiful sea shells and now we are on the hunt for our next souvenir to remind us of our time in Bali.

The market is heaving and it’s HOT out. The walkways throughout the stalls are narrow and we brush past several other tourists trying to make our way around.

“Buy this! Buy this! I will give you good price!” All of the vendors say as they shove sarongs in my face.

I grow irritated quickly, but roll with it because the market is meant to sell beautiful silk scarves, handmade bags, hats, and tons of other hand-crafted goods from neighbouring villages and I am determined to find an amazing little trinket to bring home.

As we walk through the market, we are continuously harassed. Not just us, but all the other tourists and at times, its intense and I constantly feel bad saying no all the time. I clutch my bag tightly to myself because its a pickpocket paradise in there. I spy a few straw bags and walk over to take a look, as it’s one of the things I did want to try and get during our time in Bali. The woman shows me her collection, trying to sell them to me at the highest price possible.

“500,000 Rupiah! Please – it’s a very good price for the bag,” she begs us to buy it. I look at Ciaran. He counters her offer and goes lower.

“400,000 IDR” she says. I quickly do the maths in my head, which works out to be about £20. I have seen these particular bags all over the internet for £100+ and I think to myself, 20 quid is pretty damn good for this straw bag.

Ciaran wipes the sweat from his brow and insists we have a walk around and think about it.

“No, I have customers who say they will come back and they never do! Please, please buy this bag. I can give it to you for 350,000 IDR” she begs us.

“Oh please CIaran, please can we just get the bag, it’s a great price for it!” Ciaran, looks at me with a look of shock and dismay and he is suddenly bartering with not one, but both of us! This is when he realises he married someone with absolutely no bartering skills and is wondering how he got into this mess

I look at this poor woman and do feel bad for her. I also have no desire to continue to walk around this chaotic, in-your-face market looking for and bartering for a silly straw bag any longer and make up in my mind that this is the bag I want, no matter how much it costs.

“Ummm…. OK can you go any lower than 350,000 for the bag?” Ciaran asks, I can sense he is very fed up with me.

“No, that is my final offer,” she comes back.

“OK fine, I guess we’ll take it…” He looks at me, shaking his head, as he hands over the cash. 

“Yay! Thank you so much! “ I am beaming ear to ear and throw my arms around him to say thank you. 

I take my new straw bag souvenir and take a look at it. It’s really cute and holds all my things, including my camera and an extra lens, I silently think to myself whilst Ciaran is lecturing me on how I need a better poker face and need to always side with him when it comes to this stuff.

We proceed to walk through the market and spot hundreds of other straw bags, all that look exactly the same as the one we just bought.  They were all dirt cheap and I hate to admit this, but Ciaran was right. We should have had a look around the market and negotiated until we found the best price. I become a bit riddled with guilt, but remind myself that at the end of the day, the money we gave the woman probably helped her and her family out a lot, so it’s not all for nothing.

Moral of the story is – barter, barter, barter. If you have your eye on something you want, take a stroll around and see what else is out there and if you can get it for cheaper. Don’t be afraid to walk away – all they want is your money and they will try to lock you in but I guarantee you can find what you want for cheaper elsewhere.

We leave the market, partly because it’s far too packed and I don’t want to look at the billions of bags looming over my head, and walk over to Ubud palace, right in the heart of the town. Both a palace and a temple, the compound was built in 1917 after an earthquake and the local royal family still live there to this day.

We wander around the grounds and marvel at the ornate statues and architecture. All of the stone carvings are made by local artists and they are magnificent. In the evenings, there is a big dance performance you can watch. We sadly didn’t get a chance to see one, but I’d definitely recommend going if you can.

We look at all of the statues and the grounds and decide to head back to the hotel and make the most of our little private pool while the sun is beaming down. We grab a few drinks and snacks from the mini mart to bring back with us and start walking back through the monkey forest when a crazy, hungry little monkey runs up to Ciaran and attacks him, stealing our bag of crisps 🙁 Screams ensue, arms flailing, I sprint away – losing both my sandals whilst Ciaran fends for himself against the ravenous monkey.

We very quickly realise that monkeys are no longer our friends and that Ubud is one interesting place. Story to be continued…