The Ubud-Gianyar area of Bali is small enough to be covered by foot. At first, you might find yourself lost on one of its many narrow by-lanes, but by the end of your stay in Ubud, you’ll know your way inside out. It does, however, help if you have a bike. Or, you could hitch a ride with one of the taxi bikes for a reasonable rate to get from one area to another. I think I really enjoyed the fact that I stayed in three different areas during my trip to Ubud — Jalan Bisma, Jalan Hanoman and Jalan Raya Sanggingnan. This post is about the amazing stores in Jalan Hanoman and Jalan Bisma. I didn’t find much at Jalan Raya Sanggingnan except for two nice restaurants and plenty of art galleries and the sprawling Neka Art Museum! Besides, I think that the first two areas are places I’d definitely go back and stay at, whereas I had chosen to stay on Jalan Raya Sanggingnan for a few days only out of convenience, given that most of the venues of the Ubud writers festival were located on that road.
It helps to know that there are a few ‘main’ roads in Ubud—Jalan Raya Ubud and the Monkey Forest Road— both of which are best avoided unless you need to get one from place to the next. I first stayed on Jalan Bisma, a road which is just a few minutes away from the buzzing heart of Ubud and the touristy Monkey Forest road that’s lined with cafes big and small, innumerable Polo factory outlet stores, a Pandora store (!) and even more than one plush Guardian pharmacy! Not my kind of place, for sure. I stayed for a single night at the lovely Honeymoon Guesthouse, which was thankfully on one of the inner lanes, far from the busy traffic-filled road.
There’s much to choose from when it comes to shopping in and around Jalan Hanoman, Jalan Dewi Sita and Jalan Gautama. Independent designers selling gorgeous batik and ikat bags, cushion covers and clothes; yoga wear; semi-precious stones and jewellery; handcrafted metal jewellery; and plenty of leather shoes can be found on pretty much every road in Ubud. But I found some great stores along Jalan Gautama, Jalan Dewi Sita and in the Jalan Hanoman area. Be sure to visit Stargate Bali, which sells amazing handcrafted geometric jewellery in silver, gold and bronze. All the stores have lovely window displays, but beware because some of these boutiques sell clothes at unreasonable prices. I’d suggest you really look around to get a better idea and then save your final shopping spree for the last few days.
Ubud is well known as the artist centre of Bali. The town is famous for its artisans who work with wood. I picked up some very cute wooden hooks shaped like flamingos and cats, and cat-shaped wooden magnets. Not too expensive at most of the stores, you might get a better deal on the outskirts of Ubud if you want to buy more than 50 pieces. It’s the road leading up to Mt Batur and Mt Agung, two of Bali’s active volcanos.
On one of my walks I was so happy to chance upon the workshop of a dream masker carver who strays away from the traditional method of Indonesian mask carving in favour of an art nouveau style. Be sure to also visit the Sarasari mask carver’s studio, where the renowned Wakajaka teaches the fine art of carving dream masks. Visionary artist Alex Grey and his wife have also spent much time here.
You can also shop for deliciously scented, handcrafted soaps; motivational prayer flags; handmade diaries and paper; and beautiful ceramic wear. I particularly loved the Kou Bali soap store at Jalan Dewi Sita; their soaps are worth a buy for yourself or even as gifts. Kou also sells fresh jams and Kusamba sea salts at a separate store at Jalan Monkey Forest, which is almost always packed to the hilt because of their amazing products and gorgeous store display.
If you want to indulge in a crepe while you sample some delicious jams, there’s also Michelle’s Confiture that sells bottled jams in pretty packages.
Besides, there are plenty of souvenir stalls on the Monkey Forest Road selling everything from wooden instruments and phallic-shaped bottle openers, to decorative figurines, art and sea shell keychains. But I would look past these in favour of some of the unique stuff on sale like one of their gorgeous hand fans.