Okay, so we have covered the most popular places to visit in Bali so far, famous temples being among the first. And I did mention few things I bought in Bali, but I feel I should dedicate the whole post to souvenirs and things to bring from the island. Why? Well, maybe because I was surprised by few places I got to visit here. But also, because none of these things were expensive and they do help the community and local craftsmen.
Remember the sarong I have mentioned in one of the previous posts? It was actually the so-called batik, typical for Java and Bali. It’s a fabric richly decorated using a special dying technique. Many of them are used as sarongs and I did buy one before going to the Mother Temple. Given that I knew I am going to visit various temples during my travel to Bali, and that I would need a sarong and a sash, it seemed like a better idea to buy a batik, than to rent sarong every time. Bali does produce in small quantities some exceptionally fine hand-made batiks. A single cloth can take years to finish!
When going around the island, make sure to stop by one of the textile workshops where women are making batiks from scratch. I was fascinated by their skills in dyeing cloth in so many details and such variety. Batik is the wearable art for the average Indonesian. Colorless cotton fabric becomes the canvas for wax vibrant designs of both religious and natural subjects. Applied colors are made from handmade dyes. There is a huge variety of batiks to choose from, and for every taste – from expensive, textured silk sarongs with traditional motifs and handmade colors developed in isolated villages, to casual day wear featuring pop-art styling and simpler dye color technique.
Visiting one of the workshops is one of the best introduction into Balinese tradition. You can even take part in the batik class taking lessons with a skilled teacher. Either way, buying one will come handy when going into temples’ areas throughout the island and it will also serve as a unique souvenir you can use later on. I still cherish mine, always washing it under the cold water by hand, since it’s handmade and so rich in colors and patterns.
If you are visiting the town of Ubud, bear in mind that this is the center of the cultural heritage crafts. There are Balinese villages and workshops renowned for their craftsmanship in silver, woodcarving and painting.
I told you about the Barong Dance I went to see. Well, I was fascinated by the Barong’s face, the scary expression with large teeth, that can be represented by lion’s head or some other animal. Even though Barong is the good deity according to the local tradition, its face is represented as being scary in order to scare off the evil spirits. And they say that if you put the mask of Barong on your front door, those spirits would never even consider to come near your house.
Since the guide took me to one of the wood carving workshops in Ubud, it was a great opportunity to buy a mask or two. One beautiful Barong mask is still decorating the wall in my study in Belgrade and I am so proud of it. It went halfway around the world to be hung up to that wall!
If you want to see the Balinese craftsmen work, making a piece of wood into one fine art, it’s possible to that in Ubud Bali. Balinese villagers are always friendly and they will even let you try out your own skill of woodcarving. If you are more interested in paintings, you will be happy to know that here you will be able to appreciate famous Balinese-style paintings on display.
Silver and gold jewelry
And now, one of my favorite stops in the area! I don’t know if you are into jewelry or not but let me tell you – I have been a fan of silver, especially silver rings, for years. You can guess how thrilled I was when I found out that not only can I visit the handmade jewelry shop in Bali, but also the workshop itself!
The gold and silver items crafted here are of high quality and feature unique designs as the craftsmen are known for their skills. If by any chance you go to the Celuk village, it might be interesting to know that almost all of the households here are homes to jeweler families and that each villager possesses artistic skills in developing intricate designs and patterns. Here you can find souvenirs, rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, broaches etc.
So, I have entered one of the jewelry shops, thinking to myself that “I don’t really need another silver ring”, that I should just go around. It was really interesting to see how people were curving silver strings into patterns and beautiful lines, combined together into one lovely design of the necklace. The workshop itself wasn’t very big, it seemed like a dark place where people were leaned over towards their delicate work. The shop entrance was interesting, one could guess it’s the jewelry shop judging by the decoration. And when I have entered the shop, well, I immediately forgot about “having enough silver rings”!
Magnificent jewelry was on display all around. The guide came in with me but after seeing my astonishment in the rings’ section, he just said “he’ll be outside”. And well, yes, it did take a while. I was in awe while going from one ring to the next, it seems that the next was even more beautiful than the previous one. Took one to try on, then the other… Oh my, what a variety!
But then, there it was, like waiting for me, displayed above the elegant black box – one beautiful silver ring, with my name on it! I knew that this would be the loveliest souvenir I got on Bali, it was not just something you can find or buy anywhere, this was a unique, perfect piece. I didn’t even want to bargain for it, I paid the highest price they asked, but you know what – it was still more than a half less than what I would pay for it back home! And also, I have seen people who made it, how amazing is that!
The full Bali SERIES