The savvy traveller knows that to sample a taste of local life, head to the markets, and Ubud Market offers a great big mixed dollop of tradition and commerce in two flavours: regular local market early morning and tourist “art” market by day. It previously had multi personalities with a night market as well, but local restaurants were too much competition.
If you’re looking for an authentic night market close to Ubud, you’ll have to head to Gianyar, but if you can't make it there, Ubud's effort will do. The real business starts as early as four in the morning, although the official opening time is 06:00, with squatting sellers filling most available spaces when you’ll have to fight with shoving, hurrying and haggling locals for the best prices on sweet mangosteens, stinky durians, and hairy rambutans (“like an orange made love to a plum” as Javier Bardem describes them to Julia Roberts in the film of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir “Eat Pray Love” filmed right here in this very market).
Most head home by 09:00, when Pasar Seni Ubud opens, the Ubud Art Market, stuffed to the rafters with quality crafts mixed with tourist tat produced in Ubud’s neighbouring villages. If you haven’t made it by 09:00 (and before 07:00 for the true bargains) an authentic “traditional” market section remains operating in the older basement until about noon. Head down the stairs (or slip down the steep ramp) to the basement level at the back section of the market for all the grime and smells you’ll need for your real McCoy experience.
Ubud Market sits on the corner of Jalan Raya Ubud and Jalan Monkey Forest, opposite Ubud Palace. Newer double- and triple-storey buildings take the prime front positions, split by narrow Jalan Karna which continues with stalls along its length. The shabbier older section, a rabbit-warren collection of buildings around a smaller courtyard is on the eastern side of the market. The market temple, Pura Melanting sits offering-laden in front of the older quarter.
A devastating fire swept through the market in late March 2016, burning a large wing of the newer building before it was bought under control. As of February 2017, it remains a burn-out shell, however that doesn’t deter most of the market from being business-as-usual or shoppers looking for a bargain.
Wood carvings, sarongs, clothing, paintings, masks and all manner of souvenirs are on display. Take your time to rummage for good deal and have fun bartering. Opening time is best for bargain hunting as vendors are keen for the lucky first sale of the day — you will be offered “morning price”, sometimes even in the afternoon if they haven’t made that all important initial sale. If you are indeed the first customer (of just have paid a ridiculously overpriced sum), don’t be surprised to see the seller hitting the cash around the stall — this is to spread the good fortune.
Around lunch time the large buses and “Eat Pray Love” tours start to arrive en masse and as the market gets crowded the prices increase, it becomes more manageable again after about 15:00. (If you’re watching the market scene in the “Eat Pray Love” film keep your eyes pealed for TravelFish’s own Samantha Brown who played an extra). The best bargains of course depend on your haggling skills, and it’s wise to get an idea of prices from local “fixed priced” shops before you venture in.
Upper-level stalls and those in the older section pay less rent than the glitzier looking new ground-level stalls, so they’re more likely to be flexible with prices. Although it can sometimes be a little overwhelming with vendors trying to get you into their stalls, “You want sarong? Look my shop. Morning price. Looking looking. What you want? Look my shop”, try to keep your cool and have fun. Most of the sellers are genuinely friendly and happy for a bit of chat. Stalls generally shut shop around 18:00.
Alternatively Sukawati Art Market (Pasar Seni Sukawati), 12 kilometres south of Ubud, is popular with domestic tourists. If the market experience doesn’t thrill you, but you’d still like to shop for bargain handicrafts, head up to Jalan Andong, lined with craft shops all the way to Tegallalang where you can also view the iconic Tegallalang Rice Terraces.
For post-market eating Ubud offers a gazillion choices, but we like to stop in for some Padang food at Puteri Minang (77 Jalan Raya Ubud; T: (0361) 975 577; open daily 10:00-20:30), east of the market on Jalan Raya Ubud. The usual Padang choices are on offer, with many vegetarian dishes. Meat and veggie dishes are on display in two separate cabinets. Red rice is available as well as the usual white. Point and pick, it’s all good. It’s pricey by local standards, but the food is fresh and delectable, and portions are substantial, even more so for “nasi bunkus” takeaway. Toilets are relatively clean too.
By Sally Arnold.
Last updated on 19th February, 2017.
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