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Trip Notes: Bali in the Wet Season

by Mike Tourist

January 2002

Part 2: Shopping; Tailor


Retail therapy. That's what Mrs Tourist calls it. She is the world's consummate consumer. She can feel tired, lousy, irritable, down in the dumps and then... lead her into a shop, any shop, and she will undergo a remarkable transformation. I have seen her cut a deal in the darkest, hottest, dingiest stall, terrifying shopkeepers until they relent and give their stock away at prices that risk bankrupting them.

Well, I exaggerate slightly. Let's say she likes shopping and Bali is the place she likes shopping the most. Actually, although she says she gets excellent deals I reckon she is a real softie and probably pays far too much for most of the stuff she gets. But I don't tell her that. I say things like "You are a hard bargainer, my dear" and she smiles with satisfaction.


We did a lot of shopping on this trip. We shopped at beachside stalls, markets, department stores and cute boutique places. I should say that she shopped, I stood around with eyes aglaze.

She kept a book of purchases so I can pass on some of her (and my) prices and purchases. To do comparisons, work on the basis of a Rp.5,200 - Rp.5,300 conversion rate to the Australian dollar, which is what we got for most of the week.

As a general observation I should say that most things appeared to be more expensive to my non-consumer eyes, and the shopkeepers were more desperate to strike a deal. We had a few instances of shopkeepers trying to slip us inferior gear, but they quickly backed away when challenged. Everywhere we went shopkeepers and restaurant staff told us that they had suffered greatly from September 11. It seemed that every time the economy looked like picking up, something came along to whack it around. First there were the post-Suharto upheavals, then the Gus Dur debacle and, just as Megawati came to power, the Twin Towers came down and the tourists decided not to fly any more, particularly to a Muslim-dominated country. As Hindus the Balinese feel particularly aggrieved that the goings-on in Jakarta and the actions of rabid Islamic fundamentalists should hurt them financially. "But Bali is safe!" was a frequent comment. It certainly seemed to be when we were there.

But I digress. On with the shopping report.

Markets and Stalls

We confined our market and stall shopping to the Sanur area, mainly because it was easier to move around the streets and beachfront and also because the gear is much the same wherever you go in Bali.

The main street in Sanur, Jalan Danau Tamblingan, now has a good selection of shops, ranging from the usual sarongs-shorts-T-shirts places to Animale, boutique clothing and art shops. It seems to be the rule that the closer the shop to a hotel entrance, particularly an up-market joint like the Hyatt, the higher the asking amount and the harder it is to bargain your way down to a good price. The same applies to beachside stalls and shops.

We did a lot of shopping at the Sanur Beach Markets, near Segara Village Hotel. Many of the shopkeepers at the Markets had been there, in the same shops, since 1982 when we first stayed at the Segara. It was nice meeting up with them again, comparing notes on grown children and, in their case not ours, holding and oo-ing over their grandchildren. In some ways it was harder bargaining with them because we knew them. We didn't feel like striking a hard deal with people we had known for 20 years. This meant we ended up paying more for many things here than elsewhere. But who cares when the difference is a few dollars.

Mrs Tourist spent time at Coco's, a "fixed price" shop at the Sanur Markets. Her notes tell me that she paid Rp.15,000 for boys' T-shirts, Rp. 25,000 for boys' shorts, Rp.20,000 for women's tops, Rp. 30,000 for women's shorts and Rp.25,000 for men's Adidas and Nike shirts.

I bought some small gamelan style musical instruments at the Prima Art Shop. The owner told me this was the first sale he had made in over a week.

Mrs Tourist got some "bargains" at the jewellery shop at the end of the market. Her notes say "silver ornaments 100,000 x 2". They are typical "antique" silver pieces, and they look good next to the growing collection of similar objects in the living room. One is a sitting cow with a lid which presumably was made to hold something, the other an elongated farmyard animal of some kind with a candle holder on top. The descriptions make them sound revolting but they are really quite attractive.

For real bargains, try the music shop at the market entrance. We bought DVDs here for Rp.50,000, cheaper even than Platinum Multimedia. If you give the owner a list she will try to obtain those she does not have in stock. Music CDs were cheap as well, but her supply of computer CD-Roms is very old.

We also shopped at the Sindhu Beach Markets and visited the famous "Toot Sie" fixed price shop and Sarina the Tailor, which are directly opposite each other. While Mrs Tourist had herself measured by Sarina, I popped across to Toot-Sie to buy a shirt. A hilarious conversation followed with the young women left in charge of the shop.

"Excuse me, Sir," said one of the young ladies, "Do you want fockit?"

Horrified, I was on the point of telling her that I was a respectable married man, when she changed the offer. "What about two fockit?" she asked eagerly.

I looked around furtively for my wife, who was still getting measured by Sarina, out of earshot. The other young woman then joined the conversation with a suggestion that left me flabbergasted.

"Sir, would you like a fockit in the prawn?"

The mind boggled. What kind of kinky offer was this? Then the air cleared as the first girl held up a shirt and pointed to the front pocket. Of course! "A pocket in the front!"

I bought four fockitted shirts for Rp25,000 each. Confident that I had obtained them "fixed price" I left the shop and strolled around the market feeling smug that no shopkeeper could outdo me. As I passed Wati's at No. 2, the owner spied my bag and asked how much I paid at Toot-Sie's. 25,000 I told her. She replied, "OK I give you for 20,000." So much for fixed price shops!

Department Stores

We did the usual trips to Matahari Department stores in Kuta and Denpasar. Mrs Tourist went mad buying cosmetics, which she kept telling me she was getting at very good prices. Her notes say:

  • Revlon Colorstay Makeup Rp.75,000
  • Revlon Lipstick Rp.25,000
  • Revlon Loose Powder Rp.40,000

There is a supermarket on the ground floor of Matahari in Kuta and we bought cigarettes there for Mrs Tourist's sister - Marlboro Reds for Rp.55,000 a carton.

Ramayana Department Store is another on our list of "must visit" places. It is good for cheap casual clothes and there is a branch of the Platinum Multimedia shop on the top floor. Platinum sells all manner of computer CD-ROMs for Rp.35,000 a disc. Their main store is on Jalan Teuku Umar in Denpasar and there is another branch on Jalan Legian, in Legian. They now also sell DVDs and we picked up several bargains, including Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Oceans Eleven. When we got home we realised that buying very new releases is a bit of a trap as they are not copies of genuine DVD releases, but poor copies of videotaped versions of the movie. In one case we could actually see the pattern on the wall which must have been the screen on which the film was projected!

A CD-ROM stall near the entrance to Robinsons Department Store has a reasonable range of programs. If you buy several the stall-owner will sell them to you for 30,000 a disc.

We also had a look at Rimo, a new department store, but figured that the stock probably reflected the large sign out the front which said "Funky, Cool, Chic". Being none of those things, we were not surprised that the clothing inside did not match our taste or sizes. It obviously has its market, however, as we saw a male couple staying at the Besakih alight from a taxi clutching several bags marked "Rimo Funky Cool Chic". The description seemed to fit them as well.


On the advice of several Forum reports, we sought out Sarina at Sindhu Beach Market. She is a good tailor and an even better saleswoman.

Sarina is 41 years old and clearly a non-traditionalist. She openly boasts that she is not married and lives "in sin" with her artist partner. Her English is excellent and she has picked up all the Australian colloquialisms. She will tell you emphatically that she only produces good clothes, not "Bali shit"! From the conversation she was having with some other tourists it seems she is fluent in other languages, including Dutch.

Mrs Tourist had brought some of her own material and clothes from Perth and Sarina was able to make a set of copies in 4 days. There was a bit of drama when the first fitting came because it transpired that Sarina had accidentally made two pairs of slacks from the material instead of slacks and top. Sarina was apologetic about the mistake and provided a top with her own material (no charge for the material, but she did charge for the labour which I thought was a little unusual).

I had 6 pairs of trousers (4 formal and 2 casual) copied from examples I had brought. Sarina charged Rp.140,000 each for the formals and Rp.120,000 each for the casuals.

We are both reasonably pleased with the garments. The muck up with material was disappointing, particularly as it was quite expensive. Sarina also charged me Rp.160,000 for a shirt that I thought she had originally quoted me at Rp.60,000. Of course I did not write down the original quote and she is so personable that neither of us felt like making a big issue of it. Our advice? Use her for straightforward tailoring and make sure you get the initial quotes and tasks in writing. We would probably use her again if we stayed in Sanur.

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3]


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