Where the world shops!

Trip Start Sep 21, 2008
Trip End Jun 19, 2009

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Flag of Indonesia  , Bali,
Monday, February 2, 2009

Our Air Asia flight to Bali was pleasant.  The plane was almost brand new and only about half full.  The flight attendants were efficient and helpful.  Pretty good for less than $75 a person to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Bali.  On the flight, we met a couple (Eric and Leona) from Ireland, who were essentially doing our trip in reverse.  By the time the flight ended we had traded guidebooks (New Zealand for Asia), and had their email address to possibly connect and share travel and exchange travel tips in Bali. 
We arrived in immigration and were through in no time after forking out $25 each for the Visa on arrival.  Once we collected our bags, we headed out and found that it was still raining pretty steadily and there were lots of puddles to negotiate.  We were thankful to find a driver waiting to take us to our hotel.
We slowly wound our way through the narrow and jammed streets of Kuta.  There were people and stores everywhere, and too many cars and motorcycles for the streets.  A short trip of less than 10km to our hotel in Legian took almost an hour.  We took a narrow alley (oh, I guess it was a street), and arrived at our hotel.  It was fairly nice, with its own bathroom, a balcony, air conditioning and a pretty comfy bed.  And the cost was less than $25 a night! 
We had planned to leave the next morning for other areas of Bali, but quickly realized that getting in and out of Legian would be a hassle, so we booked a second night at the hotel and rearranged our travel plans
After we got settled in the room, we headed out on the streets to have a quick look around and get water and possibly a bite to eat.  We ended up finding a convenience store that also had a small deli, and for less than $1USD, we had a nice hamburger and a drink.  On the way back, we took a look at the beach before heading back to the hotel for the night, dodging puddles and mud slinging taxis all the way!
We woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel, then found an internet café to make travel plans and catch up on email.  Internet was fast and cheap - less than $1/per hour!  Paul also took time to enquire about transportation to our other planned stops in Bali.  And some how in between he had time to talk to a little man from Ubud who was selling paintings at our hotel and suggested we have a look.
I wasn't really in the mood to look at the paintings, and certainly wasn't ready to buy anything before having a good look around the town.  But we had a seat and watched his one-man painting show.  In the end, we found a set of paintings we liked -- images of Buddhist gods painted in intricate detail.  We negotiated and finally settled on a price (probably a bit steep, because he was a good, but gentle salesman), and the paintings were ours.
Afterward we headed out to have a better look at the streets of Legian in the daylight.  Overall the town was a bit ramshackle with random stores and street stalls.  Everyone was trying to sell us something - clothes, food, taxi rides.  The hounding was constant.  We tried to have a look in the open air markets near our hotel, but retreated after only a few minutes of incessant merchandising. 
We headed to the beach to have a look and found that what looked appealing in the daylight was not so special in the daylight.  Particularly disheartening was the trash in the water.  We weren't too interested in having a swim after we saw it.
The main reason we decided to spend more time in Legian was for the shopping, and one special shopping secret in particular.  When we were on our Qantas flight from Perth, we struck up a conversation with a flight attendant who had spent a lot of time in Bali.  She told us there was a wholesale warehouse in Bali where all the vendors go to shop for their merchandise.  You shopped with a shopping cart, with no haggling and prices were dirt cheap.  We knew when we heard about it that we had to go!  The store, called Geneva Handicraft Market was first on our list of shopping stops.
We hopped in a taxi and gave him the address.  I tried to follow along with a map we picked up at the airport.  As we drove, we saw store after store loaded with merchandise.  There were bead stores with buckets of beads, necklace stores with row after row of necklaces, home furnishing stores with shelf after shelf of decorative trays.  We were in awe, and really wondering how big Geneva Market would be when we saw the volume of merchandise in the stores in the tourist district.
The taxi driver made a right turn and announced that we were on the street, but he was unsure where the store was.  We drove down the street a ways and couldn't make any rhyme or reason to the street addresses.  But we were in awe of what we saw.  Apparently we were on the outdoor merchandise wholesale district!  There was yard after yard loaded with outdoor statues of buddhas, fountains, outdoor furniture and yard art.  All we could think about is how great it would be to make a shopping trip to Bali to furnish our house once we get settled in Perth!  But we couldn't find the handicraft market.  We stopped for directions a few times and got nowhere, so with the meter ticking, we paid the taxi driver and got out and walked instead!
We soon learned that the handicraft market was a ways down in the other direction - duped by a taxi driver trying run up the meter!  But the walk back was great!  We stopped along the way and looked at the yard art and statues, then when we crossed over the intersection, stopped at many other wholesale/made to order stores with all types of merchandise.  The funny part was that many things we saw were the souvenirs we had seen in other countries!  Wood and paua shell trays like we saw in New Zealand, wood carvings we had seen in South America.  Apparently Bali is where the world shops for their souvenirs!
Finally after walking about a mile on the street (and the street numbers making sense), we arrived at the Geneva Market.  We headed up the stairs to the second floor entrance and stepped inside to souvenir shopping paradise!  The store was massive !  Three whole floors loaded with row after row of merchandise.  Everything we had seen in our brief glimpse of Bali was in the store, and then some.  And when we looked at the prices we couldn't believe our eyes!  We had a hard time finding any one item over $5USD.  And the best part was that there was no one following us around trying to show us every shirt or trinket we laid eyes on.  We were left alone to shop in peace!  We spent over an hour in the market shopping, both to buy some trinkets, and to make note of the cool things we could buy if we came back for a buying trip.
While we were shopping at the market, we heard of yet another wholesale handicraft market called Unagi.  We headed out on foot to try and find it, but after walking a while without finding it, we decided to head back toward the hotel on foot, and stop at the stores we had seen along the way by taxi.  I was particularly interested in the necklace shops I had seen because I saw a necklace in New Zealand (that was made in Bali) that I held out buying there - confident I could find it much cheaper in Bali.
It was mid-afternoon now, and the sun was beating down and the humidity was high.  The streets were crowded with cars and motorcycles that were moving at a crawl.  As we walked on the sidewalk, we often had to step aside as an impatient motorcyclist took a detour around the slow traffic via the sidewalk.  Bali traffic was nuts to say the least!
But there was also a lot of beauty that we saw along the way.  Just off the busy streets were emerald green rice paddies, and at almost every turn, there was another ornate Buddhist temple.  We stopped and took a lot of pictures as we walked.
After trudging along for at least a half an hour, we finally reached the shopping street we were looking for.  And within a short time, we found "the necklace."  The difference was that here there were at least 10 different designs to choose from, and I could buy 6 for less than the price of one in New Zealand!  It was definitely worth waiting!
We headed back to the hostel with a full bag of souvenirs to ship, satisfied with our shopping excursion.  That evening we ate at a "Sunday Roast" dinner at an Australian pub (lots of Aussies in Bali).  We were going to stay and watch their Indonesian drag show, but were just too tired after our long day of shopping and walking.  Plus we had to pack for our journey to Lovina the next morning.  We had arranged to share a ride with the Irish couple we met on the plane.
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