Above: Antique Indonesian masks for sale at Shalimar.
From handcrafted jewelry to covetable keepsakes, Bali’s artistic hub of Ubud has treasures aplenty
Photographed by Martin Westlake
Eat, Pray, Love—it’s a mantra that has drawn swarms of solace-seekers to Bali’s central foothills since Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of the same name (now a film starring Julia Roberts) hit the best-seller lists in 2006. But while Gilbert’s Ubud—the final leg on her yearlong spiritual journey through Italy, India, and Indonesia—was one of holistic healers and juice fasts, seasoned shoppers can look forward to a different kind of therapy amid the town’s increasingly sophisticated clutch of retail offerings.
On the outskirts of Ubud, but well worth the detour, this open-air shop specializes in intricately decorated, hand-pounded aluminum offering boxes. Artist/owner Agung stylishly interprets the traditional Balinese vessels, all of which will add shimmer to any interior without looking like a hokey souvenir (Jl. Raya Andong; 62-361/804-9403).
The smooth leather passport holders and wallets available here bear a striking resemblance to Hermès in every way but the price (Jl. Monkey Forest; 62-361/972-802).
Looking for a chic tropical wardrobe? Skip the tacky sarongs and flimsy summer dresses that flap in the breeze outside Ubud’s overcrowded shops and head to this newly minted outpost of the Seminyak-based Biasa brand. Inside, the featherweight, mostly monochrome cotton frocks will look just as at home in the Hamptons or Saint-Tropez as they do on Bali’s beaches (Jl. Raya Sanggingan; 62-361/887-8002; biasabali.com).
At his new emporium south of town, longtime Ubud resident Jean-François Fichot has created a stylish sanctuary of original jewelry and decorations. In the front room, Chinese ceramics, buffalo-hide baskets, gilded Buddhas, and vintage Japanese fans revel in the Frenchman’s trademark silver filigree; farther back, a more intimate space is filled with strands of golden-hued Lombok pearls, lapis lazuli earrings carved into intricate rose blossoms, and baroque rings set with crystals and semiprecious stones like emerald and tourmaline (7 Jl. Raya Pengosekan; 62-361/972-078; jf-f.com).
This sprawling antiques store is a must for anyone seeking to delve into Indonesia’s diverse artistic heritage. Papuan body ornaments hang alongside gilded masks with haunting visages from the Javanese port town of Cirebon, while another room is piled high with textiles, from elegantly faded batik shawls to ornate, gold-threaded velvet brocade in the style of Bengkulu (Puri Muwa, Jl. Monkey Forest; 62-361/977-121; macan-tidur-textiles.com).
Right next door to Fichot’s, this closet-sized homewares shop carries hand-beaten copper sinks, old Javanese tiles, and quirky door pulls made from seashells and natural stones (Jl. Raya Pengosekan; 62-361/981591; puspa-style.com).
Gaya Ceramic Arts Center
Across from Gaya Fusion’s cavernous roadside gallery on Ubud’s western perimeter, this innovative extension doubles as both an intimate art space and a world-class ceramics studio. Look for regular exhibits by international artists in residence, as well as dishware similar to the collections Gaya’s three dozen craftspeople have created for the likes of Bali’s Amandari and Bulgari resorts. Those with the time and inclination can sign up for two-day classes or two-week workshops in throwing, trimming, and sculpting clay. More immediate satisfaction lies across the road at Gaya Fusion’s on-site gelateria, in a range of creamy handmade flavors like coffee and chocolate-ginger (Jl. Raya Sayan; 62-361/979-252; gayafusion.com).
Occupying a floral-scented boutique, Shalimar sells contemporary accessories (well-priced leather bags, buffalo-horn hairpins from the Bali Aga village of Tenganan) on its main floor, and antique masks, puppets, and basketry upstairs (88 Jl. Raya Ubud; 62-361/977-115; shalimarbali.com).
Stretch your legs down shop-lined Jalan Hanoman to load up on hand-cut leather wallets and tote bags plus delicate, nature-inspired sterling silver items at this sleek address (Jl. Hanoman; 62-361/780-0902; e-nanan.com).
Here, high wooden walls are hung with valuable vintage batiks from across Indonesia. Ask the owner, Ricka Cahyani, to explain the complex meanings behind the patterns. Equally distinctive are the men’s shirts and well-cut women’s jackets from expat designer Lou Zeldis (Jl. Raya Ubud; 62-361/975-624).
Threads of Life
Fair trade feels particularly fabulous at this nonprofit boutique off Ubud’s main drag. Threads of Life promotes women’s empowerment and sustainable development through its support of traditional weaving techniques, and the results—naturally dyed sarongs, shawls, and men’s shirts in bold motifs—are striking. Venture into the well-lit basement gallery to admire even more textiles alongside Sumbanese betel boxes and ceremonial Dayak mats (24 Jl. Kajeng; 62-361/972-187; threadsoflife.com).
Invest in some Bali-inspired bling made of recycled 22-karat gold from Carolyn Tyler or dragon-festooned silver rings by former John Hardy designer Tricia Kim at this well-edited collection of locally crafted jewelry. It’s conveniently located next door to Ary’s Warung, an open-air restaurant and lounge that makes an excellent spot for refueling between shopping excursions (Jl. Raya Ubud; 62-361/976-697; dekco.com).
On the grounds of a leafy, laid-back resort of the same name, the affable owner Gustu maintains multiple warehouses filled with massive teak tables and beguiling pieces like a Kalimantan rice sifter carved with mythical animals (Ulun Ubud Resort, Jl. Raya Sanggingan; 62-361/975-024; ulunubud.com).
The high-quality yoga wear on sale here is made by family-run workshops around Bali, adding an ethical dimension to every purchase (24 Jl. Hanoman; 62-361/927-5613; wearyogaclothing.com).
Just up the road from the macaque-filled Monkey Forest, this new gallery showcases Technicolor canvases by Ubud artists. Spend some time browsing at the entrance, where racks are stocked with crocodile accessories and crochet beach cover-ups by Kasih Ibu, a Muslim women’s cooperative on Bali’s less-developed east coast (Jl. Monkey Forest; 62-361/970-967).
Originally appeared in the October/November 2010 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Budding Promise”)