Get The Senses Going at Badung & Kumbasari Markets in Denpasar
Badung and Kumbasari markets are two of the oldest and busiest markets in Denpasar, Bali. They are the perfect place to get a real feel of the daily life of the Balinese people. Tour leader and blogger for Khiri, Elske advices: “forget about the beaches, the arts and big tour groups for a while and get the senses going by the smells and colors of these lively markets.”
Travelers hop on a taxi of the Blue Bird company and let the driver drop them off around Jalan Gaja Mada. From here, we take a short walk along the Chinese style shophouses, many of them selling Balinese kebaya (traditional style blouse) – this is the start of our market adventure.
The actual markets are situated in two multi-storey buildings next to each other separated by the Badung River, but the area around the buildings is just as interesting. The best time to visit this market is either in the morning somewhere between 8 and 11 am or late afternoon/evening when the inside markets close and the sellers set up shop in the outside area on both sides of the Badung River.
When walking to the Badung market you will see lots of women selling small offerings called canang. The small square or round offerings are made of strips of coconut leaves and filled with an odd number of flowers. Every Balinese household will offer these canang to the Gods several times a day and it’s hard imagining Bali without them. You see them everywhere; in temples, on shrines, in front of the house, on drive ways, just everywhere. Many families still make their own and buy the material at the market, but not everybody has time to do so. That’s why ready-made carang are widely available as well and usually nicely arranged to attract buyers.
Beside these canang, small, almost diamond shaped boxes made of strips of coconut leaves are sold everywhere you look. These are called tipat in Balinese language or ketupat in Indonesian and are used to steam rice. After the rice is steamed the rice grains are compressed together forming a solid cake that will be cut into smaller pieces and served instead of steamed rice along dishes like rendang, gado-gado or sateh. Some of you will be familiar with a similar kind of steamed rice, named lontong. The method of cooking is the same, but the difference between tipat and lontong is that the lontong packages are bigger and made from banana leaves instead of coconut leaves. The origin of this method of packing and steaming rice dates back from the times that fishermen had to find a way to keep cooked rice for a long time on their trips.
When walking at the market be aware of the women carrying big baskets on their head. Balinese women carry everything on their head, from offerings for the temple, to food, fresh produce and even tables! Don’t be surprised if a girl or woman offers these services and asks you to carry your groceries in one of those big baskets, called keranjang.
Before we enter the market building, we take a final deep long breath of fresh air- make sure to carry a menthol stick to camouflage the smells of fresh meats and fish! The sellers will give visitors their biggest smiles while we walk along their stalls that sell literally every part of the cow or chicken. Sometimes they even ask us to take their picture and don’t be surprised when people say ‘permisi’ or ‘maaf’ (I’m sorry) when they walk in front of your camera when you’re about to take a shot.
From the meat and fish department we can continue to fruits and vegetables where we can find all colorful produce this island has to offer. How about some hairy rambutan, delicious mangosteen, smelly durian or creamy avocado. A popular drink here is avocado smoothie with condensed milk and topped with either chocolate or coffee!
Badung market is also a great place to see and smell the wide variaty of spices. Most are also sold in small quantities, so perfect to bring home to add some original flavors to Indonesian home cooking.
We walk around some more on the different levels to see shops selling textiles, everything needed for offerings, cakes and candies, clothes, kitchen items. If hungry, sample some local dishes at one of the many food stalls on the top floor.
When looking down at the back of the building, Kumbasari market on the other side of the Badung River can be seen. Before we cross the river, make sure to take a look at the little temple in the river where sellers offer to the gods for a profitable day.
Kumbasari market during the day is a perfect place to do some souvenir shopping. Beside the tacky souvenirs this Bali market has nice batik and other textiles, wood carvings and more crafts on display. It’s a perfect location for travelers to practice their bargaining skills and end up with some great Indonesian items to take home.
In the late afternoon, the outside area of Kumbasari market turns into a fresh market and a part of it is wholesale. The difference is immediately visible, because the wholesale part is the area at the back where the trucks are parked and where people can buy fruits and vegetables, basket loads at a time.
Again, beware of your surroundings and don’t be one of those clumsy foreigners that bumps into one of the many women carrying one of those keranjang on her head!