Bali was one of the coolest places I have ever visited! It was a tropical paradise, everything was affordable and the food was delicious. One of my only disappointments on the trip was the time wasted at tourist traps that were pretending to be traditional villages.
These so-called villages are mentioned in all the tour guides online and in print. Our driver took us to a few of them and while they were interesting, it would have been more appropriate to refer to them as shopping destinations. Because instead of villages, these places were literally just stores.
While they might have a history of being the villages where these art forms started, referring to them as villages today seems deceitful. These are mostly just groups of buildings or even just a single building where people sell their wares. Plus it’s not even clear who profits from it…
The Batik Tohpati Village was a really interesting place. There were no other tourists there so the moment we walked into the main store, everyone was trying to get our attention. We had our clothes decorated in quick sketches by very talented ladies. Batik, for those who don’t now, is a fabric printed by an Indonesian method of hand-printing textiles by coating with wax the parts not to be dyed.
While it was a fun experience, what I didn’t like is that they pressured you to get your clothes painted and started before you had a chance to say “no” and then they expected a tip. The designs were pretty but they did eventually fade, while at the same time ruining our clothes, (which we also weren’t warned about). The worst part was that after we paid them, a man appeared out of nowhere and collected the money from them. It was very sketchy and it is not something I want to support if these ladies are forced to work and not get paid fairly.
We did end up buying a few of the cheaper products, but we did not see a difference in the quality of these products versus the ones in regular souvenir stores. The prices, however, were much hire in this pimp-vibe store. I am happy to pay more money for genuine art, but everything felt wrong about this place.
The Bali Batuan painting village was even worse, with overpriced paintings that may or may not have even been originals. I considered buying the post cards at least but even those were over-priced and the people there were not welcoming when they realized that we weren’t actually shopping but just taking a look around.
Although our tour guide was amazing, we did wonder if he got a cut when he brings tourists to these places that no one in their right mind would otherwise suggest that people go to. If so then good on him, but I do not recommend that anyone visit this place unless you just won the lottery and want to waste some money on overpriced art that may not even be unique.
Finally, the Celuk Silver Village is a place that I do recommend that you visit, even if you don’t want to buy a thing! This place was in the coolest building ever with crazy designs, great for a photo op. Inside, there was a boring floor where you could shop and the fun floor where you got to see how everything is made!
While it was really cool, the conditions for the workers did not seem safe or comfortable. They had fans and some wore masks, but even walking through it was hard to breathe and there was not sufficient ventilation. These people were doing amazing work that requires skill, talent and patient and they clearly weren’t getting enough for it. It made me think of the batik ladies who had someone else take their profits.
Maybe I’m just a paranoid and spoiled tourist who didn’t appreciate these places. But they honestly did have a sketchy vibe and it wasn’t quite clear what was going on. Did you visit and have a similar experience? Do you think that I’m completely crazy for feeling this way? Let me know in the comment section below!