I’m a winter girl, I love to dress in boots and jeans, vests & cardigans, so who would have thought that I’d take to Bali like a fish to water and embracing the sweat that poured off my body day and night in the humid heat?
I first visited Bali in 1989, I was 18 and it was my first overseas holiday alone. Back then Bali looked quite different, Kuta was tiny, a couple of streets of shops and boutiques and the fantastic market by the beach, but apart from that there was very little western about Kuta. I had a great time exploring what was then a very different Kuta. Today Kuta is a place I work hard to avoid, the hustle and bustle and westernisation of the town is just too depressing, and I have to say that I am not too proud of the shenanigans of some Aussie travellers I’ve seen behaving badly and really not in my mind appreciating what Bali has to offer. For our honeymoon in September 2013, Pete and I decided to give Bali a shot and we spent quite a while sifting through information and vetting opinions on where to visit. Ubud was our location of choice, and it’s my new favourite place in the world. The peace & tranquillity, enough tourism/westernisation to be comfortable (read: great cafes with amazing coffee!) but in Ubud and surrounds you get a true sense of the REAL Bali. We loved Bali so much that we booked 3 weeks last June and took our two boys Zac & Jeremy with us for a family holiday, this time though we had a week in Ubud and then 2 weeks Lovina, Northern Bali. That visit was quite different, the north of Bali is spectacular and has minimal tourists, but so much to offer. We all fell in love with Bali all over again. So now that my mum has successfully recovered from stage 3 aggressive breast cancer, I knew it was time for us to have some mother and daughter time, and so off we went together for 8 days in Ubud, we just got back on Monday – it was fantastic! How lucky am I, 3 trips in 2 years.
Bali is a place where you can relax, enjoy and indulge in pampering. We had the most amazing one-hour relaxation massages for a mere AUD$10! Yep, I could have had 11 massages for the same cost as one massage at my local professional massage practitioner. And the quality of the massage was just spot on! We also indulged in a pamper afternoon where we had a one hour facial (clean, exfoliate, honey mask, face/neck massage and moisturising), one hour pedicure and one hour manicure – this 3 hours of pampering totalled AUD$31! In between this we toured Kintamani, the most incredible volcanic area of Mt Batur, the rice paddy terraces, Bali Bird & Reptile Park, lots of countryside and so much more. And then there’s the market stalls, streets and streets and streets of them, offering the most incredible assortment of garments. Unfortunately, as is the case in most of the world, the majority of the clothing is aimed at smaller sizes, usually up to a 12-14. There are styles that are “one size” and are kaftanish, so will fit to up to a size 18-20 but for me I found it difficult to find something amazing – it would fit, but then say it had a high neckline which of course doesn’t suit my body shape. So it was always a challenge. The obvious solution to this is to have things made for me. Just about every second sign you pass says “custom made also available”. The tailoring industry is just huge, and every town/village has a plethora of women who have their own sewing machines and fabrics and can make or copy just about anything you can throw at them.
This visit, I got smart. I pre-planned what I wanted to have made, and I pre-bought and pre-washed (VERY IMPORTANT!!!) my fabric to take. I bought two cotton/rayon fabrics and some embellishments for the ties that I wanted. I pre-washed in cold water and dried naturally on the line, then ironed the fabric. (Note: I had another two dresses made once, purchased the fabric from the tailor, and the dresses were made perfectly to size, one wash back home (even in cold water!) and they both shrunk at least one dress size 🙁 so please even if you buy fabric from them, make sure you wash it first before getting your garment made up).
I decided on a dressmaker, Made, who was located just off the main street of Ubud, she came highly recommended by our driver and friend who has had many years experience helping tourists source services.
Made’s shop was really neat and clean and she had oodles of beautiful local fabrics. Her smile lights up the room, she is gentle and sweet and “got” exactly what I was after. I gave her two dresses that I had already and asked her to copy them for me. She was a little confused when I presented her with the embellishments I wanted for the ties on the dresses, but once I cut them off the twine they are sold on and explained she got it, and the dresses were exactly as I’d asked.
Didn’t I say I’m a boots & cardigan kinda girl?! These dresses are perfect for dressing any season, summer with sandals and winter with boots & cardigans. LOVE
And here’s the dress on it’s own for summer
So the total cost for these to be made was a mere AUD$65, that was for 3 dresses! (There’s a 3rd one in cheesecloth, but I didn’t photograph it). Bargain.
Don’t forget if you’re lucky enough to find something in the markets that is “almost” right for you, and a simple change would make it “perfect”, consider buying the garment and having it altered at a local tailor/dressmaker. It will cost the smallest amount to do this and you’ll have exactly what you want.
Now as I mentioned I am a huge boot lover. About 4 years ago when Pergoni Boots came onto the Australian Market I had a launch party and bought myself the most amazing pair of boots EVER. They were called the Jessica Boots, they were perfectly tapered to my leg, wide-calf and just bloody brilliant. I begged the girls at Pergoni to repeat the style, but alas they could no longer produce that style 🙁 So, because I couldn’t bare to throw them out, I wore them literally to death! Here’s what they looked like when I dragged them in my suitcase to Bali:
Yep, Ipretty worn out right?! I asked around when we arrived in Ubud, and so did our friend Made, and then he heard about Ardy, apparently the best in Ubud. So off we went, my pathetic worn boots in hand. Ardy was so welcoming, he sat me down, had a good look at the boots (which incidentally weren’t leather) and presented me with a huge bundle of leather swatches and said “choose colours”. WOW! Seriously there were like about 30 different options. I had my heart set on brown and black, so I picked the (fingers crossed) just right brown and black. Ardy then went on to show me some examples in his shop of sole options, I opted for rubber non-slip. We bartered on price and agreed on the delivery time, 4 days time. I left the store feeling positive but a little anxious, as you just never know what to expect. Four days later I arrived to pick up my boots. I entered the store to be welcomed by a huge smile and a very proud Ardy handing over his handy work. WOW WOW WOW, I was absolutely floored – they are stunning. The leather is just beautiful, the detail and finish, second to none, in fact, dare I say it, they were even better than the originals!
So, for 2 pairs of premium leather, beautifully handmade boots, I paid AUD$170. Yep AUD$170. I’m so thrilled it’s ridiculous, and I’m just a bit pleased too that the weather has cooled down in Melbourne now, so I can wear them!! Hooray!
HIGHLY Recommend you get in touch with Ardy, I’ve seen other copies of boots and they just don’t compare to the workmanship and leather quality that I got here. Ardy can take orders via email or phone and can ship express to Australia for around AUD$30. Please tell him I sent you.
TIPS for shopping in Bali:
Barter! It’s expected. There are many fixed-price stores in the towns, usually upmarket boutiques or galleries where the prices are fixed. But the street vendors, markets and many market type stalls around the streets are all expecting you to barter. I’ve found from experience that what works best is to take the first price the vendor gives you, and drop your first price in the negotiation down to less than a third (yes less than a 1/3!!). Don’t be afraid, it’s an art to negotiate and quite fun. For example a sarong should cost you approx. AUD$5 (IDR 50,000) in the markets and street stalls. The vendor will say IDR150,000, to which you say “no, my best price is IDR 35,000”, to which they’ll respond “no no, too low. I give you special morning price, IDR 70,000”. “No! My best price IDR50,000”, to which you’ll normally get a response “ok, ok, IDR50,000, special good luck price for you”! The other guide is to be aware that they will never not want to sell you the product, so if you refuse to go higher after a few minutes of back and forth, then you can be sure that the price you are offering is too close to their wholesale buy price, and they literally can’t sell it for that price. It can be quite tricky, especially if you’re new to the prices, but after a few goes you’ll get the hang of it.
Try to pay with Exact Money. I’ve been caught out a few times, gone through the bartering process, agreed on the price, let’s say IDR40,000 for this example, tendered IDR50,000 only to be told that they don’t have change! Then it becomes uncomfortable as you insist on your change. This has only happened a few times, but I try to keep the notes broken up into denominations to avoid any added stress.
Speak their language. It’s pretty simple really, I’ve travelled extensively over my lifetime, and it’s been my belief that when visiting another country it’s only polite to be aware of their laws & customs, AND to have a few simple words in their own language to show your respect. It’s appreciated by the Balinese and will always raise a big smile.
Good Morning Selamat Pagi
Good Afternoon Selamat Sore
Good Evening Selamat Malam
Thank you Terima Kasih
No thank you Tidak, terima kasih
You’re Welcome Sama Sama
Be Clear. When arranging to have something made, ensure that you are extremely clear with instructions to avoid disappointment. I’ve found most people in business speak reasonable English and understand well, but I’ve also benefited from the help of our trusted friend and driver assisting with any instructions.
Don’t be Insulted. It’s important to realise that in Bali the culture is quite different. I saw one poor girl in tears after a market stallholder was trying to be helpful and yelled out “I’ve got big size for you”. Truthfully, they are just trying to be helpful, not hurtful. It’s not unusual to hear “I’ve got big sizes for you”, “Dress will fit you miss” etc. Just take it in the tone it’s meant, to try to sell you something and smile 🙂
Keep your sarong handy. In Bali to enter a temple you need to wear a sarong. The markets are full of options in beautiful fabrics and you can expect to pay around AUD$5 for a sarong. Make sure you have it with you at all times as you just never know when you’ll want to visit a temple where you’ll need it. I also found (just like in Australia) that most spa’s don’t offer gowns that are large enough and this can often lead to embarrassment. A sarong is a great option as you can just wrap it around and tie it in so many ways!
OTHER PLUS SIZE OPTIONS IN BALI
There’s a huge list of stores that specialise in plus-size in Bali. There are three that I particularly like and recommend:
Goddess on the Go – 2 stores in Ubud and 1 in Sanur
This store specialises in eco-chic fashion for goddesses petit to plus-size! There’s a huge range to choose from and some gorgeous accessories too. All of the garments are high quality and are lightweight easy to wash & wear. They go up to a 3XL (around a 24-26 but I found a lot of styles could fit slightly larger too). Click on the link above for the website and the image for facebook page.
Ketut’s Fixed Price – Last shop on Gang Sorga off Jl Sahadewa (Garlic Lane), in Kuta. It’s the 1st lane on the right after turning in from Jl Melasti. Ketut doesn’t have a facebook page or website! But it well worth the visit. Ketut has literally hundreds of options. Her store isn’t anything special to look at, but it’s seriously a treasure trove, she’s a warm and friendly lady who is passionate about offering plus-size options. Her dresses are between AUD$5 and AUD$10 each and you just have to say hello and ask and she’ll pull out bags and bags of options and take you around to a side lane where she has another mass of options hanging up to look at. Ketut goes up to a 4XL (26-28) and you will find a lot of same or similar styles to what’s available in all the markets around Bali. Please tell her I sent you x
Divine Diva – This store is just Ace! It’s located in Seminyak and they specialise in resort wear. They export worldwide but the boutique is just lovely, nice and cool inside (with a comfy chair for your travelling companion to wait). You’ll find it at Jl Laksamana No.1, Oberoi in Seminyak. They stock up to a 3XL (24-26) and fit to a larger size in some styles.
There are a host of other options too, but this blog post is getting so long! I’ll save that for another time. Feel free to share your experiences with us all by commenting below. Oh and if you’re heading to Bali let me know as I would highly recommend our driver Made who has become a family friend and just makes the visit that much more special and I’d love to ensure yours is too.
Enjoy – Selamat Menikmati
Love your shape!