Top: In with the new

bottom: The last market day before Nyepi (Sat 9th)



by Diana Darling

Ubud has just got Botoxed. The renovation of the market at the heart of Ubud is more or less finished, giving the town a genteel new smile.

The new market is a study in modern middle-brow Balinese architecture. Two-storey blocks with red tile roofs and de rigueur Balinese ornamentation gaze down on pedestrian spaces that are already planted with de rigueur tropical vegetation. It looks a bit like apartments.

The Ubud market was once an ordinary, normal farmers market—crowded, muddy, and fascinating to visitors for its great profusion of tropical fruits and spices, and handmade wares such as kitchen implements made of recycled biscuit tins. For a while, a night market flourished in the parking lot, where little stands sold local food at local prices. Tourists loved it. But local restaurateurs who sold local food at international prices murmured something about ‘hygiene’, and rather than clean it up, they shut it down.

About twenty years ago, perhaps seeking to attract a more discerning kind of tourist, the powers that be (whoever they are) decided to renovate the market to make it look more urban, with two-storey concrete buildings and lots of little shops. The market quickly became crowded again, and almost instantly grimy. Vendors of carved wooden key chains jostled with vendors of bananas and shrimp paste. Tourists were herded through this mess by the busload. No one knows if any of them ever came back to Ubud.

The new market—which is being called an art market, meaning a souvenir market—is clearly not meant for anything that will attract flies. Ubud residents are wondering what you’ll be able to buy there. It is fairly certain that you won’t find kerosene, a good meat cleaver, fresh palm toddy, and other useful things that the people of Ubud used to be able to buy at the normal market. As for the remaining grimy part of the market, that will probably be called the ‘traditional’ market and require no further attention.