Leaving the beaches behind and heading towards Ubud you might be impressed to think you are seeing a less commercial Bali, or be tempted to think this is the "real" Bali (whatever that means). However, this is a major tourist route, a sort of shopper's and collector's circuit that can leave even the most voracious shopper satisfied. Just after leaving the bypass and shortly before the Batubulan bus terminal, the center of all public transport, and heading east, you cross into the old kingdom (now the regency) of Gianyar. The royal house of Gianyar allied itself with the Dutch against its traditional foes in the rival palaces thus avoiding the fate of the other kingdoms whose royal lines were almost completely decimated in ritual puputan. This allowed them to continue their artistic endeavors and today the majority of the population is somehow involved in handicrafts and arts. Each village en route to Ubud has its own specialized handicraft or art form with roots in royal patronage.
Batubulan -- Batubulan is only about 10km (6 miles) northeast of Denpasar. This is stone carving and barong dance central -- as if children in this village were born with a chisel in their hands and a rhythm in their walk. Performances take place every morning between 9 and 9:30am and last for about an hour. The performances are for tourists but it is a good way to kick off your shopping. This is where you will find the Ganesha of your dreams and a Buddha for your boudoir. International shipping is not a problem -- if you can't resist the very large-scale pieces.
Celuk -- About 5km (3 miles) from Denpasar, the shops and homes of this town are filled to the gills with silver and gold. Long a center for artisans in elaborate gold jewelry for royal households, Celuk now produces jewelry for the international market. Apprentices begin young and by the time they are in their early teens are producing fine ornaments from the precious metals. Almost every family in Celuk now makes or sells gold and silver work. Prices are competitive and quality is similar. Huge tour buses park outside some of the bigger stores but don't be put off. Go to some of the smaller shops along the back lanes and you will be duly rewarded. You will be told prices are fixed but they are not. Bargain. If you are interested in buying a few gold and silver pieces check the gram rate on the Internet beforehand so you have an idea of a fair price -- all gold and silver is weighed and sold by the gram.
Sukawati -- About 5km (3 miles) south from Ubud is the Sukawati Art Market open dawn till dusk. Here you will find production of ceremonial umbrellas, lamak (the hanging decorated with Chinese coins and little mirrors seen on shrines at festival time), gold-painted perada cloth wrapped around shrines, and other ceremonial pieces. Tourists come by the bucket load to stock up on cheap trinkets, fabrics, baskets, and temple decorations. Be prepared to haggle. The colorful open-air food market here has literally everything under the sun. You can still see the ancient art of puppet making at the market, which is the least touristy thing about the place.
Batuan -- This unique village just south of Ubud has a rich cultural legacy in both painting and the arts. The style of painting, now referred to as Batuan, originated here in the 1930s and has continued to this day. The method involves first completing a detailed black and white pen and ink drawing and then filling it in with subdued colors. These days, you can catch an occasional mobile phone or motorbike popping up in the scene. Batuan is also noted for the ancient Gambuh dance, which is still occasionally preformed on full moons and other special occasions. The dance form is on the edge of extinction yet is considered the ancestor of all Balinese dances. If you hear of one happening, catch it if you can.
Mas -- Mas is just 6km (3 3/4 miles) south of Ubud. Woodcarving is one of Bali's most ancient arts and for centuries craftsmen have been chipping away in Mas. The woodcarvers of this old Brahamana village create both artistic sculptures as well as more traditional characters like deities, masks, or naturalist animals. Wander the back streets to see the families at work.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.