Kites and phallic carvings: 5 Strange Souvenirs to Buy in Bali

Kites and phallic carvings: 5 Strange Souvenirs to Buy in Bali

Bali is a land of rolling surf swells and dense, macaque-spotted jungles. Hedonistic clubs erupt between the streets of Kuta and on the clifftops of the Bukit Peninsular, while soaring volcanos at Agung and Batur crown the horizons of the northern shore.

On our uber-popular and bucket list-smashing Blissful Bali itinerary, we range from the whitecaps of the shoreline to the waterfalls of the rainforest, spy out cascading rice paddies and bamboo villages, ride the Bali Sea to the iconic Gili Isles, go snorkelling and surfing and paddle boarding and partying. You might just have time to pick up one or two of these curious little souvenirs along the way…


Batik fabrics

The ancient craft of batik making has been one of the best-kept secrets of Java Island and the Nusa Tenggara region since around the 7th century AD. Today, it enjoys protected status by UNESCO, and flocks of visitors come to see the island’s weaving masters do their thing amidst the artsy workshops of Ubud and the marketplaces of Seminyak. Batik fabrics are made by applying a resistant wax to the cloth before dying. Curious patterns and intricate designs emerge as the fabric dries, revealing a truly Balinese medley of hibiscus blooms and colourful butterflies, intricate oriental geometrics and beautiful repeating patterns.

Whittled wood carvings

Unlike batik, Bali’s famous wood carvings aren’t available all over the island. Instead, they hail in from the jungle-shrouded village of Mas, which sits nestled amidst the verdant, wheatgrass green valleys around Ubud, just a stone’s throw from the mysterious shrines of the Goa Gajah Temple. Here, the onetime rice farmers have converted to artisans, becoming masters of the whittling trade. Their creations are often curious and mind-boggling, carved from the dry teak trunks that loom in the forests all around, depicting Hindu effigies, animist demigods, local heroes and folklore characters alike.


Kopi luwak coffee

Believe it or not, Bali’s most expensive coffee bean isn’t really a coffee bean at all. Well, it was. Once. That is, before it was eaten, digested and, shall we say, passed by one of the island’s wild civet cats in the jungle. Yep, you read that right! The Balinese are convinced that the kopi luwak bean possesses an altogether more intense and refined flavor, all thanks to the pickiness of the Asian palm civet that pluck them from the coffea blooms of the Indonesian rainforests and proceed to digest it. Beware though: kopi luwak is predictably expensive, with estimated values of up to $500 per kilo!

Balinese kites

Kites shaped like fish, kites shaped like dragons, kites shaped like coconuts, Hindu gods, monkeys and elephants – you name it and Bali’s made it fly! It’s no coincidence that Bali is famed for holding one of the world’s largest and most attended kite festivals each year: the Bali International Kite Festival on the sands of Padang Galak on the eastern edge of Denpasar. But even if you miss that July time kite shindig, there’s always plenty of kite sellers and boutiques to explore on the island. These come packed with kites of all shapes and sizes, bursting with colour and style. Be sure to check out those ship kites – pretty awesome!


Wooden phalluses

Last but certainly not least on our list of Bali’s most curious souvenirs are those ubiquitous timber phalluses. Many first-time travelers to the Isle of the Gods think these are just some tourist gimmick. Not so. In fact, whittled little willies are a sign of good luck for the Balinese, depicting one of the top gods of the Hindu pantheon. Find them dangling surreptitiously on every rail of every souvenir shop on Ubud’s Monkey Forest Road, or amidst the knock-off clothes markets of Kuta and Seminyak. Just what you’ve always wanted.


"Rich is a traveler, writer and filmmaker who's always after somewhere new to go. He's been hopping around the globe since 2011, from Poland to Paris, Mumbai to Ho Chi Minh. He runs several travel sites of his own, from Ski Eastern to Live Krakow to Crabs Move Sideways. When he's not planning his next trip, he's usually listening to 50s jazz, surfing in Wales, skiing in the Alps, or just swigging (too much) great craft beer."

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