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Ubud Market 

Ubud Market is an experience as much as a place to shop, but anyone looking for some good produce will strike pay dirt there.

Located in central Ubud in Bali, Indonesia, it's a great place for fruit lovers to to grab some great mangosteen or salak fruit.

At around 6:30 a.m. today, I found myself in the midst of the market, with hordes of Balinese people shoving and hurrying and haggling in overwhelming numbers around me.

In the air was the scent of fish mixed with the strong odor of spices. A musty jack fruit smell emanated from one table, where an old woman was cutting away the sticky latex-like goo of the fruit and handing it out to people in bags. One group of women were selling the bamboo, flowers, and incense that allow the Balinese people to make their daily religious offerings.

Merchants stood behind tables, scooping out portions of cooked gooey-looking dishes, but so too did they have fruit - lots of it.

At this early hour few of the shoppers at the Ubud Market were tourists, so I was mainly competing with locals for giant bins of mangoes, jackfruit, bananas, mangosteen, salak, rambutan, and a wide variety of other fruits and vegetables, some I could not identify.

Ubud Market FruitIf you're not familiar with the produce bounty that is southeast Asia, you're in for a treat. Bali has plenty of good fruit if you know where to look for it, and you should be able to find a lot of it in Ubud Market.

Ubud Market: When To Go

For much of the day, Ubud market features art, crafts, clothes, and other items designed to appeal to tourists, but if you want produce, you'll have to come in the morning.

The vendors set up quite early (They'll be there by 6 a.m.) every day of the week and wrap up by noon. Many of the produce vendors are packing up by 11 a.m.

What's the best time to go? Interesting question. If you're there for the sheer experience of it, the Ubud market before 7 a.m. is something to behold, with every available space overflowing with bartering Balinese buyers and merchants. Smells both pleasant and repugnant fill the air, and the Ubud Market has a sense of really being alive, some anachronism from a different century

But in terms of getting good deals, the merchants seem more willing to bargain later on in the morning, say around 9 a.m., after the crowds have thinned a bit.

Although most of the fruit vendors have packed up by noon, there will still be a few sellers left later in the day, but unless they're trying to unload overripe fruit, you'll probably pay more.

By around 2 p.m. tourists are usually being disgorged by a succession of buses out front, so it's probably best to avoid it at this point.

Ubud Market: Why You'll Probably Get Ripped Off

Ubud market is a regular stop of tourists, and the merchants know it. They know the tourists are unused to bargaining using the Rupiah, and many from western countries have never bargained at all.

Ubud Market Way

The real problem for a newbie heading into this situation is they have no baseline knowledge of what fruit should cost in Bali, so the merchants can really take advantage of them.

How can you know if Mangoes should be 6,000 Rp or 25,000 rp / kilo? If a merchant starts the bargaining off at 30,000 rp/ kilo, you might try to shave 5,000 rp off the price through bargaining, which would be reasonable if the merchant had started off with a reasonable offer.

First, be aware that there are some merchants who are genuinely interested in ripping you off. They will refuse to sell you something for a reasonable price even if you know they're offering a wildly inflated number.

Others will do the old bait-and switch, calling out to you as you pass with an offer of 10,000 rp (just over $1) for something, but then after you've checked it out and agreed, they suddenly want triple their original offer.

Finally, although I have no way of confirming it, I think some of them have rigged scales. I once bought a kilo of mangoes that was much smaller than any previous kilo I'd purchased.

However, most merchants are genuinely willing to offer you a fair price if you bargain correctly.

So what is a fair price? From my own experience and through talking to some locals and raw food travelers, here are a few prices that are accurate as of December 2010, at least in the Ubud Market. They represent the best prices I was able to get after more than a week of going there daily and figuring out how to negotiate.

Ubud Market Prices

Mangoes: 7,000 to 10,000 rp/kilo (I was told the end of mango season was inflating prices, but they still tasted very good).
Papaya: 9,000 to 10,000 rp for one very large papaya.
Bananas: 3,000 (for very ripe) to 9,000 rp/kilo, depending on ripeness, type, etc.
Mangosteen: 25,000 rp/kilo (I really had to bargain for this price).
Jackfruit: 20,000 rp/kilo for precut pieces. Whole fruit can probably be had for less.
Watermelon 20,000 rp per large melon (The watermelon was worse than American watermelon)
Salak Fruit: 15,000 rp/kilo
Pineapple: 10,000 Rp for a very small pineapple. They were not sweet.

The exchange rate at this time was 8,900 to $1. For those used to pounds, remember that there are 2.2 pounds in a kilo.

Keep in mind that different ripeness levels can change the price. If it's the beginning or end of the season, the limited supply can increase the price dramatically.

For further prices, I suggest you seek out an English-speaking local who does not work at the market, but who shops there, to tell you what they would pay for the types of fruit you're interested in.

Ubud Market: How To Bargain

My first attempts at bargaining were kind of lame. I just sort of assumed that if I cut a few thousand rps off the price I would do ok, but I was getting jipped. In the US no one would offer their used car for sale with an ad asking for four times the real value. Here they just might, so you have to be prepared to make a dramatically lower counteroffers.

I've been told by other travelers that the Balanise are much more interested in bargaining than other fruit-happy people of Asia, such as the Thais, and they're really into the give and take.

If you want to succeed, I suggest you employ some theatrics. Another huge respect gainer is being able to employ a few choice words of Indonesian or Balinese during the bargaining.

Do you need to speak the local language? Usually not. Most of the merchants understand enough English to get the gist of a bargain. You point at something and say, "how much?", or merely point and name a price.

They will respond with their price, and you can then respond with another.

You'll do better if you can employ a few words of Indonesia, though. I was able to learn everything I needed out of a phrasebook I picked up back in the US.

Negotiating Example:

You inquire over the price of mangoes and are quoted 40,000 rp per kilo, or about four times what is reasonable.

You throw up your arms in disgust at their suggestion. "Mahal Skali, Pak." you say, which means too expensive ("Pak" is for men, "Bu" is for women).

You turn to go and they say, "no no", and offer 30,000 rp.

"Tidak," (no thank you, more or less) you say, feigning disinterest.

At this point they come down to 10,000 rp.

You counter offer with 5,000 rp, and maybe they come down a bit from 10,000 or maybe the price stays there.

When you've reached your price you give them a big smile and tell them "selamat siang," which translates into have a nice day. 

Ubud Market: Getting There

Ubud market is located across from the old imperial palace on Jalan Raya Ubud, in the Town of Ubud. Ubud a bit north of the southern coast of the Island of Bali, which is part of Indonesia. It's about an hour and a half taxi ride from the airport in Denpasar to Ubud

The market is easily accessible by foot from any point in central Ubud. There are spaces for mopeds in front of the the market on Jalan Raya Ubud, and spots for a few cars too. Any of the local taxis can get you there.

There are two stories to the building, with the second partially under construction. The fruit vendors are on the first floor.

View Larger Map

Ubud Market: Following Up:

Learn how fruit from Ubud Market can be fuel a healthy raw food diet.

Find other fruit hot spots here.


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