Shop Smart Bali & Lombok

Book Review

Ni Wayan Murni
Hello Bali, November 2006

Shop Smart: Bali & Lombok,
edited by Jane Marsden, 2006


I often get asked by people writing books if I would be happy for my restaurant and shops to be reviewed. Of course I say I’d be delighted. Shortly after that I’m told that the cost is so many millions of rupiah per square inch. These so-called reviews turn out to be advertisements masquerading as independent critiques. That is very common. So, the first and most important thing to say about this new book, Shop Smart Bali & Lombok, is that it does not have any paid advertisements in it. There are over 1,000 contributed by just seven long term residents of Bali.

What about the content? Although it holds itself out as a shopping guide, which it primarily is, the book is actually much more than that. It contains useful introductory sections to life in Bali and Lombok with sections on history, geography, art, religion, festivals and celebrations. So for a very short visit to Bali or Lombok this maybe all you need. Throughout the book various hotels are mentioned and described, so it could also suffice as a guide as to where to stay.

Not every shop in Bali – or Lombok – is covered but all the main players and some lesser known, are profiled. Each area has a good introduction. It is then divided into smaller areas or streets with details of shops, hotels and restaurants, and maps showing where they are. This part of the book would be very useful if you were in one of those areas and wanted to walk around and have a view of what was available. As well as detailed profiles of places, it also cross-refers to the other section. The other section (482 pages) is the heart of the book, where shopping is classified according to the type of goods and services.

There are twenty seven categories and some are quite esoteric.They range from antiques and artifacts to stonecarvings, supermarkets and tailors and textiles.

Each category has an introduction and good tips on how to shop for that particular item. When shopping for antiques and artifacts: take frequent breaks to eat, drink and think. When buying pearls: a fake pearl can be detected by biting on it; an imitation pearl will glide across your teeth, while the layers of nacre on a real pearl will feel chalky and gritty. If you are looking at pictures, check out the hidden details – whether a canvas has been properly mounted, whether a drawing or pastel has been done on acid free paper so it won’t discolour with age. Shopping is a pretty exhausting business in Bali, which can be very hot, so the final section will be very welcome to most people. It’s the Après-Retail Details – a small selection of bars, clubs and restaurants, which are subject to the same standard of meticulous and independent reviews.

I know I will use this book myself and therefore have no hesitation in recommending it to others. It is the only one of its kind in Bali and Lombok.

Ubud, Bali

Shop Smart Bali & Lombok