Ubud market – a new experience

Confused scents jostled with each other. Only inches away, in front of me, to my left, to my right, orange, yellow, green, blue, red, gold, silver, competed for ascendency. I gaped, I know I did. Sarongs, statues – of wood and stone, jewellery, bags and belts, watches, paintings, incense. Everything they believed a tourist could possibly want was there, crammed together.

It seemed too much and I felt the urge to turn, to retreat back the way I had come. The incessant swerving of the scooters and the tooting of the car horns in the street outside, which until a moment ago I had wanted to escape from, suddenly seemed the preferable option.

But I held my ground, I could do this. I slid tentatively into the maze. I avoided eye contact and donned my ‘just looking’ attitude. “You try, you like” ricocheted around me, but I maintained my resolve. It survived only a matter of minutes before the “you like, what colour, how many you want?” infiltrated my defences. I lingered just a moment too long over the cushion covers, my fingers actually touched the fabric. “What colour you like?” I answered – green.

Black, brown, orange and red were pushed aside as she unearthed bright green, olive green and pale green cushion covers. Again I fingered them, “that one I think.” “How many you like?” Again I answered, “two.” She named her price. Now I had to do what was expected of me. Oh god. I was the one who always walked away when others began to barter. I had been to Bali before and to theVictoria markets in Melbourne, both times with a friend. She was an avid barterer. She would focus, she would get her price or she would walk away. I always left her to it feigning a sudden interest in men’s shirts or children’s toys on the neighbouring stalls. But I knew the principle. I took a quiet breath, halved the price. Her expression did an about turn. How could I? Had I done it wrong? I wondered. She came back at me with another figure but I managed to counter once again with my own. Again her eyes widened and a gasp escaped. She held her ground, but so did I. I shook my head in a ‘no’, my feet did a 90 degree turn. They didn’t get as far as 180 degrees. Her shoulders sagged, she sighed, her boss wouldn’t like it she told me, but I got my price.

I know I had a silly grin on my face. I was hooked. From there it was not so much a slide as a skid into the world of bartering. When I found myself on the street again over an hour later juggling the black plastic bags as evidence, I realised – there were things I had forgotten to buy. I was already planning my next visit.

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