Any place that’s a crowd-puller, is one that also offers a smidgen of memory that you’d want to take home with you. This post gives a peek into the unlikeliest of places where you’d unearth a few treasures. Some are flea-markets and some are places which pulsate with an infectious vivacity. Handicrafts, beautiful curios, baubles and bijouterie, kitsch curios and paintings of eminent artists are things to look for & strike an envious bargain.
Flea markets don’t need a mention but there could still be some nooks tucked away, perhaps in your own city, which you may not be aware of. This post hopes to throw light on those. Before you plan a break, you may want to know what a place could be famous for. More importantly, when you’re scouring for novel gifts , the following information could come handy.
While most of these are just a click away & will be delivered at your doorstep, setting your sight on pretty things, feeling the texture & haggling is an experience by itself..
No matter where you trot, you’d always want to bring home a bit of where you’d been!
1. Colaba Causeway, Mumbai
Yes, I wanted to start with our very own Colaba, Mumbai! Strangely, some locals are delightedly surprised to know that there’s much more to Colaba than the Taj or Regal!
Rows of shops lie masked under a canopy of sheets from the lane where Regal Theater stands.
What’s in Store-Baubles and trinkets twinkling in sunlight. Semi-Precious stones like Lapiz Lazuli, Garnet, Jade, Amathyst, Onyx, crystals etc are strung together to make pretty necklaces. Every shop is an Aladdin’s cave & you’ll never tire of halting at every shop!
From trinkets in stones, shaped in all imaginable shapes, bling jewelry, which young girls would die for,
to curios in metal, metal figurines of Gods and demigods, miniature elephants and camels,
to lanterns in myriad hues,
to antique railway clocks, metal bells, metal globes, hour-glasses, compass, miniature cycles, fans, goblets & chalices and iron-boxes
to bling jewelry
to colorful shoulder bags,
to clutch purses done in pretty sequins and cotton shoulder-bags in myriad colors,
to colorful stoles
to even paintings, Colaba has it all!!
Your bag is sure to burst at the seams; your purse will be light too!
2. Elephanta Caves (Gharapuri), Mumbai
An hour by ferry from the island city of Mumbai and you’re on a different world! While even a decade back, when tourists barring bachelors and couples used to surely give it a miss, today, the place throbs with teeming hawkers selling queer stuff.
From necklaces that are strung in Lapiz Lazuli, Garnet, Jade and shells which they claim are washed ashore, these stalls sell paintings and marble wares too. Precious stones scintillating in sunlight, cast a spell, that’s simply hard to resist.
3. Oshiwara Antique Shops
These nondescript shops unfortunately have perhaps been overshadowed by the famed Chor Bazar. However, walking through the row of shops, will I betcha give you that adrenaline rush!
. Lonavla, Maharashtra
A narrow strip heading towards Bushy Dam on INS Shivaji is where you’d find Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in a platter!
What’s in Store: This nondescript belt perhaps is often side-lined for ‘points’ that a hill-station should boast of. But if you shift your sight off the common stuff, you’d be surprised to sight some of the prettiest glazed earthenware and ceramic works brought to you from Rajasthan and Khurja in Uttar Pradesh.
From slender vases to rotund ‘Bharnis’, from dainty tea-sets to deftly crafted pots, from delicate dinner-sets to exquisite planters shaped in avian or faunal forms, from elegant hand-painted tiles to pretty plates, you’d be spoilt for choice & you’d surely stuff your dickey with at least one of each!
You need to haggle of course, and if your bag is spilling at the seams, you can easily drive a hard bargain.
4.Meena Bazar, New Delhi
Red Fort has to wait, for before you admire this historical façade, the line of shops selling all the touristy stuff within, will surely catch your time & attention. Delhi despite the dirtiest and murkiest stories has always delighted me and to me a holiday in Delhi is incomplete without buying the loads of stuff that the city has to offer.
What’s in Store-Miniature figurines representing Indian costumes, along with miniature dining table set made in brass. The Taj Mahal is a permanent fixture as are Meenakari trinkets and bangles & Kalamkari fabric. At the far end usually is an attar shop selling exotic fragrances in tiny bottles.
Shoulder bags and reticules in vibrant hues, embroidered with tassels and sequins left dangling on strings will never fail to titivate passersby. Cushions and clutches with mirror-work and sequins, urns & lanterns, Jootis, paintings and all things pretty are on display.
A visit to Delhi Haat is a must! Showcasing Indian handloom and handicrafts, the Haat is abuzz with people and if ambling along the aisles on a cold January afternoon, feasting your eyes on Assam silks and Rajasthan cushions et al, I bet, you’d never want to leave the place.
6. Vandippalayam, Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu
On the outskirts of the coastal city of Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, lies a sleepy hamlet, nondescript until you walk into the by-lanes lined with colorful clay idols! Thatched huts ―a quintessence of this village, lie strewn across its length and breadth.
While most tourists would give Vandipallayam a definite miss, a typical Tamilian household, which celebrates Navrathri Golu would not & should not!
What’s in Store-Visit every little cottage here and place an order for each set. From traditional Ram, Lakshman etc to Dashavatar to cricket set, everything is carefully fashioned and chiseled to perfection.
This is the village that molds figurines from clay and plaster of Paris and sends it to megacities like Mumbai, and even Chennai! Believe me, you’d be paying triple the price in Mumbai and Chennai for the same dolls.
You can select what you want and it shall be delivered at your doorstep! Nevertheless, when in Vandippalayam, you’d never leave without dolls.
If you do make a trip to Cuddalore, Chidambaram or Pondicherry, do not forget Vandipaallayam! Some households have their own websites & during off-season you can choose your idols from the site & make online payments too.
Note: Navratri is a festival celebrated in most parts of India, by paying obeisance to the Goddesses- Parvati, Lakshmi & Saraswati. Different states celebrate the festival in unique ways. In South India, Navratri is celebrated by a beautiful display of clay dolls of Gods and demigods, humans and beasts & even articles of food. In my parental home, we have a cartload of dolls that have been passed down generations & 9 steps are used to accommodate these.
7. Tanjore Paintings
While Tanjore paintings are no more the purview of Tanjavur, while in Chennai, you might as well scout for these precious paintings, inlaid with gold foils and semi-precious stones. The main themes are Gods and demigods, but with a richness that’s sure to make it aesthetic.
Where-Central Cottage Emporium at Nandanam in Chennai has a stock of original Tanjore paintings, apart from R. Govindarajan in Tanjavur itself.
Just as you sight the iconic monument of Hyderabad, you’d be bedazzled by the dazzling row of shops leading to Charminar! This lane is a mecca for women shopaholics.
What’s in Store-Bejeweled bangles, gilt necklaces, trinkets studded with semi-precious gems in various colors, baubles and bibelots, and Hyderabad pearls strung together, can be a titillating visual treat & I daresay that no woman can leave without making some purchase here.
Sparkling stones in myriad hues, earrings patterned in Mughal designs, ornaments carved out like pomegranates, mangoes, peacocks and roses would soon find their way into your bag.
- Kondapalli, Andra Pradesh
About 15 kilometers from Vijaywada, is the village of Kondapalli.
What’s in Store-Colorful Wooden toys and wooden dolls, papier mache dolls, wooden masks and totems depicting Gods and patrons. Vibrantly colored, these toys are light to carry and can enliven any boring space. South Indian homes that celebrate Navratri Gollu should not miss this.
10.Bura Bazar (Baro Bazar), Kolkata
To mean ‘Big Market’, Baro Bazar in Bengali, and commonly written as Bura Bazar in English, this market place does mislead many who’d be perplexed with the foreboding name, given the name ‘Bura’ which means ‘bad’ in Hindi. Never mind the name, but what do you have in here? Rather, what do you not have here?
What’s in Store-Gorgeous Kolkatta cotton handwoven sarees.
You’d rather spend 2 full days shopping for Kolkatta sarees, Tanchoi sarees and hand crafted jewelry. Lac bangles, shell bangles, the visage of the Mother Goddess Kaali, jute reticules, pochettes, cane letter-boxes et al will am sure leave you running from pillar to post shopping for more!
11. Chowringee Lane
For terracotta showpieces, diyas and Bankura horses, this is a veritable treasure house.
12. MG Road, Gangtok, Sikkim
Of course once in Gangtok, MG Road can never be missed. Ambling along this non-motorable street is actually a cake-walk literally, as there’s no fear of passing vehicles or hooting horns. Stroll around and click snaps, and rest awhile on the benches, in the middle of the street. Lovely lanterns gleaming on the garden patch with sprouting fountains are an instant pick-me-up..
What’s in Store– A multitude of shops selling all things oriental, teem up here. Buddha busts, Japanese dolls, Chinese luck symbols, Chinoiserie urns & trays, jade jewelry, tangkas, Tea sets, wishing wheels, Potala incense sticks, satin fabrics embroidered in oriental designs, kimonos, Cheongsams, Sikkimese Khos (traditional costume),
Sikkimese Kho (Traditional Costume of Sikkimese Women)
Tibetan handicrafts, Tibetan bells, dragons and amulets, et al are sure to leave you spell-bound. Tashi View Point and other places have to wait!
Note the Dragon Motif on the bags.
A Wooden Vase with Dragon Motif
Alongside are restaurants serving hot momos, thukpas and noodles with steaming hot chai!
Restaurants with apt and interesting names like GangTalk, Tashi Delek, Sonam Delek, Golden Pagoda, Taste of Tibet flank M.G.Road main street and offer some respite when it begins to rain and gets cold.
Sikkim Government Handicraft Center-This spacious building showcases arts and crafts of the state, which include Buddhist luck symbols, paintings and wooden furniture painted with dragons and other lucky symbols. Bamboo pickles are also sold here.
Wooden furniture with Oriental motifs grace the hotels around town. Try if you can to transport these to your city. They’d willingly ship them to your address.
As you wade through, you may come across boys selling CD’s, with recordings of Hilly chants and music.
Do buy some! It’s a remarkable experience to listen to these songs usually set in mountainous music. There’re 2 Music Shops in MG. Market itself.
13. Fort Cochin, Cochin, Kerala
A ferry across the Arabian Sea for a few minutes towards Fort Cochin and you’ll discover a whole new world out there! More bohemian than the rest of Kochi, it’s also more touristy with more foreigners rambling along the bylanes.
What’s in Store-An ancient synagogue here is a certain crowd-puller and so are the various shops selling spices & condiments,
Eucalyptus oil, sandalwood paste, stone jewelry
scarves and stoles, and even Kashmiri Kurtis!
Antique shops selling elephants carved on wood, vie with those selling Ayurvedic potions and cosmetics. Believe me, you could give the shops found in mainland Cochin a miss.
Antique bronze curios like antiquated Telephone sets perhaps fashioned by Graham Bell himself!
14. Goodwill Collections, Convent Road, Ernakulam, Kerala
What’s in Store-With twinkling trinkets and gorgeous jewelry creatively and fashionably done, this place is not easy to resist.
- Housing a vast array of bijouterie and eye-catching stuff, this sure is a one-stop place for vanity needs. Imitation Jewelry done in contemporary styles, hair-clips studded with glittering gems, clutches, bangles and anklets ―all encased in revolving glass shelves, are sure to mesmerize all and sundry.
Thanks to NRIs in Gulf (Gelf), some exhibits are Arabic in design and some contemporary, to suit changing times! Some are distinctively South Indian in style, while some are western too. However, each piece is stunningly unique!
In Kerala, if you’ve had your fill with the native set-mundu (the cream colored sarees & dhotis with golden borders) and when your eyes long for more colours and motifs, then, fret not. Right in the heart of Trichur, is a retail outlet with a chain of shops selling some of India’s well-known textiles ―renowned for their unique motifs.
What’s in Store? From Kalamkari suits, dupptatta & sarees, Madhurai Chungdi, Rajsthani block prints, Odisha’s Sambhalpuri motifs, Andhra’s Pochumpalli to Chettinaad Cotton sarees, V.M. Subramania Iyer & Sons stocks all these & more. The shop name banner has a chain along the same street & its staff is a pleasant lot that caters to its customers very patiently.
The place is near City Centre, Round West, Trichur.
16. Shri Chitra Art Gallery, Trivandrum
If visiting Triruvanantapuram, a peek into Shri Chitra Art Gallery is a must.
What’s in Store-Housed within is a treasure trove of murals and paintings done by the great Raja Ravi Varma! Known as the ‘Painter among Princes’ and ‘Prince among Painters’, this talented artist was born into an aristocratic family. One look at his paintings and you’d wonder if it was God who personally held the artist’s hands while the strokes emerged on canvas!
Women being his main muse, you can take your pick of graceful nymphs, dignified wives, stately queens, shy belles, et al.
Shankautala pretending to pick a thorn while stealing a glance at her paramour.
Yashoda with infant Krishna
Reproduced copies of the original are available.
17. Johari Bazar, Jaipur, Rajasthan
When you’re done with palatial palaces, visit this place to add a dash of panache to your persona with all that you can collect at Jaipur’s Johari Bazar. To me, Jaipur is one beautiful & prosperous city!
The streets adjacent to Haldiyon Ka Rasta has several shops selling tie and dye fabrics and of course Minakaari and Kundan jewelry. Actually, every corner of the Pink City is a cache of novelties.
Block printed fabrics, silver jewelry, lac bangles, blue pottery, puppets, cushions set with sequins, colorful parasols (an imitation of the regal ones) et al, greet you everywhere.
Even today Jaipur caters to a woman’s every whim, transforming her to a Rani of yore!
All that Jaipur offers, Udaipur offers too. But, carved wooden boxes definitely need a mention. Shops near City Palace, Udaipur sell Rajputana paintings. You’ll even find artists willing to paint a scene ―then and there!
Cotton skirts with bold prints of camels and elephants are a constant.
Shops leading to Eklingji Temple have an assortment of wares. Even the shops dotting the precincts of Kumbhalgarh Fort boast of quaint curios.
Pichwada Paintings adorn those near Nathdwara Temple.
19. Sayeliyon Ki Bawli, Udaipur
The lane leading to Saheliyon ki Bawli has a Rajasthan Emporium recognized by Rajasthan Government. From paintings to face-packs, trinkets to Meenakaari necklace sets, lac bangles, Rajasthan bed spreads, wood and bronze carvings, rugs and carpets, it has everything.
However, just outside Saheliyon Ki Bawli, are lesser known artists exhibiting their talents. Marble inlaid work and wooden boxes lavishly carved are also available here. My most prized collection is the work of a humble artist, who is known to have sketched in a jiffy. The collection I bought still graces a corner of my home & has been a successful icebreaker. That was almost a decade ago when I had been to the place.
20. Chaitri Rose Gardens, Haldighati, Rajasthan
Think Haldighati & it’s the image of Rana Pratap & Chetak in tantivy that will conjure up. But there’s more to Haldighati than the historical battle. On Haldighati’s yellowish soils from which it derives its name, is a patch that’s redolent with the scent of delicate pink roses that dance in glee to the tune of the gentle breeze.
Chaitri Roses are christened thus as these bloom in March-April or Chiatra (Hindu Month).
Chaitri roses cultivated here are used in perfumes, in Gulghand, juices & potions that have medicinal value.
Bottles of Rose water and herbal juice are available along with juice of Shankpushpi and other herbs.
Once you set foot in Agra, you’d be surrounded by touts who’d dissuade you from buying wares from pavement shops. Remember that you DO get equally authentic stuff from the shops just outside the Taj Mahal also.
All you need to know is which kind of marble allows light to be infused and which doesn’t. So, you needn’t sideline these and wait for touts to escort you to Government accredited shops . However, government approved shops house workshops within & you can see artisans perfecting their skills!
What’s in Store-Miniature Taj Mahals in marbles start dotting your way even at New Delhi. But, the shops right outside Taj Mahal, hold a plethora of lovely, pretty marmoreal curios. Attractive marble wall-hangings with enamel work, pretty candelabra, key chains, plates, chess boards, et al, make these shops vie for attention with the Taj itself.
A miniature of this marmoreal beauty does deserve a place of pride in your home.
Some shops in Agra also sell a semi-silk sari that can literally be passed through a finger ring!! These come in lovely floral designs and pastel shades and look very elegant too. Draped in it, you’d feel as light as a feather.
22. T. Nagar (Thyagaraja Nagar, Chennai), Tamil Nadu
If there’s any street that’s happening and throbbing with a happy & thrilled crowd, then it’s undoubtedly T-Nagar or Tyagaraja Nagar, Chennai, Tamil Nadu!
What’s in Store– With mostly nubile brides and eager grooms shopping for their D-day, this place boasts of brand names like Nalli, Kumaran’s, Nalli’s, RMKV, Pothy’s, Chennai Silks, Lalita Jewelry, Joy Aluka’s, Thangamaligai’s and the like!
Sights of bright colored brocaded sarees would awe you as much as the fragrant garlands outside. The waft of Mogra mingles with Chameli and it’s not uncommon to find a bundle adorning a Tamilian mami’s well coiffed hair.
No Tamilian marriage is solemnized without at least a mention of T-Nagar; (whether wedding parties visit the place or not is a big question, given similar brand names in other cities). But, T-Nagar is certainly a happy place to be in & shop in.
- 23. Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu
Scattered like shells on the shores of Kanyakumari are a hundred shops selling the quaintest of curios made of sea-shells and wood.
The shoreline is bedizened with shops selling geegaws like mirrors, necklaces, bracelets, conch necklaces, flower pots, tchotchkes & gimcracks ―all made of sea shells. You’d in a few minutes become a seasoned mudlark, scouring for fascinating things!
Do not miss some of the most beautiful, silken sarees (not silk) sold at throwaway prices here! You’d end up buying an additional bag to accommodate sarees!
24. Cauvery, Karnataka
With a chain of shops dotting not only the whole of Karnataka, from Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore, Hubli, but also India’s metropolitan cities, Cauvery is an art-lover’s haven.
What’s in Store-On display are exquisitely carved bronze statues, some colossal and some tiny. Bidri work owing to the name ‘Bidar’ in Karnataka, are figurines in ebony, which come to life when the burnished metal sparkles with tints of silvery designs.
Sandalwood figurines, key-chains, pens, sandal beauty packs, Mysore sandal soaps, Sandalwood incense sticks, attars et al are other attractions.
Delicate Bidri work
These Black Beauties embellished with silver or zinc take the form of lithe vases, urns, elephants, or jewelry boxes. Exorbitant though, there are mementos to suit every budget and every home!
Cauvery also has a display of Mysore Silk Sarees with gold brocades.
25. Anjuna Flea Market, Goa
While every Goan beach has its own flea market, the one at Anjuna offers the whole of India in a platter! Given the influx of foreigners, clever artisans have consolidated their place here!
What’s in Store– From paper lanterns, blue pottery, oxidized jewelry, scarves & stoles, block-print blocks, stone baubles, silver jewelry, multi-colored stone-necklaces (the locals claim those are fished from the sea), coconut-shell jewelry, vases stuck with pretty seashells, bling jewelry, mirror-work, kitsch novelties, skirts and wrap-around garments, totes and umbrellas, embroidered tuffets and, T-shirts bearing icons of Go,a glut the place. You’d have little time for sun, sand and sea!
Don’t forget Mario Miranda’s works! Ceramic plates and tiles filled with doodles double up as mementos.
26. Roerich Art Gallery, Naggar, Himachal Pradesh
At Naggar Castle, Kullu, you’ve a gallery showcasing a collection of paintings done by the Russian artist Nicolas Roerich.
What’s in Store-I’d say his paintings are a mirror image of Himachal Pradesh in its entirety. Take a pick from snow-clad peaks, pines and village belles, & much more.
27.Sobha Singh’s Art Gallery, Andretta, Palumpur, Himachal Pradesh
The beauty and the salubrious climes of the hills have made artists, writers & poets out of ordinary men. Or perhaps it is here where most artists and poets have chosen to put down roots.
Andretta, around 11 km from Palampur in Himachal Pradesh houses a collection of Sobha Singh’s works. His muse being hilly belles, the beauty of a Gaddi woman has been well captured by this artist ―the most famous being the portrait of ‘Sohni Mahiwal’.
28.OP Tak’s Humble Home, Himachal Pradesh
En route to Dharamshala from Palampur, is the home of artist OP Tak. The locals will guide you there. Strewn within, are pretty Pahadi paintings of patricians, beasts and birds. The intricacy of tiny leaves and flowers on canvas only betokens his artistic deftness. His paintings have also graced the halls of many a five star hotel.
During our trip some years ago, we were lucky to meet up with the artist, who showed us his several masterpieces.
29. Manali Mall Road, Himachal Pradesh
Strolling along Manali Mall, you’d come across all things pretty. But a special mention needs to be made- what you find in Manali may not be found in other areas of Himachal Pradesh. So, if you fancy something, buy immediately!!
What’s in Store-Pretty hand-embroidered (aari work) Kashmiri Kurtis, sarees, stone jewelry, woolens, silver jewelry, Kullu shawls, Kullu caps with traditional Kullu designs.
A Kullu Jacket bought from Kullu Factory, Himachal Pradesh
Amateur artists selling their paintings of the valley on patches of wooden barks are not to be missed.
Also, Aree work sarees are not limited to Kashmir alone. Manali Mall Road & many shops in Himachal Pradesh have a lovely collection of Aree work sarees & kurtis. I bought mine from here. A teal green with pink, yellow & orange aree work had me arrested & apart from its uniqueness, the sheer warmth of draping it, makes me feel so good☺️☺️☺️
30. Kotwali Bazar, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh
What’s in Store-8 lucky charms, vibrant carpets, Thangkas, prayer wheels, Tara busts etc. Kangra Art Gallery displaying Kangra Paintings is a must visit.
31. Central Market, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This is the place to be, if visiting Kuala Lumpur. Chinatown & Station Central in KL are good but nothing to beat Central Market. During my week’s stay in KL, I must’ve visited the place thrice, and had ended up buying a huge totebag to fill in my purchase with!
Numerous shops designing batik work on fabric, dot KL and you must visit one to see the process of getting the batik designed.
This girl here, willingly obliged to pose for a snap, as I captured her skills.
32. Beryl’s Chocolate Kingdom, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Treat your sweet tooth to delicious chocolates made here. They come in assortments of sorts, ―fashioned in queer shapes, with nuts & dry fruits and caramel coverings. These sinful delights make for apt gifts too.
33. Chinatown, Singapore
You must allot one whole day. This one is verily the shopaholic’s haven. This is the place where you can haggle & the place that has the showpieces, the ‘antiques’, paintings & everything you can take home for your near & dear ones.
It has everything to suit every purse & the place is so lively & colourful, that it has the power to make you fall in love with it all over again.
Apart from cosmetics, this place stocks Chinese herbs and potions along with incense sticks, joss sticks, antique urns, Chinese lanterns, CD’s, bronze statues, et al.
The weirdest thing I found there were herbs made of tiger’s hmm…what shall I say….mighty organ!! Feng Shui objects, dragon and fu dogs also find a place here. One thing am sure will find its way back home is the majestic Merlion!
I cannot proceed without mentioning the honesty of some of its shopkeepers. The shop at the farther end & close to Marriamman Temple had a display of lovely floral tops, which I’ve always loved. What I found attractive didn’t fit me & those that fitted me, were not to my liking. I must’ve spent more than 30 minutes & was about to zero in on one, when the lady at the counter told me to go for it only I were fully satisfied.“I unthersthand ith may not fith you & if you alther ith, the beauthy of the dthress goes. You can thake your thime & choose; no hurry. You could thry in other shops also, mam.” (Note: Some Southeast Asians prefer dropping the T sound in favor of ‘th’😉
Unlike other snappy shopkeepers who dislike reluctant customers who merely hover around without heading for the counter, this lady was very thoughtful & hence this mention. May her tribe increase!
Do go through my post on Singapore also.
34. Mustafa Market, Singapore
Despite the several malls in Singapore, Mustafa has been the favorite especially among Indians and a shopping spree here will not disappoint you.
What’s in Store –Different levels within house an array of wares ranging from everyday needs, designer clothes, sarees, gold jewelry, perfumes, cutlery, souvenirs and the famous Tiger Balm!!
In some shops unlike in other Singapore malls, you can haggle too. When you get weary, lick your fingers at some of the Indian restaurants outside!
Shopping experience in Bali can be thrilling, given the deluge of handicrafts, souvenirs, curios & Batik 🥰. Most tourist attractions flaunt their display but if you wish to shop at leisure or compare cost, then Ubud Market is your best bet.
Bali’s wood work vies for attention with its silverware & art display. Its batik work can be found in masks & sarongs. The most famous objet d’ art being Rama & Sita, you’d most certainly buy one set.
Mas near Ubud, has shops displaying its marvellous furniture & colossi. But Ubud Market is where you get tiny treens.
The home-stay where we stayed while we were at Ubud-Kailash Homestay, own a shop with an astounding collection of furniture, showpieces & centerpieces that range from tiny treens to those colossal in proportion!
An emporium in Kuta
Celuk near Ubud has its streets lined with silvers shops but its backyards boast of skilled artisans & jewellers who may offer you good discounts.
If you do not wish to splurge on silver, then Ubud’s marketplace is lined with open shops that sell kitsch fancy trinkets, baubles and bijouteries, which are equally pretty & glamorous.
This granny’s wares are sure to arrest your attention-in fact you’d surely fill your palms with as much as you can pick!
In South Bali, every lane in Seminyak is lined with life-size busts of the Buddha, Ganesha & other mythological deities.
Touristy places like Tanah Lot & Tirta Empul have a spread of groovy stuff like handicrafts, souvenirs, gimcracks & trinkets.
As is the case in any Himalayan Kingdom, Bhutan too boasts of Buddha busts, statuesque statues of the Tara, singing bowls, prayer wheels, Thangka paintings, et al. Yet, what you’d usually not find in other Himalayan Kingdoms are the ‘look-alike’ phalluses! Don’t shy away from taking a dekko at http://www.tra-verse.com/to-bhutan-in-search-of-happiness/
Bhutan’s Chimi Lhakhang Monastery, whose piece de resistance is the phallus, finds its miniature (not necessary) ‘look alike’ in all shops selling handicrafts. Chimi Lhakhang, also known as the ‘Fertility Temple’, attracts childless couples, who visit to obtain blessings. These totems come in different sizes & you can take your pick to suit your fancy! From key chains to those that are conspicuous, you can choose what suits your purse.
Cream based perfumes seem to be unique to Punakha; at least I didn’t find these anywhere else in Bhutan. As Chimi Lhakhang falls in the district of Punakha, its masterpiece forms the leitmotif in shops of Punakha, Thimphu, Paro & Phuntsholing as well.
ABC (Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazar), Thimphu
The best place to shop in Bhutan is certainly the ABC or Authentic Bhutanese Crafts Bazar, Thimphu.
From Bhutanese fridge magnets with the thunder dragons to souvenirs of the royalty, wood work, stoles, to wall-hangings etc. the ABC stocks everything. Another pretty collectible is the silver brooch studded with turquoise or other semi-precious stones. These double up as jewelry & are used by women to hold their garments together & are found in shops across the country.
As soon as you converge to Paro’s center, signboards with ‘Zambhala’, ‘Dorji’, ‘White Lotus’, ‘Druk Handicrafts’ & the like, begin to appear. There’re countless shops selling Himalayan incense sticks, scrimshaws & beautifully carved brass busts of the Tara and the Buddha.
Paro’s shops also stock China silk fabrics, which you can purchase in bulk or in meters & stitch a pattern to suit your frame or fancy. These silky satin fabrics come in pastel hues as well as in bright colors with endless knots or one of the ‘Ashtamangalas’ or 8 lucky signs embossed on them. You’d also find cheongsams in bright reds and gold.
Right at the base of the Tiger’s Nest are vendors selling their wares under a roof. Beaded necklaces, evil-eye pendants et al are commonplace here & usually, this seems to be the best place for kitsch collectibles, which in fact look very pretty & are also affordable.
Upon my driver’s suggestion, I bought a few keepsakes from an old lady who sold souvenirs by the Paro riverside, at giveaway prices. Cotton bags & purses in Bhutanese designs, table clocks with the 8 lucky symbols or the Punakha Dzong are some of the things she sold.
Many opine that it’s in Paro where one finds goods at a cheaper price. However, if starting your journey in Phuntsholing, do walk around the market place. That way you can compare the price & if returning to Phuntsholing, you can still make those purchases you couldn’t in other places. Also, this allows you to travel light to other destinations, as Phuntsholing is the border district.
Tshela Handicrafts, Phuntsholing (above), has a very exotic & exhaustive collection of souvenirs & knickknacks.
Chilies & Cheese
It’s not uncommon to find rooftops in bright red. The locals especially farmers dry these on their rooftops. Bhutanese red chilies are known for their distinct flavor & my friends, who picked them in kilos, vouched for their distinctive spiciness in pickles, which they later made.
Those white cubes, which the women pluck off the strings that dangle from shop roofs, are nothing but yak cheese! These make for tasty tidbits that you could munch on the way or take home with. Dried apple peels are packed in grams & these also make for delicious mincemeat.
Akin to the gho & kira patterns of Bhutan, are cotton materials being sold at Jaigaon market just outside Phuntsholing. With a little bit of creativity, you could transform these into a fashionable ensemble.
A Note to Readers
Taking home a slice of where one has been is an integral part of traveling. And flea-markets form a very important part of an itinerary, where you’d get the most authentic designs and motifs of the place.
With the incursion of malls and the easy availability of convenient goods, demand for handloom & handicraft and native merchandise has reduced considerably. But the beauty of native crafts is matchless and cottage industry still forms a disk in the backbone of any economy. Why shop in malls while visiting exotic locales, when we can patronize the local artisan?