Manicures on Bali: One Girl's Life - My Family Travels

On Bali in Indonesia, Phuket in Thailand, throughout Hawai’i, dozens of Caribbean Islands, and on most beaches frequented by tourists, children help support families by plaiting or braiding hair, selling trinkets or offering personal services. Anna’s story can be heard over and over the world round — if you take the time to listen.

“Here on the beach, she does pedicures,” Anna says, pointing to one of a few women sitting nearby. “She plaits hair, and her–she does massage. We each do different things so there’s no fighting for customers. I do manicures.

“I file first, then push back the cuticles, pick up the dry skin, apply nail polish, and finally add flowers.” When asked about the price she charges for her service, Anna responds, ” ‘It’s up to you,’ I’ll say, ‘How about $100? No, can’t do it for $10. How much do you want to pay?’

“I won’t work in a shop; here on the beach in Kuta this tree is my shop. It’s good business. Five years ago, things were different. I was selling manicures, woodcarvings, flowers, everything. But I have a boss now, a government man, who I must pay taxes to every month to keep my license.

“I am from Kintamani,” Anna continues. “From the mountains I came to Kuta by bemo. I have manicured here for six years, every day, from 10 to 6 o’clock. Sometimes I have only one customer in a day. Most of the tourists are from Australia, New Zealand, or America. And I get some Japanese. I love their money–they pay with Yen. I can change it at the bank without a problem.

“The Balinese people sometimes come to the beach to get their nails done at special times, like Galungan, which is like the Balinese Christmas. I give them a special discount.

“I don’t like people to take my picture. I’m shy, like the monkeys in the Sangeh Monkey Forest,” she laughs. ” But if the tourists are friendly, I like them. If they come to Bali as snobs, I don’t. When I ask if you want a manicure and a girl says ‘No, go away!’ it’s not nice.

“Tourist girls say it’s too expensive to get a manicure in Europe, where they don’t even clean or polish, just color. The Europeans pay me good money. Actually, boys usually pay a little more than the girls–maybe 20% more, and they just want a cut and polish.

Sometimes there are very handsome men, very sexy. But I like the spunky boys, the ones from Australia and — sometimes — America. Some boys say, ‘Anna, come to my hotel and do my nails,’ but I can’t do that. I’m only selling manicures. Here in Bali we don’t behave like that, and I’m glad.

“My sarong is from Bali, but my ball cap was given to my by an Australian girl. She has come here five times, and she brings me the colored nail polish to paint flowers like a mawar or hibiscus. I learned the technique from a Japanese girl who came with a manicure from Japan, and I copied what I saw. In America they don’t do it like this. They just use little stickers,” Anna says, shaking her head and laughing.

“My flowers will last weeks, and you’ll look at them, and remember me.”

Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.