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The Braiding Bunch

Women Providing Manicures and Braiding Services on Kuta Beach Involved in a Daily Struggle to Survive

(12/14/2012) DenPost has provided a glimpse at the lives of the woman who work along Bali’s Kuta Beach offering manicures and hair braiding to island visitors.

Unlike drink sales people who adopt individual sales areas - each removed in distance from other drink sellers, the women proving hair braiding and manicures tend to congregate with other women working in the same field. Typically attired in shirts and long trousers, the women wear large hats to shield them from the intense tropical sun.

On of the manicurists cum hair braiders is Suyasih (43) who says her income has declined when compared to one decade ago. In fact, when interviewed she has not had not a single customer in the past three days. “It’s different from 2008 when in a single day I could get 5 to 10 clients, each paying between Rp. 25,000 to Rp. 50,000 (US$2.60 to US$5.40),” explained the woman, who originally hails from the village of Kaba-Kaba near Tabanan.

But there are still a number of tourists who come to Kuta beach seeking Suyasih’s services in providing a manicure or braiding hair. Customers with long hair are, according to the woman, a major source of business.

Still, those providing such services say that since the Bali Bombing of 2003 and the global financial crisis, those visiting the beach have diminished. As a result, Suyasih spends many days only staring at the surf and the tourists who come to the beach. From time to time, she assists friends selling trinkets and accessories. The mother of three adds, “If I’m tired or lazy, I just sit under a tree talking to my friends.”

A similar story is told by Artini form Singaraja in North Bali who also does nails and braids hair on Kuta beach. She, too, says the number of people coming to the beach seeking her services is on the decline, causing her to shift her market focus to domestic tourists. In a single day she will serve one or two domestic tourists with her hair braiding skills. During holiday periods or on weekends she will receive about four customers each day. “Now foreign tourists – mainly from Europe, are less interested in hair braiding. She explained that hair braiding is also subject to trends and tastes.

When asked about her tariff, Artini admitted that her price varies depending on whether the customer is a foreign or domestic tourist. Her normal price is from Rp. 25,000 to Rp. 50,000, but local customers generally insist on paying no more than Rp. 20,000 (US$2). “Rather than have no work at all, I am forced to accept the lower price,” said Artini.

Meanwhile, a tourist from Jakarta, Rita, said a manicure and hair braiding session on the beach serve to complement a short Bali holiday. Saying, “The price is not very expensive when compared to that charged by salons.”

Yet, there are other tourists who disagree. They complain that the women promoting their “beach salon” services are overbearing and aggressive, diminishing the enjoyment of a visit to the beachside.

One tourist complained: “I come her to have a holiday, I want to enjoy the beach and rest with my wife and children. But (these woman) force their services on you. If you say ‘no’ they should understand, but they continue to harass and chase you.”