They always start with “Hellooo, how are you?”, spoken in a high-pitched voice, followed by the inevitable “Would you like a massaaage? Manicure?” Every ten meters along the beach in Kuta, every fifty in Sanur, ladies offering these local luxuries.
Tourism, Education and Agriculture are the three declared pillars of Bali’s economy, and while we’ve seen little Education, and some Agriculture, there’s a ton of people trying to make some money off Tourism. Massage, manicure, pedicure would be the most common. Surfing lessons at the Western beaches come second, sunbeds, cold drinks, “coco”—fresh coconuts, and obviously in some areas, drugs.
If they see you walking along the street, every single taxi will honk at you, slow down and offer you a ride. And every scooter rental service will ask you if you need one. Hats! Shoes! Henna tattoos! Sunglasses! Even if you have a pair right on your nose. None of them are particularly persistent in their pitches, thankfully, but staying positive becomes difficult after we already said “no” for fifty or so times.
While we politely declined the offering of drugs from a guy, who’s card said “Magical Mushroom”, Milena did want a massage, as she’s very fond of those (whereas I’m completely immune to the wonders of this kind of leisure). The first day we went to the beach she immediately went for one.
She was gone for a good hour and a half, maybe two. Once she returned it turned out the ladies upsold her manicure and pedicure, along with the massage, which more than doubled the price. Lest anyone think massage would be a tranquil, relaxing session, this was four Balinese women squeezing away at her simultaneously, in a rather amateurish fashion, all whilst continuing a conversation.
They were surprised that I wasn’t Milena’s “boyfriend” but husband, even more so when she said she’s in her thirties. Perhaps because all of them were around their forty mark, but looked closer to sixty.
Lesson learned. No massage from randomly acquainted ladies at the beach.