Dessy is a spa receptionist at Taksu, in central Ubud. It’s a glamorous, but demanding, job in one of Bali’s more upmarket health and wellness spas. She travels to work from her home in Banjar Yeh Tengah, near Payangan, where her mother Manayu runs her own small warung.
“I can’t cook at all,” Dessy tells. “I helped out originally at home as a waitress, and my first serious job in Ubud was as a waitress at Taksu. Soon I was offered the reception position, and I’ve been in that role since 2012.”
“In the beginning it was quite difficult. A busy day here can involve 30 or 40 clients, and you have to look after them from start to finish, greeting them, helping them select a treatment and matching them to a therapist, then finalizing the service and making sure they are completely satisfied. And the phone is always ringing too!”
“But I settled in and really came to love it. It’s a great chance to practice English as well as little bits of other languages, and every day I meet interesting people who come here from all over the world.”
“What interests me the most I think is that our most popular treatment is our Traditional Balinese massage. People come to Bali, and they want something typically Balinese. So that makes sense.”
Similarly, Manayu’s warung, which has no formal name, attracts young local people from all over the region who come for Manayu’s legendary dishes such as rujak – her signature dish which attracts long lines of customers out the door at meal times – and gado gado (recipe at the end of this article!)
“Everything she makes, she makes with her own hands,” Dessy explains. They are all her own recipes, and everything is so tasty – that’s why it’s so popular. The same customers come back all the time. And, she’s open every day of the year unless it’s a ceremony or she’s sick from being so sibuk!”
Manayu wears no makeup and dresses practically for her work, but she loves to see her daughter – who is a self-confessed nail polish addict – dressed up for work or special occasions.
“She loves to see me in my makeup and with my hair done. And I trust her judgement completely – when she tells me I look beautiful I feel confident. If she doesn’t approve, she tells me so – and I change clothes straight away!”