The Tat Story


If you believe – like I do – that nature by her signs tells you what’s right and wrong, you’ll also believe that there’s a tattoo that’s meant to be. On last Wednesday Stephen Lomax, the boss of the theatre, proudly showed me a new full color tattoo of a big cross on his left chest. “My friend, Komang, did the work,” he said. Three days later, Komang did a beautiful phoenix tattoo on my back.


In my earlier post I wrote that all Indonesian tattoo artists are these dark-skinned, morose, cigarette junkies with tattoos of various kinds adorning their skins. Komang is fair skinned, shy, (not seen smoking while I was there for 2.5 hours), and tattoo-free. “I can’t bear the pain,” he said.

Despite the ‘guy’ stink that comes from his shirt, I found Komang impressive. Not just because he made time for me (knowing that I was Stephen’s friend), turning down a request of an Australian couple who paid him a visit for a tattoo. The mid-thirty guy holds a diploma in Visual Art and is a gifted illustrator. Prior to that day, I spoke to him over the phone that I didn’t want my phoenix to be like those images generated by Google when you typed ‘phoenix tattoo’, or a phoenix that looked like a rooster. Then he made three designs for me to choose from. I instantly knew the one in the bottom was mine.

Komang’s studio “Mega Tattoo” is located behind Matahari Kuta Square, Kuta, Bali. Even if it’s somehow true that many tattoo studios in Kuta are annoyingly commercial (money first, art second), well, Komang is definitely an exception! (He even used two different needles on me to create certain effects – both were new, of course!)

Paksindra – Phoenix

It’s got to be a phoenix for me. I was ‘dead’ once or twice in this life, so to speak, and a phoenix bird is a mythological creature that symbolizes revival. I feel a strong connection with this creature, spiritually speaking.

The other reason is very dear to me. My daughter has a middle name ‘Paksindra’ and there’s a spiritual story behind it. A few weeks before I found out that I was pregnant, a bird came to our place and stayed in our room for about ten days. The bird’s tail was featherless. I fed her (or him) with rice every day, and on the tenth day when she flew out and never came back, she got her tail feathers back. Months after that, when I was obviously baby bumped, a spiritual friend told us to give our daughter ‘Paksindra’ – bird from heaven – as her middle name. Paksindra. That phoenix is also a symbol of my love to my daughter.

Some tattoo advice

My 13-year old was ecstatic when I told her about my new tat. “I want to make one when I’m older,” she said. “Does it hurt?” Oh, yes! I said. But if you’ve given birth before, this is nothing.

What else should I tell you if you want to make a tattoo?

  • Pick a design wisely. Don’t make a tat of a boyfriend’s name. Not even a husband’s. You’ll never know. A son or daughter’s name is different. But it’s your body and your life, so the choice is yours. One thing, whatever it is, the tattoo speaks something about you.
  • You can ask Google to direct you to lists of tattoo artists or designs for inspiration, and they can be really good, too. But the sense that something’s done right is quite a different story. I met Komang via Stephen. And the design was especially made for me. I am happy with the result.
  • Think about where to put your tattoo on your body. If you don’t work in a company that requires a certain degree of uniformity, throw this advice into the bin.
  • If you think your religion/mom/in-laws will fight against the idea…. Well, you certainly know what to do.


The Monkey King and I were not meant to be… ~ A Walk in Ubud

Lionk the Tattoo Master: Vicky Burki also has an appointment with me.
Three Dumb Girls (Us): Hehehe… (and who’s Vicky Burki, again?)

Sunday. Five business cards in hand today mean five new contacts. More or less. My neighbor Sherly introduced me to her new colleague, Dwi – a hip and pretty girl, a manager in a five star resort in Ungasan Bali.We exchanged business cards in a business-like manner. But after five seconds, we threw that attitude out of the window. Three of us headed to Ubud. Dwi drove. Sherly navigated. I trusted my life in them.

The second business card was from Lada Warung on Jalan Hanoman. Sherly and I had a brunch in the small restaurant with the tagline “Indonesian Home Cooking.” A pretty cool place with a couple of wall ornaments you can use as picture backgrounds. Dwi was fasting, so she took a walk along the strip of small shops nearby. But before that, we asked the waiter to take pictures of us. Typical.

The third, fourth, and fifth business cards came from three different tattoo artists. Sherly and I were determined to make our first tats. So, before we came to Ubud we browsed on the Internet with keywords ‘ubud tattoo’ or ‘tattoo in ubud’. First, why Ubud? Why not Kuta? Because Ubud is ‘Apple’ and Kuta is ‘Microsoft’, in taste and ambiance. Only that making tattoo in Ubud is generally less expensive than in the highly commercial Kuta. Second, continuing the google search, when you enter the keywords, you will find out that this guy named Lionk (originally I Putu Nuarsa) ranked top of the search engine. Some blogs from some happy costumers even backlink his website.

We met the dark-skinned tattoo master (a useless description indeed, because ALL Indonesian tattoo artists are dark skinned. Somewhat sulky. Heavy smokers), but we didn’t manage to win his time. When we got there Lionk was only minutes from finishing his artwork on the arm of an American girl. We saw how refined his work was. His sophisticated design was patched on the happy costumer’s skin beautifully. I realized instantly that my simplistic taoist design looked amateurish and a master like him should have no business with it. I saved my pride with the fact that Lionk’s schedule was tight that day. At least that was what he said. Maybe he was just reluctant. Ok, Lionk, I promise I will come back to you with an ultra sophisticated design that is worth your mastery and mood!

Because one door was closed today, we went to other doors. On Jalan Monkey Forest, turning left from Jalan Hanoman, we and the thing we wanted finally matched. Not quite ‘The Monkey King’, but still ‘monkeys with experience’. There’s time and place for every thing. And Japanese kanji that says ‘creativity’ now lies on the side of my left lower arm.