Schoolies in Bali taking a gamble for cheap tatts
Exclusive: Aussie schoolies are putting themselves at risk by getting inked in dirty and dingy Bali nightclubs - for as little as $20.
Trestle tables with bean bags on filthy concrete floors were the disturbing backdrops to the tattoo sessions witnessed by News Corp Australia on the holiday island week.
And in a sight that would shock most parents, some school leavers had their everlasting art punctured into their flesh on the sand at Canggu's Batu Bolong beach while their friends looked on.
Others opted for traditional parlours - but they are not without their own problems.
Infections have in the past been linked to Indonesian tattoo workshop, using substandard inks.
As many as 5000 graduates are expected to make the Bali partying pilgrimage this year. Queenslanders arrived last week and have now handed the baton to New South Wales and Victoria students.
Schoolie Vanessa Whitaker, 17 of New South Wales's Hunter Valley, paid just $20 for a tiny image of the sun tattooed on her hip in a hastily assembled set-up on the rooftop of a Kuta 'super club'.
"It feels like I'm having my skin ripped open," Vanessa told News Corp of her experience.
Four glassy-eyed girls, also from the Hunter Valley, queued to have the same tattoo as an enduring reminder of their holiday.
Behind the ear for 18-year-old Tahmia Kisink, who said that it 'only takes five minutes' while being encouraged by her friends.
Another teen opted for a chest tattoo.
Three of the girls rejected the idea, including Natalie O'Brien who looked at her friends with a reserved expression tinged with horror.
Deeper in Kuta the upscale Australian-owned tattoo studio Celebrity Ink bucks the trend, priding itself on its international health, medical and ink standards.
It offers schoolies tat packages with a $40 discount, which brings the minimum price to $80 for simple lines.
"We are strict with the schoolies. We will not give them artwork on their hands or face. We
will not give them tattoos anywhere that cannot be covered," said owner Dane Herden.
Schoolie Sam Nicholson from Forster on the NSW north coast had some serious ink plastered on his thigh and a smaller South Sydney Rabbitohs' logo on his arm.
"My grandad played for the Rabbitohs so I got one on my arm," he said.
The pushbike riding fish is a tribute to the 18-year-old's younger years.
"I live by the ocean and I used to ride my bike everywhere. I used to smoke a bit too," hesaid.
Also in the chairs at Celebrity Ink were Melbourne girls Tessa Dillon and Molly McCormack who had a discreet zodiac tat symbol and grandfather's birth date, respectively.
"I love it and I've wanted it for ages - like six months. I had to wait until I was 18. It's special because it's my pops birthday and it's on our trip to Bali," Molly said.
One of their group Teagan Shakar appeared immune to the idea.
"My mum said not to come home with a tattoo. I'm not even 100 per cent sure that I want one," she said.
The fact that 30 per cent of young Australians regret having permanent art on the bodies, particularly names of lovers, does little to deter the devoted.
Indiannah Barton, 18 of Brisbane, is in the process of laser removing a tattoo that she had at age 15 on a student exchange in the United States.
The bunch of lavender inked on her chest is slowly being lasered off.
"I like the tattoo since lavender were my gran's favourite flower, but I was pressured into having it on my chest and I'm having it lasered off in Australia," Indiannah said.
Nonetheless Indiannah used her Balinese trip to have a cosmically coloured Kiwi bird imprinted on her foot with the Maori proverb "Kia Kaha" - be brave - to honour her Maori stepfather. It cost $150.
Her friend Amy Fry, from Brisbane, went for a $130 butterfly that would have cost closer to $300 in Brisbane.
"I'm broke and it's cheap over here to get a tattoo," Amy said. Indiannah's 'moolie' mum Kerrilyn Smith said she was happy with the decision as her daughter had put a lot of thought into the design.
"My older daughter had a proverb tattoo in Bali on her schoolies that was not even spelt correctly. God had a lower-case G, so as a Catholic teacher I was not happy about that," she said.