AHHH, A SPA
Whether it's a total fix for the mind, body and spirit, or simply the desire for some quick-fix seren-
ity, lots of travellers in Bali are spending hours and days being massaged, scrubbed, perfumed,
pampered, bathed and blissed-out. Sometimes this happens on the beach or in a garden, other
times you'll find yourself in lavish surroundings.
Every upmarket hotel worth its stars has spa facilities (which are generally open to nonguests)
offering health, beauty and relaxation treatments. Day spas are also common, particularly in Ubud
(p181), Kuta (p103) and Seminyak (p104). The cost can be anything from a 20,000Rp beach rub
to a multihour sybaritic soak for US$100 or more. However in general the costs are quite low
compared with other parts of the world and the Balinese have just the right cultural background
and disposition to enhance the serenity.
Massage and herbal body scrubs have an important place in Balinese family life. From birth,
parents massage their children, and as soon as children are able it's normal for them to recipro-
cate. Anyone with an ailment receives a specially formulated scrub, and men provide and receive
massage as much as women. The Balinese massage techniques of stretching, long strokes, skin
rolling and palm and thumb pressure result in a lowering of tension, improved blood flow and
circulation, and an all-over feeling of calm.
So what can you expect in a spa? It's usually a three-stage process - the massage, the scrub
and the soak. Therapists are often female, although top-end spas may have male therapists. Many
massage rooms are also set up with two massage beds, so you can have a massage alongside
your partner or friend.
A basic therapeutic massage is a one-hour, top-to-toe, deep-tissue massage to relax the muscles,
tone the skin and eliminate stress, while aromatherapy massages feature a choice of essential
oils, such as ginger, nutmeg, coconut and sandalwood. Commonly offered massage options
include Shiatsu, Thai and Swedish massage and reflexology (concentrating on pressure points of
the feet). For something special, the 'four-hands' massage, where two therapists will treat you,
is also an option at many spas.
Based on traditional herbal treatments, popular spa options include the mandi rempah (spice
bath) and the mandi susu (milk bath). The mandi rempah begins with a massage, followed by
a body scrub with a paste made from assorted spices, and ending with a herbal-and-spice hot
bath. The mandi susu begins with a massage, followed by a herbal scrub and a milk-and-yogurt
body mask. The treatment ends with a soak in a milk bath.
The most popular treatment though, is the Javanese mandi lulur body scrub. Based on the
centuries-old Javanese palace ritual, the mandi lulur takes almost two hours but it feels longer as
all sense of time is lost during the deep-tissue massage (ask for strong treatment if you dare). The
massage is followed by a full body rub made from a vibrant yellow paste of turmeric, sandalwood
and rice powder. This is allowed to dry and then gently rubbed off, exfoliating and polishing the
skin. Next, a mixture of yogurt and honey is smoothed on, to moisturise and feed the skin and
restore the perfect pH balance. After a quick rinsing shower, the highlight follows - a long and
lovely bath in fragrant essential oils amid pale, floating frangipani petals. Refreshing hot ginger
tea is normally served during the calming recovery time following the bath, when you'll feel so
good you'll be dreamily planning another two hours of luxurious bliss.
all over the south. Costs for the various mechanized marvels can quickly add
up to US$20 an hour or more. Just swimming off the beach is free.
For watery adventures after an island voyage, try one of the party boats
making daily excursions to Nusa Lembongan (p148) and Nusa Penida
(p153). There you have a full range of water sports based aboard a barge
that often looks like something from the Kevin Costner dud Waterworld . It's