Offering remedies and therapies based on traditional treatments passed down through generations, the island of Bali, in the space of just a decade, has emerged as one of the newest and hottest spa destinations in all of Southeast Asia.
People have increasingly become aware of the therapeutic benefits of Balinese-style massages, facials and body treatments, which have created high demand for Balinese massage therapists all over the world. It seems that everywhere you go you’ll find Balinese working in hotel spas and on cruise ships.
Bali has in fact created its own genre of spas, each incorporating a beauty salon where facials, cream baths, hair treatments, manicures and pedicures are dispensed by smooth professionals who are known for their natural openness and the caring way in which their gentle personalities are transmitted through their hands.
Realizing that they are a powerful lure for affluent tourists, a growing number of Bali’s upmarket hotels have opened their own spas or have invited corporate spa operators to build facilities on their properties. No five-star hotel on the island would now ever consider opening without an exclusive spa.
Scenting a burgeoning new industry, new standalone private spas seem to pop up every week along southern Bali’s Jl. Bypass Ngurah Rai heading into Nusa Dua, Bali’s ‘Spa Alley’. But out of all of Bali’s tourist destinations, none has seen such a remarkable proliferation of spas than the popular Ubud area nestled in the verdant hills of south central Bali, a world-renowned art colony since the 1930s.
The interior decor of spas can be opulent, cutting-edge contemporary, incorporate Middle Eastern décor, embody an almost Zen-like simplicity or exemplify the Balinese ‘rustic-charm’ with traditional design. Furnishings are made of natural, handcrafted materials. Homemade glass bottles and ceramic jars contain oils and perfumes. Special ergonomic chairs, outdoor showers, Jacuzzis, spring-fed cold water plunge pools, kidney-shaped swimming pools, commodious sunken bathtubs, fragrant bouquets and scattered frangipani blossoms are ever-present accoutrements of the tropical spa.
With their open-air pavilions, koi pools, fountains and serene courtyards blended into lush tropical gardens, where immaculately attired and mannerly attendants pamper you and the constant sound of rippling water in your ears, it’s an experience in which you become totally immersed, one which transports the participant inexorably to a higher state of mind, to another dimension.
Inside a Balinese Spa
Qualities that make a Balinese spa stand out are—simply put—staff teamwork and the quality of the products. Asian spas are famous for using natural and traditional products and procedures, while Western spas sometimes use more gadgets and chemicals. Make sure your spa uses the purest and highest quality oils; there are a lot of synthetic oils out there which are cheaper but can be harmful to the skin. A recent trend is that many health-conscious spas, such as Ayana, are making their own organic beauty products.
Often there is not only a spa but also a beauty salon where facials, 3-D nail art, cream baths, hair and skin care, body scrubs, manicures and pedicures and thalassotherapy treatments are expertly dispensed. Treatments are given names like “Bali Sunrise,” “Harmony,” “The Spice Island,” etc. Individual sound systems play soothing New Age or World music. Changing rooms, lockers and safety deposit boxes are all available, as well as quiet lounging areas where guests may relax between treatments.
Most spas not only offer massage rooms for individuals but whole suites, some filling an area of up to 100-square-metres and fitted out with bathtubs the size of small swimming pools, where couples or small groups are doted upon. Spa menus may include Balinese and Indonesian massages, as well as Indian Ayurvedic treatments. During or after sessions, guests are served herbal tea or jamu (natural herbal medicine) and a light, wholesome, low-cholesterol lunch in the spa’s cafe or restaurant. Included in every spa package is free transport.
The following are a selection of distinctive Bali-based treatments and therapies that are on offer in virtually every spa on Bali.
Aromatherapy: A technique in which essential oils, blended with natural plant-based oils, are used in treating conditions. Oils range from patchouli and ylang-ylang, to lavender and canaga.
Ayurvedic: Meaning “science of life,” this holistic science of preventative healthcare was founded in India over 5,000 years ago – the world’s oldest healing system. Ayurveda works to correct body imbalances using oils, herbs and pressure techniques based on an individual’s dosha (physical type).
Reflexology: A treatment that applies a stimulating massage of the pressure points on the feet which helps balance energy, disperse built-up toxins, relieve stress and relax the body.
Facials: Using fresh Indonesian herbs, spices and dried tropical fruits and vegetables such as corn, fresh cucumber or carrot, a mask or scrub is applied. Facials deeply cleanse, rejuvenate, refine and tauten the skin.
Hair treatments: Re-establishes the healthy balance of hair and scalp in accordance with the individual’s hair structure with the application of cooling leaf shampoos, moisturizers and emulsions. The cream bath is the most widespread hair treatment used, giving the hair the sheen that Balinese women are renowned for. It has been called “a passionate head massage that can take your breath away”.
Selected Top Rung Spas
Hotel Tugu Bali, Canggu
Waroeng Djamoe Spa’s authentic treatments are derived from old Indonesian healing arts. Tugu’s signature Keraton Leha-Leha is a head-to-toe pampering combining Javanese massage, spice rub and luxurious milk bath in an intimate alfresco treatment hut.
Ph: +62 361 4731 701 ¦ www.tuguhotels.com/hotels/bali/book-a-spa
Prana Spa, Seminyak
One of Bali’s largest spas, owned by Australian painter Jim Elliott. The Shirodhara Ayurvedic therapy is the specialty in this spa where Indian Palace architecture is synthesized with Moroccan rustic simplicity.
Ph: +62 361 730 840 ¦ http://pranaspabali.com
Kupu Kupu Barong Tree Spa, Ubud
The Spa by L’Occitane’s grand herbarium is the resource of hundreds of essential oils and natural ingredients. Treatments are inspired by techniques and traditions from all around the world.
Ph: +62 361 975 478 ¦ http://www.kupubarongubud.com
No gizmos or fads, just highly experienced doctors administering affordable, effective and proven non-surgical treatments for skin quality and rejuvenation: RF microneedling for skin tightening, Diamond Microdermabrasion, high frequency mesotherapy, Dermapen, PRP and fat blasting.
Ph: +62 811 3882240 ¦ http://cocoonmedicalspa.com
This luxury resort’s spa is stunningly located facing the Indian Ocean. Known for their anti-oxidant Lava Me Tender; Anti-Aging Treatment and Diamond Miracle that involves diamonds, silk, pearls and champagne and costs Rp.11,900,000 for twin use. Ayana’s Thalasso Spa boasts one of the world’s largest Aquatonic Seawater Therapy Pools.
Ph: +62 361 702222¦ http://ayanaresort.com
Spa Alila, Ubud
Trained in anatomical physiology, massage and meditation, Alila therapists combine the latest organic nutrition and health knowledge with warm, genuine care that flows from the heart to stimulate, balance and relax the mind and body.
Ph: +62 361 975 963¦ http://www.alilahotels.com/ubud/spa-alila