During three weeks in Bali, I got five massages, two facials, two hair treatments, two pedicures and one manicure for a grand total of 12 spa treatments. I think I may have spent $200, which would cover at most two spa treatments back in NYC. Some were just what you’d expect… others were a shock to my system. Here’s the quick guide to the best and the weirdest treatments in Bali.
Hair Cream Bath
Since ONEWORLD’s schedule already called for two massages during 5 days at Kumara Sakti, I filled the time between yoga and eating with a pedicure, facial and a hair treatment. My room was literally two steps from the spa, so I had little choice but to succumb.
I thought perhaps my hair could use a little TLC, so I went with the traditional Balinese Hair Cream Bath. First, you start with a basic hair shampoo and head massage. After your hair is squeaky clean, the therapist slathers goop made from coconut, hibiscus and aloe vera all over, then massages it into your scalp for half an hour or so. After that, you get plopped under the steamer to let it all soak in. It’s glorious, and my hair was oh.so.shiny afterward.
The Balinese full body massage involves long kneading pressure that can be adjusted according to your preference. I like medium to hard, depending on how tense I am. I don’t always need someone poking me in the ribs with an elbow, or yanking my leg over my head, like Thai massage. The actual massage isn’t the best part of the experience – it’s the fact that an hour will run you about $5-$10 at a no-frills salon in Seminyak. One could also get a massage even cheaper on the beach; there are women marching from one end to the other offering cheap manicures, pedicures and whatnot. However, once one of them gets you to agree to a treatment, five more come over to hawk their wares as well… bracelets, foot rubs, watches. Cheap? Yes. But you get what you pay for, and that means zero relaxation.
Tip: It’s probably cheaper to fly to Bali from Australia for a massage than to actually go to a spa in Sydney. True story.
Ayurveda Chakra Dhara
ONEWORLD’s spa treatment specialty is the Ayurveda Chakra Dhara massage, or as I like to call it, The Crazy Chakra Dakra. I was one of the last in the group to get this curious spa treatment, so I spent the first few days watching everyone’s bewildered reactions as they came out of the spa. Mostly folks just said, “It was interesting.” I also was advised to “just go with it.” So I showed up for the 2.5 hour spa treatment with little idea of what to expect. Luckily by that point, I’d acclimated to the fact that the Balinese masseuses don’t give a hoot about modesty. There’s no delicate covering up the bits and pieces, if you know what I mean.
The spa treatment involves hot hot oil being poured onto your so-called chakras – or energy points – all over your body and at the end, on your forehead. Chakra Dhara is supposed to balance your energies, remove toxins and relax you from head to toe. I found myself a little confused at first, and a little bored at times, and a little jumpy from the hot oil and my massive bike accident bruises, but after it was over, the therapist had to practically lift me off of the massage table. I don’t know anything about my chakras and whatnot being balanced, but I was definitely relaxed.
While walking in Ubud one day with my new friends from ONEWORLD, we passed a fish spa. What’s a fish spa? It’s where you stick your feet in an aquarium full of little fishies and they nibble the dead skin off of your toes. I’m actually gagging just thinking about it. There will be no dipping of my toes in a communal fish tank. The idea of fish going back and forth from my delicate, immaculately cared for foot to some skeezy, dirty, infected tourist’s foot like some sort of all-you-can-eat skin buffet is just too icky! (That said, I would have done it just for the video footage if I’d had time.)
The zaniest spa treatment I had in Bali was at Prana Spa, one of the highlights of the Surf Goddess Retreat experience that I’ll share later. Prana Spa is a luxurious hideaway that reminded me of both Bollywood and Moulin Rouge. Surf Goddesses have three options – Rejuvenate, Glow or Bliss. I don’t remember which one I chose, but I’ll never forget what I ended up with!
First, my masseuse exfoliated me from top to bottom with coffee-scented scrub, then I was hosed off with the vichy shower. (I know so many people who adore the vichy shower, but I always feel like I’m going to drown.) I smelled like a Starbucks, but it really was invigorating.
In keeping with the complete nonchalance about top-half nudity in Bali, I was then led into the shower room next door wearing just my spa-provided underpants (that looked like a cloth shower cap with leg holes). Believe it or not, that wasn’t even my least dignified moment of the spa treatment…
I stood in the shower while my masseuse painted me in seaweed. Let me say that again – she painted my entire body with green, gooey seaweed mixture. I felt (and kinda smelled) like a very uncomfortable sushi roll. Can I just get your opinion, reader? What am I supposed to do while being painted in green goo? Where do you look? It’s kinda a weird time to make eye contact and chat about the weather, but it’s also painfully awkward to stand there in silence.
After I sufficiently looked and smelled like a swamp monster, my therapist ducked out and came back with a whole roll of plastic wrap. What the what? If I didn’t look like a takeout order before, I certainly did after she wrapped my thighs, arms and torso. But I wasn’t refrigerated after that, oh no. I went straight to the steam room where I cooked for about 20 minutes.
After the grocery store body treatments, I capped it off with another Balinese massage, and you know what? It was the best one I had in my whole 3 weeks. Well done, Prana!