Last week B’s friend K came into town and they had a great time catching up and comparing past travels and adventures. As they chatted, B mentioned an infamous massage event that she, S and I experienced in Bali. K’s eyes grew wide and she exclaimed, “You too?” It turns out that all of us experienced the same type of spa treatment–one that will never be forgotten. If it happened to us, and it happened to K, I figure it might happen to a few more unsuspecting Janes and perhaps a warning is in order. So here’s what went down and might possibly happen to you if you sign up for a massage in Bali.
As you all know, B and I like to do a lot of research before we visit a destination and when we were looking at things to do in Indonesia, spa packages came up frequently. After digging a little further, we found a spa that would pamper us like queens for hours and provide lunch and fruit drinks, all for the bargain price of 510,000 rupiah. (Around $50 with the exchange rate back then!) Crazy deal, huh? So, we contacted Eve Spa Bali and reserved three slots for the Spa Package 1.
Bali Spa Day
When we arrived around 10 in the morning, we were told that there were two rooms. So one of us would have a room to our self and the other two would share a room. S and B drew the short straw and went into the room where two massage tables were set up, along with one big stone bath tub (more on that later). I entered my private room and from this point on, the three of us experienced parallel paths of the following treatments. (S and B each had their own lady.)
I hadn’t had many massages prior to this excursion, but B assured me that I just needed to disrobe to the point where I was comfortable and the massage person would respect my modesty and adjust the massage to my comfort level. Well, that is not at all what went down. My spa experience began with my lady handing over a teensy plastic bag containing disposable underwear and walking out of the room. (Ditto for S & B).) Since we are all roll-with-it-kind of gals, we underwear-ed up and got our massage on. If the massage was awkward, that was nothing compared to what was coming…
Next on the agenda was a full body sugar scrub. And yes, I mean full body. This part of the treatment involved the lady rubbing a coarse scrub into the skin to exfoliate the dead cells. It felt nice and scratchy in places like the legs and arms, but in other areas it was very strange to be manhandled by a stranger. It got really weird next…
Being as we were covered in a sticky sugar substance, we had to get clean, right? At this point our ladies gestured to the shower. (Did I mention these ladies didn’t speak English? Communication was based on pointing and nodding.) Over we went to the shower and while standing there, the lady first rinsed the sugar off and then proceeded to rub yogurt all over us. Everywhere that the tiny disposable underwear wasn’t covering. Everywhere.
Soaking in the Tub
I was then directed to the stone bathtub full of hot water and petals of flowers. It was quite beautiful, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on with my friends next door. Surely they each got their own bath tub, right? Well, nope. S and B were enjoying a romantic soak in an over-sized stone bathtub. (Pause typing while I laugh just thinking about it!) They told me it was fortunate that there were loads of flower petals they could strategically place… It was around lunchtime at this point, so our ladies brought us menus and while we soaked they ran next door to a restaurant to pick us up some food, which we then ate in the bath tub.
After the bath treatment, we were allowed to get dressed and head back out to the main spa area. We sat down at chairs like you’d find in a hair salon and our ladies coated our hair with some pasty substance that I’m sure had to have just been mashed up exotic fruits. You’d probably pay a fortune for a bottle of it here in the U.S.
While our hair soaked up nutrients, we got manicures and pedicures. Usually I love a good pedi, but to be quite honest, at this point in the day I was over being pampered. I just wanted them to paint my nails and get on down the road. We were going on hour five at the spa, and all the relaxing was exhausting!
Finally, we were painted, primped, perfumed and were able to walk out of the spa and into the humidity. My hair immediately turned frizzy and we were covered in sweat by the time we walked back to our lodging. Oh well.
A few days later, we were in another town and the power went out. Since we couldn’t do anything else, we decided to hit up the spa! S and I were dubious of a repeat massage performance so instead went with reflexology on our feet. For some reason, we still hadn’t learned our lesson about how things are done a little differently in Bali than they are in the U.S. Instead of a relaxing foot massage, S and I were both in crazy amounts of pain as they squeezed and pulled with no mercy.
B said her massage was similar to the other one. Luckily, it was pitch black because the three of us were lined up in a row on tables–S and I grimacing in pain and B sunny side up for all the world to see, had their been lights. B’s friend K also got two massages in Bali and had nearly the same experience.
There are many takeaways from this little story about spa treatments in Bali:
- Lesson Number One: do your research before you commit to something. We thought we had, but there certainly wasn’t anything describing what we experienced on the interwebs. Hopefully, someone will read this before they purchase the Spa Package 1 and be able to make an informed decision.
- Lesson Number Two: do not assume things are going to happen the same way you have experienced them before. Why would a Balinese massage be the same as a Swedish massage or hot rock massage? Making assumptions is dangerous business. Side note: K did say that on other trips she is sure to book a Swedish massage and this has always been much more aligned with the type of massages we experience in the U.S.
- Lesson Number Three: go with the flow. Sure, this experience was super awkward, and with respect to the reflexology, super painful. But you know what? I still crack up every time I think about it. The purpose of adventures is to try new things out. So what fun is it to stay inside your comfort zone when you are in a new place? If all else fails, it will make an excellent story when it is over.