My first foray into a day spa was more confronting than I would have liked. It was many years ago, when spas were just starting to pop up around Bali. It was not like today where spas are everywhere, and groups of young women try to coax you in for a treatment. This particular spa was in Ubud. I don’t remember the name of it, other than it was down a narrow lane off Monkey Forest Rd. I’d picked up a flyer a few days before with a pricelist, so booked in for 3 hours of pampering. From memory, it cost about $20.
After I presented myself to reception, I was shown to a changing room and told to strip down to nothing & don the batik robe supplied. I was given a woven basket to store my clothes and handbag. The robe was ridiculously small – modelled for the Japanese tourist trade, I suspect. It did not wrap around me entirely – a good portion of me was spilling out through the gaping front. Lordy! I had to walk into my treatment room holding my breath, with my basket clutched to my chest for decency.
A sarong was held up to shield me as I removed the robe, & draped across my body. I lay down on a comfy padded massage table in a dim three-sided room overlooking a walled cobbled courtyard garden. Greenery abounded, as it tends to in Bali. A high stone wall enclosed the courtyard, with large shards of glass embedded haphazardly along the top. Above the wall I could see a glimpse of smooth thin trunks from coconut palms. Balinese music was playing in the background.
After sniffing the massage oils, I chose a citrusy smelling one. I had a Balinese massage. The massage lady, whom I will call Wayan, was very careful to preserve my dignity by moving the sarong so some of me was more accessible, but my lady bits remained covered. When lying on my stomach, she straddled me to massage my back.
This was followed by a yoghurt treatment. I hate yoghurt. It tastes off to me. I’m not keen on the sour smell of it either. Whilst basting in cool white goo like a Thanksgiving turkey, I happily watched Wayan fill a humungous freestanding marble bathtub with water, adding a dazzling display of coloured hibiscus & frangipani flowers, so I knew what was coming next! A flower bath. Ohhh, I love me a bath!
Whoa, wait a minute! Wayan was trying to shoo me into the courtyard. I was expected to get up and go and rinse off under an outdoor shower, sneakily hidden in an earthenware pot in the wall of the courtyard garden. I say sneakily because I had no idea it was there & thus no time to ease myself into the idea of showering naked in the open. Hello, I’m naked, people! I mistakenly thought I was going to take two steps from the table to the bath behind the cover of the sarong! No, I have to shower out into the open – visible to any Tom, Dick or Ketut who might happen to be up a palm tree picking coconuts. Kill me now.
As I got off the massage table, Wayan tried to wrestle the only thing between me & complete nudity from my person! I clutched that sarong to me for dear life, but though she was tiny, she had the strength of WCW’s Mario Milano and managed not only to whip my material protection from my white knuckled hands but had the impudence to shoo me towards the sneakily hidden outdoor shower as if I was a naughty child. And she stood watching to see if I could manage to turn on the tap on my own!
I’d love to say I glided over to the shower, but I know I waddled. In self-conscious mortification. The cobblestones were hot. I was terrifyingly aware of every cellulitic yoghurt-y wobble, the sun shining on my never been seen in the sunshine lady bits, bitterly regretting my cowardice in not getting a Brazilian or at least a wax before my trip. OMG – I have never been starkers in front of a stranger, not since I left the womb & took my first breath! Not reassured by the glass-topped high wall, I was able to do a quick reconnaissance of the surrounding trees for perving coconut pickers, a hysterical scream choked back on standby, just in case.
And the water was cold. Of course it was. Whilst showering, Wicked Wayan (as she will now be known) pottered around the room, tidying up. So I showered with no privacy whatsoever, pondering the false sense of security I had cunningly been lulled into by that careful placement of the sarong during my treatment.
I probably stood under that damn shower until I was a prune, as I was unsure of the protocol once I turned off the water. Do I just ‘casually’ walk back into the room pretending that I’m not at all butt naked & dripping water all over the floor? I had no towel. What do I do? When I summoned the guts to turn off the sneakily hidden shower, Wicked Wayan waved me towards the awaiting flower bath. Almost emitting a small tidal wave, I bolted over to it & leapt into it, sinking own up to my neck, grateful that the addition of my body into the bath raised the water level to within an inch of the rim. The flowers were now floating around violently but effectively shielded me from view. Wicked Wayan decided it was a good time to leave the room while I soaked. Hallelujah!
The bath was huge. I’m not very tall. I had to hang onto the rim to avoid slipping underwater. Not terribly relaxing. I could not help noticing that there was a wire stand full of big fluffy towels, naturally they were out of reach from the bath. Wicked Wayan is bound to come back in just before I manage to grab a towel. And sure enough, I got sprung. Dammit, is there no end to my humiliation? Spectators may have mistaken my embarrassed full body blush for a recently exfoliated glow.
Wicked Wayan had returned with a steaming glass of ginger tea, when in fact all I wanted was a tall something heavily alcoholic & keep ’em coming! I was back in my gaping gown, perched on a chair sipping my tea. Actually the tea was delicious. My hair was a dog’s breakfast, however. There was no mirror in the room so I had to guess where my part was & comb my wet hair blindly. How great a job I did was not revealed until I returned to my hotel room later on. Oh dear! I was out in public with that hair! I finished my tea. Relaxed I was not. Rejuvenated? Hmm, no. Honestly, I could not wait to get out of there.
But wait….I have a manicure & pedicure to come. Luckily I could dress before being escorted to a room upstairs, well away from Wicked Wayan’s chamber of horrors. It has been a long time since I’d had a manicure. The young girl tending to me was very good & I enjoyed the hand massage & foot soak. I was a bit of a challenge for the poor girl though. My feet are ticklish, so I was constantly pulling away as she filed. She found it highly amusing. I chose a lovely shade of pink for my toes. The last half hour did relax me, so I got a glimpse of how a spa experience might be enjoyable. Only a glimpse, mind you. The whole experience was enough to put me off having another spa treatment for years. Years!