Aug 20 2011
Let’s be honest: attending a writers festival is hard work, and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival is no different. If you’re not pouring over your schedule trying to juggle your panels with your lunches, you’re busy actually attending a session, sitting in a possibly plastic chair for hours on end, listening, pondering, asking questions, thinking… You deserve a break after all that, right?
Enter: escaping to an Ubud spa for an hour or two, either — scandalous — during the festival or in the days leading up to it or afterwards.
Two of our favourite budget spots are Bodyworks and Spa Hati. You can certainly go cheaper than these two — during my most recent visit to Ubud I passed a streetfront “spa” offering an hour-long full body massage for 40,000 rupiah, a foot massage for 30,000 or a cut and shampoo for 20,000. And you can certainly bust out the plastic for real indulgence at somewhere like L’Occitane’s Mango Tree (which is stunning, but a real splurge). The former two, we reckon, are a happy medium: affordable but good.
Bodyworks has been around since 1987 (and is unrelated to Bodyworks in Seminyak). It’s a bit of a healing centre — people with ailments can go directly to Ketut Arsana, the founder, for a proper treatment, but you can also just go because you need a bit of a treat.
The centre is set in a traditional Balinese family compound, filled with various treatment rooms, and other little spots, like an open-air bale with a few gamelan instruments set up, lending an authentic, old-school feel to the place. No air-con, no fuss, and no frills, other than a frangipani or two on the treatment bed and some simple unobtrusive music, accompanied by a few roosters crowing in the distance and the reassuring grunts of someone else getting massaged on the other side of the rattan-like wall.
On our most recent visit we had a one-hour deep tissue massage in one of the third-level rooms, which was priced at 175,000 rupiah plus 10% tax). While we were expecting just a one-size-fits-all rub down, it was a really thoughtful, intense massage by a therapist who really knew her stuff — a completely different experience from some others that charge a lot more, I might add. It was a unique style, with some focus both around the butt/hips and the area where the shoulder blades meet the rib cage — I loved it and the therapist really worked out some tough spots. Some oil is used — you make your selection from scents such as sandalwood, jasmine and lavender, and while the quality isn’t top shelf, it’s not cloying, as cheap oils can sometimes be.
The menu is on their website, but you’ll have to call to check the latest prices.
Our second favourite is Spa Hati, which is a bit of a hike away from Ubud’s main area — maybe a kilometre or so from the market, but it’s not too pleasant in the heat so you might want to use transport to get here (and arrange for a pick-up).
Spa Hati is a commercial enterprise, but it operates within the Hati Foundation — profits are ploughed back into the foundation, which aims to improve the quality of life of the Balinese by providing education and employment-related courses, among a slew of other worthy work that you can read about here. I know, it means a guilt-free treatment for you! Does it get any better?
On our most recent mission here we had the hour-long “ancient rituals facial” (155,000 rupiah). Though the bulk of the treatment rooms are in a longhouse-style pretty cement building, the facial was done in the pretty Zen-like standalone room above, looking out into a green area. The treatment included a thorough facial, finished off with a cool fresh cucumber mask, as well as a very good oil shoulder and arm massage.
There’s a whole range of packages on offer (check their website), with the manicures and pedicures done in a pretty little pavilion that opens out on to paddy in the distance.
It’s crucial to book both places in advance — they are popular, and with good reason — but just ask your hotel to do it for you, both spas are pretty well known.
Jalan Raya Andong 14, Ubud
T: (0361)977 578
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