Having had a splurge dinner on Nusa Lembongan, what better way to follow up than a splurge spa visit? Batu Karang Lembongan Resort and Day Spa is one of the island’s higher-end spots to stay or to go for a massage, so expectations for a visit here were high. I called in advance and couldn’t get in the same day; a good sign, I thought, as I booked for the following day instead.
“Do you have a booking?” the woman behind the resort’s reception desk asked sharply when I told her I was looking for the day spa. Hello to you too!
“Where are you staying?” she interrogated. Call me sensitive, but I’d rather someone asked my name in order to identify me, but hey, maybe it is much simpler than spelling out the more complicated foreign names.
A much friendlier staff member escorted me to the golf buggy that whisks guests around at the 23-room resort clinging to a steep hillface. The views of Mount Agung and the east coast of Bali from around the resort are breathtaking. I couldn’t see a room as they were full due to a wedding being held nearby.
In I scooted to the spa, an oasis of green velour, incense and hushed silence. The “welcome drink” advertised in the brochures and described as a “cleansing tea” in the main menu at the spa turned out to be “chilled water”. And the “soothing foot bath” involved putting my feet into a “too-small-for-Western-feet tub filled with cold water” for a quick dip. Hmmm. So far, not so good.
My friendly-enough therapist directed me to the change-room, told me to pop my bag into the locker, put on disposable knickers and sarong, and meet her outside. The quality of the facilities here are solid: small but spotlessly clean toilet and rainfall shower with shampoo, conditioner and soap in Krisbow dispensers (when will spas learn to get the brand labels off stuff?), brushes and combs, hair dryer and lotion for later.
And ditto for the massage room: a good massage table had a soft head rest to use while facing down, peering down into a bowl festooned with frangipani, tiny red flowers and green leaves. Downlighting set the mood pleasantly, and the piped music was a mix of gamelan, sitar and spa-hippy-dippy stuff. Unfortunately though, once inside the room you wouldn’t know where in the world you were, let alone the fact that a fantastic view is right outside. (Perhaps the spa just looks directly onto guest rooms, in which case: what bad design!) The curtains — pretty organza-like things that they were — block out any view at all.
As I eased onto the table, the therapist explained I’d have a massage for an hour, then my Balinese lulur scrub. And the treatment would begin and end with a “gong”, a kind of small xylophone that she whacked a couple of times in a, shall we say, less than spiritual way.
The massage was far better than a beach massage, but nowhere near as lovely as a Jari Menari one. It was a touch pokey, a touch desultory — the therapist just wasn’t really into it. Having said that, I did get lulled into such a relaxed state I drifted off pleasantly. Massage over, the therapist asked whether everything was okay. The room temperature had actually dropped to sub-arctic, so I asked for the temperature to be turned up. Then the therapist slapped on the scrub cream, which had of course frozen to the temperature of the room. Ah, the sweet revenge of bored therapists.
The cream was left to dry before being sloughed off. No demure towel was laid over breast when I rolled onto my back, though the therapist did check whether I wanted my stomach done. So don’t be shy!
Still only semi-defrosted, I looked forward, kind of desperately, to the piping hot shower to come. Alas, scrubbed, sloughed, smoothed and finally sent back to the bathroom, the shower could only generously be described as lukewarm. It’s one way of getting the punters out of there quicksmart, I suppose.
“How was that hot water?” the therapist asked as I got back onto the table, ready for the final moisturising treatment. “Um, well, it wasn’t hot. It was a bit cold, actually,” I told her. “Yes!” she giggled and agreed.
As the treatment drew to a close, the therapist whacked the xylophone perfunctorily again then informed me it was over. She asked me, a little impatiently, whether I wanted tea. Why not just bring it? Why make me feel like I’m imposing? I said no, anyway. “Will you pay cash or credit?” Jeez Louise, I wasn’t even off the massage bed.
Back at the spa reception I was handed a bill and told to pay down at the main reception — a golf buggy would come to collect me. I glanced at the bill, which had a big space for TIP, though the full menu explicitly asks you to not tip your therapist (there’s a 21% tax and service charge, plus another surcharge tacked on for paying by credit). The grand total: 598,000 rupiah (listed price, 480,000 rupiah). Still cheap, certainly, by international standards and compared to flash hotels on Bali. Just by comparison: Jari Menari doesn’t offer a scrub, but their thoughtful massages are 300,000 for 75 minutes.
So in summary: if you’re not on a tight budget and not expecting five-star polish but want something better than a beach massage, you might enjoy a treatment here. If you’re watching your money however and hoping for something special, I’d suggest perhaps passing here and waiting till you are back in Bali for a splurge elsewhere. (And if you can’t afford that splurge meal either — just as fantastic in its own way is Warung Bamboo.)
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