Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

by Janice Nieder, Dining Diva

I don’t know about you, but I really can’t stand January. All those depressing “has-been” Christmas trees littering the sidewalks, that pervasive feeling of guilt that comes from having already broken most, if not all, of your New Year’s resolutions, and the only thing left from all that holiday cheer is an unwelcome extra ten pounds. Which leads us into the one good thing January has to offer, and that is: SPA SPECIALS!

This is the perfect time to get all buffed and pampered and get down for some serious T.L.C. Remember that state-of-bliss feeling after a good old-fashioned Swedish massage, that rush of energy after a session of reflexology has unblocked your chi, or the unbelievably baby–butt soft new skin that’s revealed after a rejuvenating body-scrub?

No one delivers the goods like the holy trinity of spas: Canyon Ranch (www.canyonranch.com), Golden Door (www.goldendoor.com), or Rancho La Puerta (www.rancholapuerta.com), but OHMYGAWD are they expensive! With basic vanilla-shell massages starting around $150 +++, my muscles would knot up again the second I saw the bill.

But if you’re willing to go off- the-beaten track…ok, waaaay off the beaten track, there are some incredibly affordable far-out destination spas that are just begging to be explored. Think Bali! Some of my favorite spa getaway spots here have an added bonus: chances are you won’t bump into another American the whole time!

Ubud, Bali

Granted it’s a long flight but once you get there…“whadda deal!” You can stay in one of the ritzy spa hotels there such as the Four Seasons Resorts, www.fourseasons.com, or the Amandari, www.amanresorts.com, for far less than in the states, but it still won’t be cheap.

Or, with a little creativity, picking from Column A and Column B, you can put together your own incredible spa package and still have enough money left to pay off some of those Christmas bills. Here’s how I did it:

Can you keep a secret?

Taman Rahasia (www.balisecretgarden.com) means “secret garden,” and their tag line, “A little jewel of a hotel where we do everything with an extra measure of care and personal attention,” is right on the mark. This boutique resort and spa is a steal at $60+ a night including breakfast, (which can be brought to your bed at a designated wake-up time) and one of eight elegantly appointed rooms hidden is a lush tropical garden with cascading rock waterfalls, towering coconut palms and a kaleidoscope of Balinese flowers—true paradise.

I fell in love with my huge private outdoor bathroom featuring a sunken tub and a shower built into the natural stone wall sprouting jungle orchids. When one answered nature’s call it was to the accompaniment of the calls of nature—at night I’d soak in my tub serenaded by the sounds of crickets, frogs, birds, cows, pigs, roosters, further lulled by the heavy sweet smell of hibiscus, bougainvillea, jasmine and water lilies.

Although they also had a lovely spa, I preferred to choose from the almost 31 flavors of spas in town. Everyday I’d select a new spa and a new treatment, which provided the day’s excitement.

One of Ubud’s most popular spiritual spas is the Bodyworks Center (www.ubudbodyworkscentre.com) founded by master masseur and healer, Ketut Arsana. Fans include Donna Karan, the Wrigleys, and Mr. Guinness of “Book of Records,” so you must reserve months ahead for the “pricey” $45 master-massage.

Since I hadn’t planned ahead, I was relegated to one of his specially trained assistants—for a lesser price—and I was NOT a fan. A rather soulless, cursory, 60 minute massage in a noisy room where I could not relax due to all the street noise left me cold.

The next day I tried the Zen Bali Spa (www.zenbalispa.com), which also came highly recommended. Two hours later I emerged in a truly altered state after receiving the Mandi Lulur, a traditional body massage followed by a scrub with turmeric, sandalwood and rice powder, an exfoliating yoghurt rub to rid me of all my toxins, ending with a leisure soak in a sunken tub filled with fresh flower blossoms. I felt like Queen Nefertiti- for-a-day. The cost: Rp.115,000. (Unbelievably only about $12.00!)

Next on the list was La Diva, located on JL Raya Hanoman St, No 59, where I tried some beautifying treatments. The place looks like the movie set from Steel Magnolias, complete with the old hooded hair dryers. However, I could forgive the lack of charm since a competently trained girl gave me a professional 60 minute facial, followed by a shampoo, head, neck and shoulder massage, deep-heating scalp treatment for dry hair, blow-dry, style and hand massage for a total of $13.00.

As good as this was, it turns out that I had saved the best for last. On my way to La Diva, I had passed a brand new spa, Bali Healing, on JL Raya Hanoman St # 43, that was handing out flyers to promote their grand opening. I promised that I would try them the next day, and am I glad I kept my word! I was only going to have a ½ hour reflexology treatment, but my girl’s hands (her name is Wayon Srix) were so magical that after two minutes I begged her for an additional hour massage.

Donna K. doesn’t know what she’s missing. Complimentary ginger tea and fresh fruit kabobs were brought to me with the bill. It was only after I paid the $7 (total for both) that I saw they also offered a Hot Stone Massage for $7 (which I had always wanted to try but since it costs about $200 at home I never had).

Next time I’m trying this as well as Spa Pertenin’s (www.pertenin.com) anti-cellulite massage using Phytomer products for only $35.00, or if I’m there during a rainy night I’d love to try Sedona Spa’s offer: an hour massage given to you in your hotel room for $11.00, phone (0361) 975770. I’m sure to have sweet dreams after that.

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