At Awarta Resort’s stand-out spa, Katie Truman discovers that pots are not just used for merely cooking (as anyone worth their salt would know).
SUMPTUOUS Awarta Nusa Dua Luxury Villas & Spa stands out among Bali’s mass of villas for its distinctive Peranakan-inspired culture and art, proudly showcased throughout the award-winning boutique property.
Their inherent ‘Peranakan’ heritage – a merge of Indonesian, Chinese, Malay and European historic influences – is visibly evident everywhere, from the palatial 14 pool villas to super-refined facilities that include Thevana Spa. In similar vein to Awarta’s lavishly decorated villas, Thevana Spa resembles more an uber-elegant mansion than a spa; the seven treatment rooms and public spaces richly furnished in solid wood furnishings typical of the Peranakan style, with predominately Chinese leanings, including antiquities and art works bearing Chinese characters.
Even the curated spa menu is infused with Peranakan-influences, offering an array of traditional therapies and treatments originating from mainly China, Bali and Java and Malaysia – some rare to find on the island. Although there are tempting beautifying offerings, like Kemiri (candlenut) Body Scrub and Boreh Bengkung, a traditional herbal anti-cellulite wrap, facials using premium Swiss products and salon-style mani-pedis and hair treatments, most of Thevana’s menu focuses on traditional, medicinal treatments and therapies with in-house, freshly prepared ingredients – including made-to-order scrubs and foot bath rituals – for therapeutic healing and restoring. Highlights cover massages, like the Tungku Batu, using heated lava stones and an ancient healing massage using a warmed herbal poultice or a Javanese Experience ritual, featuring indigenous Javanese herbal steam, Lulur scrub and body massage.
And pre-treatment, be sure to try out the Kneipp Therapy room: walking through two contrasting shallow foot pools, one icy cold and one hot, for 15-minutes is said to increase vitality, boost blood circulation and the immune system, plus reduce the effects of stress and jetlag.
Thevana Spa has however two signature treatments that thoroughly epitomize the spa’s essence – and won’t be found elsewhere on the island. Peranakan Heritage (IDR3,500,000 for couples) is a divine, two-and-a-half-hour ritual bringing together a handful of centuries-old treatments and therapies inspired by Peranakan traditions, using freshly prepared herbs and spices typically found in a “Nyonya” kitchen. Urut melayu incorporates Balinese, Thai and Swedish firm massage techniques, especially on more troublesome areas, to ease muscle tensions and the scrumptious Malay Lulur scrub, made from ground nutmeg, turmeric, cloves, lemongrass and cinnamon blended with rice powder and warmed olive oil, thoroughly exfoliates the skin and stimulates blood circulation. A Chinese medicinal and cleansing herbal bath, traditionally saved for a Chinese New Year ritual but far too beneficial for an annual sampling, promotes robust good health and positive energy – the Jacuzzi tub filled with an aromatic infusion of lime slices, green tea, lemon verbena, pandanus leaves and lemongrass sticks – finishing-up with a warmed facial compress filled with organic green tea and sesame seeds for a face glowing with health.
My favourite treatment however – and an authentic stand-out – is Pot Garam (IDR999,000) a sublime, nay, unusual, medicinal salt therapy, highly beneficial for improved circulation and treating through-the-roof stress levels and built-up body toxins the natural way. The star of this ninety-minute therapy is eight terracotta clay miniature pots, each crammed with medicinal coarse and purest salt and natural herbs and spices that number pandanus leaves, cinnamon and cloves, plus limes. Pot Garam is Malay and Thai-inspired, but also references traditional Chinese wellness practices of steamed herbal compresses or steam infusions to inhale.
Once heated up (on a Teppanyaki-style tray in the treatment room), these little pots of goodness are then applied in three stages, starting off as a sensationally soothing, deep tissue massage, then compress-style concentrating on problematic areas and finally, standing for several minutes on key points – along the spine, upper back, legs and palms of hands – with both the heat and salt and herbs medicinal qualities seeping through the clay and absorbed into the skin. This ritual is seamlessly intertwined with a full body massage, my insanely skilled therapist using continuous Balinese-style, long firm strokes and pressure combined with a herbal massage oil, reflecting the nature of this treatment.
Combined in unison, Pot Garam delivers instant relief to tired-out bodies, releasing tensions in the shoulders and lower back muscles with toxins and stresses literally melting away. Heat-based therapies are always highly beneficial, but unlike the similar hot stone massage, these handmade terracotta pots retain heat longer than stones, besides simultaneously administering the therapeutic salt and herbal concoction. And naturally, this is far less brutal and obtrusive (no tell-tale marks) than another heat treatment and die-hard celebrity fave, ancient Chinese cupping.
By the time you partake in fresh tropical fruits and ginger tea in the impossibly elegant Tea Lounge, you’ll already start feeling Pot Garam’s beneficial effects kicking in; the entire body plunged into a profoundly relaxed, calm state and by the day’s end, hard to keep your eyes open and a guaranteed restful night’s sleep. And those benefits you’re not so much aware of, rest assured, will last a lot longer.