I have always been drawn to the idea of Bali; removed from reality, Bali was less of a place than a state of mind for me – an imagined sanctuary or a meditative calm. Expectations which may never be fulfilled, or so I thought.
I stayed at the Ayana Jimbaran for my first visit. Over the Easter break, I was told occupancy in our resort reached 100%, and yet I found tranquility within the large grounds (about 77 acres, to be precise). My motivation for picking this resort? Very simply, it boasted an award-winning spa. While I am no professional spa critic, I do have fairly high standards and can be pedantic when it comes to things like towels (not fluffy enough) and in-house products (could be improved by using natural ingredients – it smelt a little too chemical-ly). These are hardly reasons to denigrate Thermes Marins though, as it was perfect in every other way.
Starting with its surroundings: lush tropical plants in giant pots flanked the path towards the reception and offered privacy in each of the outdoor gazebos, which doubled as waiting areas. I was not the only guest who felt compelled to stretch myself out on the loungers. ‘Tranquilized’ is a word that comes to mind. The heat, though not oppressive under the shade of trees, made any movement difficult and frankly a little redundant. The service was quietly professional albeit a little languid. Still, it was difficult to find fault: I could barely sit upright and I’d only been in the waiting area for less than 30 minutes. There appeared to be some mix up with our online reservation, so it would be a good idea to check with the front desk if you are staying at the Ayana, or get your hotel concierge to ring ahead.
It took all my fading strength to be led on a path, through a secret garden to my own private massage suite. I think I gasped at the sheer beauty of the treatment room – high ceilings, with its own bath and outdoor sitting area surrounded by a mélange of brightly coloured tropical flowers. Little touches like a bowl of water with floating flowers placed under the massage table right where you would be able to see it if you were lying on your front had me sighing with pleasure.
While never quite attaining enlightenment, I suspect I came close. I remember clearly how I felt when the massage ended: a pang of regret, a sense of wonderment, a deeper connection with my surroundings. The firm, practiced strokes of my masseuse had me drifting in and out of consciousness. Under consistent, reassuring pressure, my stresses and strains were gently pummeled into oblivion. It was the initiation of a lifetime to the traditional Balinese massage and I was, irrevocably, a fan.
There are few places that can meet the expectations of your imagination. I can say with certainty this was one of them. Thermes Marins offers a huge range of treatments, including thalassotherapy in one of the world’s largest Aquatonic pools. Unfortunately this was not on the agenda for me but there will most definitely be a next time. For the lucky few who can afford the lavish “Spa on the Rocks”, perched atop a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean, paradise comes at a steep USD625 per person, based on two sharing. Add champagne to the mix and you pretty much have the pampering of a lifetime (with a bill to match). For the lighter of pocket, the spa treatments within the grounds are equally sensational and come highly recommended by this beauty reporter.