Spa Magazine Worldwide Guide – Winter/Spring 2007
When we first stepped into the Bodyworks courtyard in Ubud, Bali, I felt I was in for something extraordinary. The surrounding stone buildings were 15th century replicas rife with tropical plants and flowing fountains. We were led upstairs by a lovely Balinese woman in a sarong to a treatment room on the top floor that was shuttered but not sealed off from the entrancing Balinese sounds– birds, wind chimes, children, and hypnotic gamelan music. Plus, I was with Clementine, a beautiful French yogi with whom I collided for six weeks. We came for the ultimate couples indulgence, the famed Javanese Lulur treatment. It was a parting ritual. She was leaving the next afternoon.
Javanese Lulur is known as Indonesia’s traditional royal body treatment. It was developed in the Yokyakarta palace in central Java, at one time the center of Hindu culture on the islands, and designed for princess brides to soften and sweeten their skin, and make it glow. For 40 days prior to the wedding ceremony, the pampering regiment of a Javanese princess was something like this: skin scrub, yoghurt rub, massage, floral-infused bath, repeat. When a bloody battle with Muslims pushed the Javanese Hindus to Bali, the island inherited much of this ritualistic culture based on harmony, and gradually, beauty rituals, once confined to the elite, trickled down.
Clementine and I lay side by side, occasionally catching one another’s eye, as we indulged in sensual overload. We were scrubbed with a spicy, sweet turmeric and rice blend. The rice peeled away sun-dried skin and the turmeric, which is a basis for much of Jamu – Indonesia’s beauty and healing system, gives the skin a certain glow. Afterwards we were washed with hot water then cool yoghurt was rubbed over every inch of us, soothing us in the afternoon heat. A firm Balinese massage left us limp, and two-hours later we collapsed into a hot bath infused with jasmine and frangipani blossoms. Neither of us said a word. We simply relaxed into one another, naked, thankfully absorbing our last moments together in sweet, sweet Bali.