When Your ‘Ultimate Spa Package’ is Ultimately Shit
As I scooted to Ubud for the first time, a lush village tucked away in Bali’s mountains, visions of green smoothies, monkey forests, rice paddies and serene pleasure spas filled my mind. These spas, I hoped, would set me on the path to finally “finding myself” – whatever that means.
But losing my Ubud virginity was, well, a lot like losing my actual virginity. That is to say, it was disappointing and shame inducing, with a lingering feeling of dirtiness that wouldn’t scrub off. That last part isn’t a metaphor.
With wrinkly feet from a day of trekking through monsoonal jungle, I could think of nothing better than a fresh coat of shellac and a cheeky foot rub followed by a traditional flower bath overlooking the rice fields, and, to top it all off, a crisp flute of Moet.
The words ‘Ultimate Spa Package’ had twinkled in the reflection of my friend Maddy’s eyes as we arrived in the village. At first glance, 230 000 IDR ($23 AUD) for a full body aromatherapy massage, coconut body scrub, therapeutic facial and flower bath felt like we had won the bloody lotto. Maddy and I couldn’t wipe the grins off our faces, and she had her kit off like a prom dress before I could blink twice about the deal.
I entered a mildewed room through a cotton curtain hanging from a pole and was greeted by a stench of either burning hair or a three-day-old pile of spew. My stomach began to turn.
Four beds lined a shoebox-sized room and their paisley patterned sheets barely disguised scraps of what I think were dead skin remains as I proceeded to nervously remove all of my clothes and slip on the disposable underwear provided, which was big enough for a sumo wrestler. Two men and a lady acknowledged me with intense stares as I got changed.
I lay down on the table face first and shrieked as my head went straight through the tattered hole. Without warning, the masseuse straddled me like Steve Irwin taming a croc in an Aussie zoo.
When my full-body belting came to a halt, Maddy and I glanced over at each other through hair-covered faces. My vision was blurry, as my contacts had rolled to the back of my head from the force. A bead of sweat dripped from Maddy’s forehead and a guilty wave of relief rushed through me knowing that she’d endured a similar beating.
“Okay, time for coconut scrub!” the petite Balinese woman exclaimed. Oh god, I thought. I was already prepared to retire to my Moet, but hoped the coconut scrub would at least get rid of all of that dirt from today’s jungle trek.
“Just think of the flower bath,” I whispered to myself. Maddy shot me a knowing look from her massage bed. I braced myself.
The coconut lotion was roughed over my whole body vigorously. I felt like a coarse piece of wood a carpenter was trying to sand smooth. Strips of my skin landed all around me. My uncovered nipples stiffened as a draft from the monsoon blew on me at gale-force speeds through the open door. The small piece of cloth covering my stomach was removed and I began to shake. An intense smell of gas wafted up my nostrils as I heard the fifth tick of an element – what I hoped was a heater getting started.
“I think they’re trying to gas us,” Maddy laughed with an undertone of seriousness in her voice. I heard her skin being ground with extreme force, and considered that perhaps death was a better option than what I was about to endure.
My turn for the bath crept up and I felt my heart drop when I followed the stench of mouldy poo to a metre-by-metre closet containing the “flower bath” and a leaking toilet. The tiny concrete slab was filled with three-quarters of cold, brown water and three shrivelled petals.
I hesitantly submerged my coconut-ridden body in the tub. Maddy’s floating dead skin wafted past, dancing around the brown water. A plop of something splattered on my head and I peered up to find the dank source – a putrid roof worn thin from water leakage. It was at this point, when what remained of my dignity was stripped from me, that I accepted I didn’t deserve a glass of Moet.
I ejected myself from the flesh-filled water faster than you can spot a bogan bartering over a Bintang singlet in Kuta. Reaching for a sopping wet and filthy towel, I desperately dabbed at what was left of my skin.
Maddy and I grabbed our clothes, quickly paid, skolled our free waters, then left. Happy to have made it out alive, it’s safe to say I won’t be getting another ‘Ultimate Spa Package’ from that particular establishment, but at least I’ll always have a souvenir: I now have a weird fungal infection on my feet.
Cover by Isabell Winter