A Bali High

Feel-good travel at its most relaxing at Bali's Spa Hati

By: By Christina Tse

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Scroll down for information on where to stay in Ubud, Bali.

Where to Stay in Ubud

Alila Ubud
A little way’s away from Ubud’s center, Alila Ubud rests in the hills above the Ayung River Valley. A member of Design Hotels, the boutique resort blends contemporary design with Balinese architecture. Structured like a Balinese village, Alila Ubud has its own pedestrian walkways and community center. Published rates of its 54 rooms and villas begin at $265 in low season and up to $965 for the Pool villa in Peak season.

Komaneka at Monkey Forest
The first of three Komaneka Hotels, this location is conveniently situated near the Monkey Forest Sanctuary in the center of Ubud’s shopping district. Originally built to exhibit Balinese and Indonesian art, the owner also manages the Fine Art Gallery. The sophisticated rooms are designed with traditional Balinese influences, using native wood, Indonesian stone and thatched roofing. Rooms are available in three categories — Deluxe Room, Suite Room and Pool Villa. Prices vary by season, starting around $200 during low season and up to $500 in high season.
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Uma Ubud
North of Ubud’s center, in a more secluded and quiet area, Uma Ubud’s holistic resort features yoga therapies, ecological design and organic cuisines. Design is intentionally minimal to maximize the natural surroundings. Five room types are available, with an average cost of $390. A Terrace Room starts at only $260 per night. Agent commission is available.

Bali is a destination synonymous with paradise and this is especially true for spa lovers. Indonesia’s most visited island is home to literally hundreds of spas. On a recent trip, I stopped in Ubud to unwind after a fast-paced tour around Bali. Recently popularized by Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud is a town in Bali long known to be the artistic center of the island and a favorite for expatriates. There’s no shortage of spa options in this area and my preference was to visit one not connected to a resort and not being pushed by street promoters with fliers. Off a recommendation from my sister, I visited Spa Hati.


Profits from Spa Hati benefit the local Bali Hati School for children. // © 2009 Christina Tse

Spa Hati organizes transportation within Ubud, but I arrived on my own by motorbike. Running down the steps as I approached the entrance were a few giggling children. As I passed them, I saw what appeared to be an office, a computer lab and a classroom, and I wondered if I’d gotten the address wrong. I had just seen the charming — but ungrammatical — sign from the street, “Spa Hati: Your Pleasure Benefit Others,” so I continued past the building and soon heard the distinct and calming sound of flowing water, assuring I had come to the right place.

Hati means “heart” in Indonesian, and that’s precisely what this spa has. Though the building is unassuming from the outside, clients are almost immediately relaxed by the tranquil and inviting atmosphere behind the street-front structure. Set amidst rice fields, Spa Hati is located behind the offices of Bali Hati, the nonprofit organization that operates the spa and donates its profits to the Bali Hati School. While clients treat themselves to this affordable luxury, they can be comforted in knowing that their indulgences are simultaneously acts of goodwill.

Spa Hati offers a variety of treatments, the most expensive of which I opted for at around $50. Promptly at my appointment time, I was led to the shower rooms where I was given a sari to change into. I embarrassingly admit I didn’t know how to tie it. Sensing my confusion, a very helpful staff member knocked and asked if I needed assistance. Wrapped in the soft material, I was led to one of the five massage rooms where there were two beds, a shower and a flower-strewn tub. My treatment began with a traditional Balinese massage. My therapist, Kade, kneaded and rubbed quietly and I actually groaned with disappointment when the soft bell chimed, signaling that my 90-minute massage was over.

At the start of my body scrub, Kade warned me to be prepared, as the natural ingredients needed refrigeration. The cold sensation was short-lived, though, since I directly rinsed under the warm shower. I was given yogurt to apply all over my body while I was immersed in the hot flower bath and invited to relax as long as I wanted. Given this
freedom, I must have relaxed a bit longer than most, as I heard but ignored two soft chimes before I reluctantly emerged.

The therapists give little instruction and a lot of choice. They are attentive and accommodating without hovering, so the experience is pleasantly casual. Clients make the choices and therapists guide them. Use of the saltwater Jacuzzi, lap pool and steam room is included with all treatments, so it was hard to decide what to do first. Kade suggested I enjoy a cup of hot ginger tea in the Jacuzzi after my facial, so that I could shower before my pedicure. Perfect.

The sun was setting by the time I was ready to leave. I always experience a little disappointment when a spa day is over, but I perked up when I saw the sign again and remembered my contribution. On my way out, I passed a classroom where two teenagers were engaging in an English lesson. I imagine they were learning to say “Your Pleasure Benefits Others.”

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