My experience in Indonesia was truly amazing. I had always wanted to go to Bali but when I realized I had a lot more time during my summer vacation I decided to trek through several islands in Indonesia. I found the people to be happy, friendly and kind. One thing I noticed was that each island has a dominant religion. While in Java, I saw that most people were Muslim. It was my first time being in a Muslim country and I was in awe when I first heard the call to prayer over the speakers. It sounded so beautiful and it felt so peaceful, safe and calming.
I made my way to Bali where I noticed a difference. Women showed a lot more skin and there was much more color. I noticed colorful flowers and that people would leave peace offerings of rice, crackers and flowers to the gods outside their homes throughout the day (See Exhibit A below). The air smelled like flowery incense and I loved it. I learned that Bali is predominantly Hindu.
My first stop in Bali was Lovina. It’s on the north shore of Bali and is known for Dolphin watching and quieter, less crowded beaches. I wanted to get a traditional Balinese massage so I booked a ‘healing massage’ with my guesthouse at a great price (because Bali). Healing massage, sounds great, right? I figured it would be relaxing and calming, maybe some aromatherapy. I’d come out of this super relaxed.
So the spa attendant picked me up on her motorbike and we rode to the spa where I was given a foot bath in water covered with the same colorful flowers I had seen in the peace offerings. Then the two women asked me to take off my clothes. I was expecting them to leave the room like at all of my previous spa visits but they just stood there, staring at me. So I thought, ok, maybe this is an Indonesian or a Balinese thing. So I proceeded to strip down to my underwear which, is what I would do at any spa. But then they told me to take my EVERYTHING off and I looked at them side-eyed again. Again, I was like ok, this is different but whatever.
So, I get on the table completely nude and the two women throw this amazing mud on my chest. It was menthol-y and kind of like icy hot but times 20. Then they both start working on my legs. It was the first time I had two people working on me and I’m not gonna lie, it felt amazing. Awkward because I was just lying there naked with no sheets but it was great. Even more awkward when they ended the massage with rubbing down my boobs in the most serious way with the icy hot mud stuff.
When they finished the massage I thought I was done, but I was not. They told me to get in the tub. I thought, oh nice maybe they will light some candles and I’ll take a nice bath while they leave the room. No. They proceeded to bathe me. Two grown women bathing another grown women who can sure as hell bathe herself. The water they used was the same type of colorful flower water they had cleaned my feet with.
After the bath I thought for sure I was done but, I was not. I was asked to sit back down on the massage table and the woman just threw water in my face and on my head until finally she said she was done and I can get dressed again. No explanation of what just happened or what the meaning of what she was doing meant. Then she stuck what looked like epson salt on my head. This is how I left the spa. See exhibit B below.
It turns out she was doing some sort of Hindu blessing with Holy water. As soon as she put the rock salt stuff on me I remembered having seen my bus attendant get off the bus for a blessing when I was on my way to Lovina from the Java –> Bali Ferry. See Exhibit C below.
I was bathed in holy water and what I had actually signed up for was not just a relaxing massage, but a religious experience… in the nude. I’m still not sure what the rock salt stuff signifies but if anyone out there is able to inform me I’d much appreciate an explanation.
That was Part 1 of being naked in Asia. Part 2 is on its way along with lots more stories about my trip to Indonesia and other travels.