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Balinese Massage: Timeless Therapy in Sumptuous Luxury

in Wellness by
Puri Bawana Bali massage bale

From its thriving yoga scene to its serene spa retreats, Bali is synonymous with wellness. The island’s postcard-perfect scenery of lush green mountain sides and spectacular beaches make it the perfect setting to zone out while enjoying its blissful traditions of holistic healing.

To come to Bali and not have a massage would border on an insult to the island’s age-old therapies. There’s a reason why Balinese massage has made its way into top spas all over the world: it fuses together deep-tissue massage with aromatherapy, gentle stretching and light acupressure for a beautifully relaxing, holistic healing treatment.

 

Villa Lilibel Massage room

MASSAGE ROOM, VILLA LILIBEL – SEMINYAK, BALI

But while you might be able to have one anywhere in the world, nothing comes close to a massage at the skilled hands of expert Balinese masseurs. Therapists use a firm, kneading massage style to stimulate blood flow, along with pressure point techniques and reflexology to help soothe muscle tension, and the aromatherapy of essential oils to ease you into blissful relaxation.

Beyond the traditional massage techniques, spas in Bali offer a host of traditional beauty therapies that use the healing properties of natural ingredients to scruff, buff, and revive skin, and leave you perfectly preened.

 

Balinese massage at Villa Semarapura

BALINESE MASSAGE AT VILLA SEMARAPURA – CEMAGI, BALI

Balinese massage

Balinese massage starts at the bottom and works up, so as you lie face down, the first port of call for a Balinese massage is your feet. Your therapist will use elements of foot reflexology to stimulate pressure points on your soles, and gently stretch out the lower legs.

The deep tissue work begins on your lower legs and works up to the backs of your thighs – perfect for soothing aches and pains after a run or a hike up one of Bali’s spectacular peaks. Then your therapist moves to your back, targeting pressure points along the spine and combining kneading and stroking massage styles to boost blood circulation and gently remove knots in your shoulders.

After you turn over, your therapist works bottom to top again, beginning with the feet and moving up your legs. Balinese massage includes work on the stomach, believed to benefit digestive and reproductive health. The treatment finishes with a gentle massage of your scalp and forehead.

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Where in the World? The Biggest Asian Elephant Gathering

in Recreation by
The Gathering at Minneriya National Park

Elephants are amazing. There’s something about their grey leathery hides, their tiny soulful eyes, their wispy mop-like tails and their playful trunks. Oh, and I love it when they run!

Given my penchant for Pachyderms I couldn’t be living in a better place than Sri Lanka, land of the Asian Elephant. There are thought to be around 2,500-3,500 wild elephants on this 65,000-square-kilometre island, mostly living in protected national parks and reserves, which are connected via ‘elephant corridors’ – forested passageways.

 

Minneriya National Park elephant reserve

One of the world’s most significant elephant phenomena happens in Minneriya National Park – a protected 8,890-hectare reserve within Sri Lanka’s famed Cultural Triangle. Every year, from the beginning of the dry season – usually late August – groups of elephants start to congregate around the receding waters of the Minneriya Tank, a vast and ancient waterbody spanning some 4670 acres, which was built by the ‘tank-building’ King Mahasena in the 3rd century. This tank at the centre of the reserve never empties so when other drinking sources become scarce, elephants find their way here to drink, bathe and feast on the young shoots of grass that flourish on the edges of the tank as the water recedes.

This phenomenon, which usually lasts until the monsoon begins in October, is known as The Gathering. The term was coined less than a decade ago by renowned Sri Lankan naturalist Gehan de Silva Wijerathne, and since then crowds of visitors have come to observe these majestic creatures in their natural setting. As many as 300 elephants have been recorded at the tank at any one time; it’s thought to be the biggest gathering of Asian elephants in the world. Minneriya forms part of an elephant corridor that links Kaudulla and Wasgamuwa national parks, all located in Sri Lanka’s North Central region.

 

Minneriya National Park See Asian elephants at the gathering

Last September I was lucky enough to witness this natural spectacle for myself. The afternoon is the best time of day to observe the elephants, so I was at the park by 2.30pm to meet up with my driver and tracker. Jeep drivers double up as safari guides, though trackers (some are former poachers) are often more experienced at sighting wildlife. Luckily, mine spoke English.

We drove slowly, taking in the park’s scenery as our guide scanned the forest for any signs of movement.

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Bali Highs

in Recreation by
Bali Thrilling Things to Do

Bali delivers equally extraordinary experiences to seekers of chic elegance as it does to those pursuing adrenaline, education or picture perfect mountain scapes. Here are just a few of the enriching experiences to seek out on your next visit to Bali.

 

WICKED APERITIFS

Those who appreciate a well-curated cocktail will love Akademi, a hub for Bali’s growing mixology scene. Not only can you sample amazing cocktails here, but Akademi also offers regular master classes led by the internationally celebrated British mixologist Dre Masso.

Bali cocktails Akademi bar

AKADEMI COCKTAILS
JL. PETITENGET NO. 51B, SEMINYAK, BALI
IMAGE CREDIT: www.akademi-bar.com

Delve into the mysteries of Bali’s tropical produce with cocktail ingredients like mangosteen, jackfruit and salak, plus a range of unique spices and roots. Get up close and personal with luscious infused dark rums, inspired gins and araks saturated with rare botanicals from the Indonesian archipelago.

Dre brings the knowledge accumulated from trips to more than 40 countries and includes the history of flavours in his classes. Cocktail-making skills will be honed while learning about indigenous ingredients and how to balance flavours with every integral part of the recipe. A recent master class explored the two cocktails that were presented by Akademi at the Southeast Asian Finals of the Diageo World Class Mixology competition.

Other master classes have included the analysis of nutmeg and cascara (coffee fruit skin), where spices are dissected and the bar-made tincture, liqueurs and jams are tasted. Cascara was first used in Yemen, where it was infused into hot water with a powerful selection of spices to make a drink called ‘Qishr’, and has now become the star ingredient in one of Akademi’s cocktails.

The Akademi daily cocktail menu is seriously worth a visit. Check out the artisanal ceramic, copper and wooden cocktail vessels that make a clear statement about this exclusive destination.

 

WINE TIPS-Y

Head into the verdant hills of Ubud and the beautiful Bridges restaurant where the Divine Wine & Cocktail Bar is located below the Riverside dining room and is the exclusive haunt of Bridges’ sommelier Rahul Mehra. Participate in an outstanding master class, listen to the river flow and enjoy the privileged view.

Bridges Wine and Cocktail Bar

DIVINE WINE &

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Snorkelling Phuket’s Underwater Eden

in Recreation by
Snorkelling Phi Phi Islands Phuket

Phuket is well known for its sea, sand and sunsets, but those who venture into the blue beyond the beach will discover another island delight: snorkelling.

The Andaman Sea is rich with tropical sea life and dotted with idyllic islands, and a short boat journey from Phuket will bring you to several fascinating underwater sites. Here’s a brief guide to some of the best snorkelling sites around Phuket and how to get there.

Though it’s certainly no longer the untouched paradise portrayed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie ‘The Beach’, the Phi Phi island archipelago, with beaches of glittering white sands framed by dramatically steep cliffs, is still a wondrous sight.

When snorkelling Phi Phi island, the depths reveal sites teeming with colourful fish, especially among the fertile reefs near the uninhabited Bamboo island. Found about an hour’s boat ride to the east of Phuket, Phi Phi is best visited during the calmer months of December through March.

Sea Turtle Khai Island KHAI ISLAND – IMAGE CREDIT: EMOTIONTRAVEL.CO.TH

Just 15 minutes away from Phuket’s southwest coast lies the tiny Coral island, with two beaches and a resident family of hornbills to visit between snorkelling sessions. Thirty minutes further are the Raya islands with shallow reefs ideal for exploration by snorkel. Raya Yai, with just a few resorts and no cars, has some spectacular beaches for relaxing breaks in between snorkel outings.

Young explorers will love the Khai islands, a trio of tiny isles of sand and rock that resemble eggs (‘khai’ in Thai) floating in the water. Khai Nok, Khai Nui and Khai Nai are easily accessible and ideal for snorkelling with kids, just 20 minutes east of Phuket and surrounded with clear shallow waters and fertile reefs. Young children need only stand in the shallows to spot at least a few fishes. It does get busy here at times so try to come outside of peak visiting hours for a more peaceful trip. 

Snorkelling Similan Islands SNORKELLING THE SIMILAN ISLANDS – IMAGE CREDIT: ORIGINALDIVING.COM

The diamond in the crown of the Phuket snorkelling experience is the Similans, a stunning nine-island archipelago with crystal clear waters and an incredible variety of reefs and marine life. It’s a bit of a hike to get there: an hour’s drive north to Tablamu pier on the mainland, followed by an hour on the boat,

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Bali with Kids

in Families by

Not many work–weary mums and dads would dispute the attractions of spending a holiday in a luxury Bali villa where they can indulge in the pleasures afforded by a personal chef, private pool, in-villa massages or yoga sessions, sunset cocktails and stunning tropical surroundings.

But what about the rest of the family?  Keeping the kids as happily entertained as their parents is key to every holiday’s success. Ondy Sweeting finds that Bali is an epic destination for families, with a great choice of exciting attractions and fun surprises to engage kids of all ages.

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

Mepantigan is a martial art that has a strong spiritual and emotional component and is performed in the luscious Bali mud.

Mud play is a time-honoured tradition where a person becomes one with the mud of the rice paddy and its eternal companion, the duck! Kids can join these amazing Mepantigan sessions that focus on fitness, agility and stress release while developing camaraderie and sportsmanship.

After a sip of some holy water from a bamboo cup, it’s off for warm-ups under the coconut trees then into the mud for training in balance and playing traditional mud games such a frog catching, eel trapping, body painting and having an all-around blast while rolling in the mud.

When you’re done, all the grime is washed away in the river or under a Balinese shower with a banana-leaf roof. The fun and games are followed by an organic lunch to the sounds of the gamelan.  Parents can join in too, or opt for some peaceful mud yoga followed by a massage in the river.

More information here.

Monkey around in Ubud

Ubud’s famous Monkey Forest is the perfect spot for some monkey madness. More than 600 Balinese long-tailed macaques star in this tropical forest that comes complete with ancient mossy temples dedicated to the revered monkey god, Hanuman.

These well-fed rascals have no fear and can be more than a little cheeky, so some safety tips are in order:

  • Don’t dangle anything! Little hands are quick to snatch sunglasses, spectacles, cameras, or anything else they can grab, and swing straight up into a tree with it.
  • If you buy monkey food from a local vendor – or have a snack in your bag – hand it over quickly as they will sniff it out and make demands that can be a little scary.

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