Where wa­ter is the spa at­trac­tion

Bali’s Ayana Re­sort of­fers a range of un­usual hy­drother­apy treat­ments

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - JODI HIL­TON SU­SAN KUROSAWA

MANY­trav­ellers to Tur­key hop from ho­tels to museums to restau­rants with­out ever shar­ing a meal with a lo­cal fam­ily or ex­pe­ri­enc­ing re­gional cul­ture.

In Yo­vaceli — a tiny, hard­scrab­ble vil­lage in south­east Tur­key — a Bri­tish woman, Ali­son Tanik, is try­ing to change this. The home­s­tay pro­gram she runs on a vol­un­teer ba­sis is bring­ing vis­i­tors to the vil­lage, where they are able to ex­pe­ri­ence life as guests of Kur­dish fam­i­lies.

The Kurds are Tur­key’s largest and poor­est eth­nic mi­nor­ity. Like THE spa in­dus­try is su­per­com­pet­i­tive, with new treat­ments be­ing re­leased vir­tu­ally ev­ery week. Some of these sound down­right flaky — a snake mas­sage in Is­rael, spank­ings with prickly pear in Mex­ico, and red­wine baths in Ja­pan — while oth­ers, such as in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar bam­boo rod mas­sages, seem like ex­quis­ite forms of tor­ture.

But the best op­tions have a sound ba­sis in time-hon­oured heal­ing prac­tices or med­i­cal ori­gins such as der­ma­tol­ogy and tra­di­tional chinese meth­ods.

If you want an in­dul­gent Asian­in­spired spa treat­ment at a gor­geous re­sort and at an at­trac­tive price, then south­ern Thai­land and Bali are the ideal des­ti­na­tions.

Bali, in par­tic­u­lar, could well qual­ify as Asia’s pam­per cap­i­tal, given the pro­lif­er­a­tion of day spas on the streets of Seminyak and Le­gian.

For about $8 a pop, you can even get the dry skin on your heels nib­bled away by Turk­ish garra rufa (or doc­tor fish) at a hole-inthe-wall mas­sage joint.

In Kuta last March, I saw a sign for Beer Mas­sages, which doesn’t even bear think­ing about.

The new W Re­treat & Spa Bali at Seminyak has a big 24-hour spa, AWAY, which could start a trend to­wards round-the-clock fa­cil­i­ties; it isn’t as zany as it sounds when you con­sider Garuda and Jet­star flights from Den­pasar to Aus­tralian ports de­part around mid­night and there are many hours to fill be­tween typ­i­cal ho­tel check­out time (11am-noon) and air­line check-in. Con­versely, if you ar­rive at your ac­com­mo­da­tion be­fore check-in time (2pm-3pm), then a lie-down in a spa could be a good way to spend the wait.

If you are a fan of hy­drother­apy, Ayana Re­sort and Spa, perched clifftop at Jim­baran Bay, has a multi-award-win­ning Ther­mes Marins spa based on wa­ter ther­a­pies.

Its other un­usual treat­ments in­clude hot seashell mas­sages and lava-stone re­flex­ol­ogy.

An Ayana fu­sion ther­apy in­volves the ap­pli­ca­tion of steamed much of the re­gion, the peo­ple of Yo­vaceli have suf­fered years of vi­o­lence, poverty and drought. About 100 fam­i­lies live by sub­sis­tence farm­ing and rais­ing sheep, cows and chick­ens. Most live in mud-brick houses around a 1000-year-old set­tle­ment mound that erupts from a grassy plain.

‘‘WhenI­saw how­peo­ple were liv­ing here, even though I’d been in Tur­key for 15 years, I had a shock,’’ Tanik says. She de­cided to do a house-to-house sur­vey and dis­cov­ered some star­tling sta­tis­tics. She cal­cu­lated a 50 per cent adult il­lit­er­acy rate and a 20 per cent in­fant mor­tal­ity rate, and learned that most vil­lagers bleached cot­ton pouches, con­tain­ing a blend of three types of gin­ger, to knead painful j oints and knot­ted mus­cles. Chakra-open­ing Ayurvedic treat­ments are on the agenda, as is a to­tally over-the-top Creme de la Mer fa­cial that uses sea quartz and pure di­a­mond dust.

Aside from the main fa­cil­ity, it’s 100 steps down the cliff­side to Ayana’s Spa on the Rocks ( be aware it’ll be a j elly-legged climb back up), which con­sists of two oceanside pavil­ions suit­able for couples’ treat­ments, and where, on windy days, the spray hits the win­dows and the tim­ber walls stir and shake. were liv­ing on barely $1 a day. De­spite their chal­lenges, Tanik says the peo­ple of Yo­vaceli are hard-work­ing, strong-willed and ex­traor­di­nar­ily hos­pitable.

Un­der a bright morn­ing sun, young wom­en­gather out­doors to cro­chet and drink tea. In the af­ter­noon, chil­dren play jump rope and laugh as they at­tempt crooked head­stands.

In spring, wild­flow­ers grace the un­du­lat­ing land­scape and no­madic shep­herds pitch their tents on the far side of the mound. Guests are wel­come to visit the lo­cal school and kinder­garten, watch farm­ers thresh wheat and ac­com­pany shep­herds as they

But for those who want the wa­ter-baby works, the re­sort’s Aqua­tonic tha­lasso spa pool should be your des­ti­na­tion. Billed as the world’s largest sea­wa­ter ther­apy pool, it con­tains 700 mil­lion litres di­rectly sup­plied from the In­dian Ocean be­low.

‘ ‘ Fresh sea­wa­ter, sea-based min­er­als and mod­ern tech­nolo­gies of af­fu­sion, wa­ter wave and pump ther­a­pies de­liver the full ben­e­fit of sea-based vi­ta­mins, min­eral salts, trace el­e­ments, amino acids and liv­ing mi­cro-or­gan­isms to re­store and re­bal­ance the hu­man body,’’ ac­cord­ing to the blurb. graze the vil­lage sheep and cows.

Jenni Meaney, a mul­ti­me­dia pro­ducer from Mel­bourne, re­cently vis­ited Yu­vaceli as part of an over­land tour led by a guide from In­trepid Travel. For din­ner, home­s­tay hosts Pero and Halil Salvo served dishes made from lo­cal in­gre­di­ents: eggs, freshly made yo­ghurt and white cheese, sauteed egg­plants, toma­toes and roasted pep­pers from the gar­den, al­ways ac­com­pa­nied by flat­bread warm­from the oven.

‘‘Our meals were boun­ti­ful and lov­ingly pre­pared,’’ Meaney says.

Af­ter din­ner, guests and fam­ily mem­bers lounged on soft cush­ions drink­ing sug­ary red tea

In ef­fect, you buy two-hour en­try to this vast cov­ered pool, to be pum­melled by force­ful jets and gen­tler mi­cro-bub­blers at 12 hy­dro mas­sage sta­tions and gey­sers. The pool’s hy­dro­static pres­sure al­lows ef­fort­less ex­er­cise and the wa­ter is warmed to a cosy tem­per­a­ture.

Or sign up for a 25-minute aquaro­bics class or an un­der­wa­ter mas­sage dur­ing which you float in a rub­ber sup­port cir­cle while the ther­a­pist works magic on your back and shoul­ders.

Even the skin­care treat­ments at Ayana are dif­fer­ent. One sig­na­ture fa­cial uses fresh yo­ghurt, oat­meal, honey and egg whites, which sounds like a buf­fet break­fast for one’s skin. What a fine way to start a Bali day. from tulip-shaped glasses, hold­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with help from Halil and Pero’s son, Fatih, whois study­ing English.

Vis­i­tors to Yo­vaceli sleep on wool-stuffed mat­tresses rolled out on car­peted floors or, dur­ing sum­mer, on the home­s­tay’s roof. ‘‘Of­ten, when you travel you feel you are just tak­ing from peo­ple,’’ Meaney says. ‘‘It’s lovely when you feel that it is a two-way ex­change.’’

She learned to make Turk­ish flat­bread in a wood-fired oven and gave sheep-milk­ing a try. Most im­por­tant, she says she ob­tained an in­ti­mate view of ru­ral fam­ily life as an hon­oured guest.

Nowin its third sea­son, the home­s­tay and the pro­grams it sup­ports are lift­ing fam­i­lies out of poverty, help­ing chil­dren re­main longer in school, and in­tro­duc­ing den­tal hy­giene to vil­lage preschool­ers.

Tanik has also started an or­chard pro­ject. Each fam­ily has been given fruit trees to plant in their yards to im­prove nu­tri­tion and pro­vide much-needed shade dur­ing hot months.

The home­s­tay has en­abled the Salva fam­ily to send one of their sons to a pri­vate school, where he’s study­ing to be­come a lawyer.

‘‘This would have been un­dreamed of be­fore,’’ Tanik says.

no­mad­toursturkey.com

JODI HIL­TON

Jenni Meaney, from Mel­bourne, learns to make flat­bread

Ayana’s Aqua­tonic tha­lasso sea­wa­ter spa pool

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