Where water is the spa attraction
Bali’s Ayana Resort offers a range of unusual hydrotherapy treatments
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.
Jenni Meaney, from Melbourne, learns to make flatbread
Ayana’s Aquatonic thalasso seawater spa pool