As spa trends broaden to new anthropological heights, wherein destination spas weave cultural traditions into wellness experiences, I've been gaining more local lore with my lomi lomi. The Four Seasons Resort Sayan in the heart of Bali's Ubud jungle, ever the trendsetter, is putting some sweat equity in your next spa venture with its "A Day in the Life of a Balinese Farmer" rice paddy experience. My boyfriend Tom and I meet our guide, Sari, and begin with a trek through the Ayung Valley, a verdant oasis experienced so far only from the terrace of our villa. I clutch Sari's hand as we negotiate the teetering ledges of rice terraces until we break for a best of Balinese breakfast feast.
After catching our breath, Tom and I tuck ourselves into high rubber boots, wade into a mud pit and try to mimic our teacher, who moves like Jagger as she thrusts a dozen shoots effortlessly into the ground, producing postcard perfect poetic lines. After I muck myself into a corner and start to list as low as my shoots, Tom pulls me up to higher ground and our teacher treats us to a drink from a freshly hewn coconut. Finally, after a brisk shower, what we've been waiting for: a Batu Kali, or traditional river stone ritual that features a coconut oil massage, hair and scalp mask and an invigorating river stone scrub. The day's adventure ends with a lunch of nasi campur (a savoury rice dish) at a private riverside pavilion.
Therapists here use massage techniques not typically used at Canadian resort spas, like stretching and hacking, that are highly effective at releasing muscle strain.
Once you have checked into the Four Seasons Sayan, your seemingly inexhaustible desire to be rubbed, scrubbed, steamed and caressed will finally meet its match. The inland jungle setting provides a truly nourishing environment, ideal for treatments offering a deep inner focus and a modern approach to living in bliss. Spa staff are energetic, helpful, confident and engaged. With its harmonious mix of minibars and meditation areas, the Four Seasons Sayan is a study in seclusion. It has a calm, cozy air; even the children's playhouse has homespun charm (the design and activities were inspired by the whimsy of Julia Roberts's twins, Hazel and Phinnaeus, who were in residence here with their mom during the filming of Eat, Pray, Love). The artists' haven of Ubud has drawn travellers from across the world, following the path of Elizabeth Gilbert's book and her now infamous sessions with local healer Ketut Liyer. This resort is the perfect place to destress, with retractable bedroom walls bringing the valley's vibrancy into your living space.
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; 62 (361) 701010; fourseasons.com; $250 for six hours.