My 22-hour pilgrimage to Amanjiwo, what many hoteliers consider the world's most extraordinary hotel, was well worth the flight time. And truly, there's never been a more apt setting for renewal than in Central Java.
Nestled in a natural amphitheatre, Amanjiwo faces the world's largest Buddhist monument, the ninth-century Borobudur – built to look like a lotus flower fallen from the sky. I opt for a pijat, or massage, despite warnings of the potential pain factor. Nothing excites me like a therapist who has mastered the delicate art of going deep. Amanjiwo's team of local masseuses are revered in surrounding villages as orang pintar, or spiritual healers.
As the sun sets on Borobudur, my masseuse begins the pijat by working my feet – a sign of respect, as well as a diagnostic entry point to the whole body. She works steadily up my legs – numb as tree trunks after trekking the 100 steps up Borobudur – stimulating nerve channels and blood vessels. The treatment builds in intensity as she tackles my back; it's a deliciously drawn-out affair, designed to slow your pulse, send shivers up your spine and make you forget anything that ever hurt you.
Pijat uses all parts of the hand, especially the knuckles, to knead muscles to relieve tension and resolve chronic pain. Unlike urban spas concerned with client turnover, healers here work through their senses, not by the clock. They finish when they feel your energy flow is positive, which in my case took nearly two hours.
Amanjiwo is a cultural crucible renowned for its architecture, the heart of which is a circular monolith, crafted from local limestone and rising to a domed centrepiece. Much as with Borobudur, its hushed majesty must be seen to be believed. The atmospheric entrance of the main building was designed to frame the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the distance, with adjacent soaring portals framing four encircling volcanoes. Just 30 suites are laid out in two crescent formations rimmed with high limestone walls, crawling with spider lilies. Amanjiwo offers a range of Javanese and traditional beauty treatments, many of which feature ancient jamu, or herbal, healing. The serene spa suite has twin massage tables and an outdoor day bed. The resourceful staff can arrange anything from perfectly executed picnic lunches, complete with silk pillows and more fresh fixings than you can imagine, to cultural excursions to see the traditional all-male Dayakan trance dance. All in all, one of the world's best stays.
Amanjiwo at Ds. Majaksingi, Borobudur, Central Java, Indonesia; 1-800-2255-2626; amanresorts.com; $125 for 90 minutes