The Art of Marinating

Perhaps I have read too many spa reviews/experiences written in the female voice that typically crows over the stress-relieving touch of the masseurs, the potent ambience of the location, and the overall sense of peace they come out with.

TC presents a rare but entertaining read of his own experience at the spa after I cajoled, begged, forced persuaded him to try a rub-down at least once in a lifetime.

Finally, a male voice describing all.


The row of shops the driver stopped us at seemed normal enough. What did not make sense was that the driver was now gesticulating at what looked like an attached garage telling us that this was Bali Botanica. The trouble was, there was no door and no sign.

Where, I thought, is this spa?

It was then that I realised he was not talking about the small garage like building but the narrow grassy path to the left of it. So, I turned and walked down the path TB (the babe, for those of you who have forgotten) following behind, only to find that the end of it appeared to be a patch of forest. The path wound right, which seemed to end in more jungle.

Fine, I thought, let’s just see where this thing leads to.

The path took another sharp right and there, strangely, enough was the reception room of the spa, built at the back of a house, next to forested land. We were given a brief explanation of what our requested treatments involved, then assigned our masseurs. Our masseurs led us to an adjacent building, then down a flight of steps, where in a white tiled passageway, our massage rooms beckoned. In mine, in one corner of the room, was a large, modern bathtub adjoining the wall. In another corner was a shower area, built into the corner itself. Oddly enough, there was no door or shower cubicle, just the two tiled walls of the corner. In the centre of the room, was what appeared to be a doctors examination couch, decked out in faux leather with a hole at one end. Directly under the hole was a small bowl of water, with some flowers floating on the surface. Softly played mood music was piped into the room by some unseen speakers.

I was instructed to change out of my clothes into disposable underwear, after which the masseur left the room for a while.  The trouble was, no matter how I adjusted it, the underwear seemed unbalanced. After attempting to wear it back to front and even inside out with no relief, I took the underwear off and examined it. That was when I realised that the silly thing was poorly made, with the waist band on the left side thicker than the one on the right. By this time, the masseur was knocking on the door wanting to know if I was done. I asked her for a minute, hurriedly jammed on the underwear and adjusted it as best I could, then jumped on the table, face down. For some reason, I thought that the best thing to do was to rest my chin on the edge of the hole in the table. Possibly I did not fancy staring into a bowl of water for half an hour. Side note: I still do not understand why staring into a bowl of water with floating flowers is supposed to be relaxing.

The masseur started the massage working from my feet upwards. I found myself trying hard not to laugh as the action of the masseurs fingers on my feet was ticklish. As the masseur worked on my thighs, I was impressed with the amount of strength she exerted. She was after all, of fairly slight build. The problem was, that same strength of her pounding hands on me was now pounding my chin into the table. It was then that I realised how the hole in the table was really supposed to be used. In between the pounding, I crawled forward and dumped my head face down into the hole, grateful for the relief against the pounding it brought me.

By the time the masseur had worked her way up to my neck and finished working with on that, I was nearly asleep. So I was slightly shocked when I felt something sticky being thrown on the back of my legs. The substance had a grainy, pasty texture with an oily run-off. It had a spicy odour which reminded me of a sweet version of rendang gravy with a strong eucalyptus background. After being applied to my skin for a few seconds, I felt a hot sensation similar to that of the medicated sports massage cream. The masseur continued and applied the substance to my arms and back. She then left me to lie for a while, as I spent time reflecting on how on earth I had agreed to pay to have myself marinated like the meat in a curry dish.

So, they have come to rub the marinate into the meat. Not bad, quite thorough. The dabbing process had the effect of removing most of the oil that the spicy paste contained.

The masseur then asked me to turn over and placed a blindfold over my eyes. She then repeated the massage on the front of my body. I was again treated to the same tickling of the feet, then lulled near sleep. The burning feeling of the spice on my back was by now, reduced to a slight warmth, which was somehow assuring and comforting. When she finished the massage, she again applied the same spice to the front of my body.

After a slight pause where nothing seemed to be happening, the masseur came over and removed the blind fold. She quietly informed me that the massage was over but I was to finish the process by relaxing in the bath.

Heavily marinated and feeling rather foolish in my ill-fitting underwear, I thanked her, then climbed off the bed and walked towards the bath. It seemed to be filled with some brownish water, with leaves floating on top. Upon climbing in, I found that the water exuded a sweetish aroma with a eucalyptus tinge. Digging around in the water, I discovered large sticks of cloves in addition to the leaves, which seemed to be the source of the eucalyptus like odour.

I finally decided that I had better wash up and get out, before TB started wondering what had happened to me. I got rid of the ill fitting disposable underwear, then proceeded to wash off. I had quite a lot of problems getting rid of the oil on my skin as the soap provided by the spa seemed rather insipid. After soaping and resoaping my body several times, I was finally able to get rid of most of the oil. The sweetish, spicy odour however, remained on my skin.

How did I find the massage? It was curiously relaxing. The spice actually felt quite good on the skin. I suspect most men might actually enjoy that massage. I was certainly glad my whim of trying the spice massage paid off.

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