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Blissful Escapes: Exploring Salons and Spas in Ubud

Hey there, fellow travellers! If your travel experience is anything like mine, you probably walk more, carry more stuff, and keep busier than when you are at home. Just getting away to explore a new destination is invigorating, but sometimes we need a break to recharge our batteries. While visiting Bali, I based myself in Ubud, known as the ultimate haven for those in search of peace, serenity, and some serious pampering. As a budget traveller, I rarely treat myself to luxuries and pampering at home but I decided to take full advantage of the spa services while in Ubud.

During my time in Ubud, I had the pleasure of visiting two remarkable spas that left me floating on cloud nine: Kamalika Spa and Kursa Spa. Oh, the magic that unfolded within those walls! Imagine entering a tranquil oasis and having an expert work their magic on your tired muscles as they knead away your aches and rejuvenate your body and soul, surrounded by the tantalizing scents of essential oils and the soft melodies of tranquil music.

In addition to the divine massages I experienced at both Kamalika Spa and Kursa Spa, I also ventured into several random salons for a couple of luxurious treats: manicure-pedicures and a fresh new haircut. The nail treatments were more of a necessity after months (or longer) of neglect. The haircut was more spontaneous. After a sweltering hot day, I decided the long hair had to go. I needed something lighter, cooler, and something that still allowed me to wear a hat. Tying my mop of hair back was not enough in the heat and humidity of central Bali. Today's blog will take you along as I share the details of my treatments, costs and locations. By the end of this post, I'm sure you'll be convinced to add some pampering to your Bali vacation.

Kamalika Spa

The Kamalika Day Spa was the first spa I visited in Ubud. It is located inside the ARTOTEL Haniman Ubud which I passed by while returning to my homestay, after a great day hanging out at the Sacred Monkey Forest. On a whim, I decided to see about getting an appointment for a Balinese massage. Much to my delight and surprise, I could get in immediately.

I was led into the spa facilities by a charming hotel staff member. The lobby area was beautifully decorated with soft lighting and smiling spa staff. I was given a cup of tea while I looked at the extensive menu of spa services including massages, ear candling, scrubs, and facials. I sniffed the oils and scrubs to choose my favourite (green tea). Since I was in Bali, I chose a Balinese massage and body scrub -- both of which were entirely new experiences for me. The closest I had experienced previously was a Hammam massage in Marrakesh.

The Bali massage at Kamalika Spa was nothing short of pure bliss. The massage room is dimly lit, with soothing music and delicious scents. After disrobing and putting on disposable underwear, the therapist entered the room. The first step was getting my feet washed and then I laid down on the table. With skilled hands expertly kneading away the knots and tension in my muscles, I could feel the stress melting away with every stroke. The therapist's gentle yet firm touch worked wonders, leaving me in a state of deep relaxation. I was drifting in a state of glorious semi-consciousness.

A Balinese massage begins with the application of essential oils applied with long gentle strokes that gradually become stronger. As the massage continues the therapist included acupressure, skin rolling, percussion, and alternating firm and gentle strokes. After about an hour of massage, a delightful concoction of green tea scrub was gently applied to my skin with soft brushes, exfoliating and nourishing it to perfection. The scrub lasted another half hour. After the scrub, I showered in the connected private shower room attached to the massage room. Not only was the shower room beautifully decorated, I was also impressed that fluffy towels, scented shampoo, conditioner, lotion and even a hair dryer was available. My skin was baby-soft, I smelled terrific, and any aches and pain were gone. I felt almost bone-less as I returned to my room.

Since this day spa is fairly new, Kamalika Spa offers excellent value with a 50% discount on all services. I'm not sure how long this discount will be offered but the therapist speculated it would last at least until the end of 2023. Even without the discount, the prices were competitive for a quality spa experience. My Bali massage with the additional body scrub felt like true luxury at a budget price.

Karsa Spa

The Karsa Spa is tucked away amidst Ubud's rice fields. This spa is a sanctuary of serenity and beauty, promising an otherworldly experience that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and radiant... but it's very popular and appointments are hard to get. The earliest appointment I could get was nearly two weeks after I contacted the spa. I took an early morning appointment and chose to take a scooter taxi to the Spa and would walk back along the Rice Field trail to return to central Ubud.

Upon entering the grounds, I was immediately captivated by its tranquil ambiance. The gentle sound of flowing water and the sweet scent of aromatic flowers greeted me. Lily ponds and statues along pathways lead to the reception area. I had pre-booked another Bali massage and had added a flower bath. Once I arrived, I also added a facial to my treatment. I wanted to extend my time in this gorgeous serene place. The setting alone had me floating on a cloud of anticipation for the Bali massage that awaited me.

The massage rooms are small bamboo structures that allow the fresh air and birdsong to flow freely through the space. In the space was a small garden of plants and a trickling fountain along with the massage table and shower. Gentle sounds of instrumental music filled the space. My room also included a large stone bathtub.

But the magic was just getting started. Karsa Spa goes above and beyond by including many additional treats on their spa menu including hair, nail, and ear treatments. The massage lasted about an hour and was even better than the Kamalika massage with slightly deeper muscle work. The facial was a true delight, leaving my skin glowing and rejuvenated. Following the massage and facial, it was time to open my eyes to see the bath filled with hot water and flowers. I immersed myself enjoying the look and scent of the petals as I soaked in pure serenity. It was a sensory delight that really needs to be experienced to truly understand bliss.

When it comes to pricing, Kursa Spa offers a touch of luxury that is worth every penny. Considering the high-quality treatments and the added indulgence of the facial and flower bath, the cost was justified. The experience felt like a true escape from the mundane, a journey into a realm of pure relaxation and pampering. It is something I would definitely want to do again (and again, and again!)

Following the treatments, I stopped to enjoy a smoothie at the restaurant located on-site. There are several seating areas overlooking the lily pond. The larger area includes regular tables and chairs but there are also little alcove with low tables and cushions for those wanting a more private nook.

I chose to walk back to central Ubud following the trail back to Ubud Palace. I would recommend doing the same. The trail passes other spas, rice fields, and small businesses. I would guess it takes about 45 minutes of consistent walking. I took about twice that long because I stopped to chat and take photos along the way.

Random Salons

Sometimes, the best experiences come when we let serendipity guide us. In my quest for complete indulgence in Ubud, I decided to step out of the realm of spas and explore the local salons for some extra pampering. I wasn't sure what to expect but I was ready to uncover hidden gems for manicure-pedicures and a fresh new haircut. I had already noted that there were small salons on every block, often with technicians outside soliciting customers.

Now, let me be clear: visiting random salons can be a bit of a gamble but with Ubud's reputation for wellness, I figured it was a calculated risk. As mentioned earlier, getting my long hair chopped off was a priority for comfort. I figured even if it was a bad cut, I had a month for it to grow a bit before I returned home. I chose a family salon on the same small alley as my homestay. My hair was half-way down my back and I asked for it to be cut short... about 8 inches shorter! I was more than a little nervous when she started cutting my dry hair but as my hair began to cover the floor, I gave myself over to the experience and hoped for the best. At first, I wasn't really sure whether I liked the look although I loved the immediate lightness and coolness. After a couple of days, however, I was convinced that I had made a good choice and found I grew to like the look. The cut cost me 100 000 IDR (less than $10 CAD). With this success, I realized that my nails were a mess so I decided I needed a manicure and pedicure. I walked along Jalan Raja, peering into shops, reading their menus and negotiating prices with the technicians. I was surprised to discover that many of the salons only do gel polish while others only have regular polish. Another surprise was that there is an additional charge for nail polish. I visited two different small salons and had a mani-pedi at both.

These smaller salons are pretty basic. They weren't outfitted with the kind of equipment that is common at home. There were no fancy chairs with foot baths, no walls of polish choices, and no tables for the technicians. The technicians (one for my hands, another for my feet) sat on small stools, using basins for soaking as they shaped, buffed, and polished my nails before using little fans to speed up the drying process. I was pleased with the results. I negotiated a price of 80 000 IDR (less than $8 CAD) at both nail salons for mani-pedis including polish.

Now, I must note that the exact names and locations of these random salons escape my memory, but Ubud is filled with delightful nooks and crannies, each hiding its own treasures. Take a leisurely stroll through the streets, follow your instincts, and you'll likely stumble upon a salon that speaks to your desires for pampering and self-care.

Overall Comparison and Recommendations

Each establishment offered its own unique charm and set of features, catering to different preferences and budgets.

Undoubtedly, the Karsa Spa was the epitome of luxury and tranquility. From the serene ambiance to the exceptional treatments, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. However, it's important to note that such excellence comes at a price. Karsa Spa was the most expensive option among the ones I visited, but it was worth every penny. The only downside was the high demand, which resulted in a wait time of approximately 10 days for an appointment. If you're planning a visit, be sure to book well in advance to secure your spot in this heavenly retreat.

On the other hand, Kamalika Spa provided a more accessible and convenient experience. Situated within walking distance from my homestay, it was a breeze to reach. The spa itself exuded elegance and beauty, creating an inviting atmosphere that beckoned relaxation. The 50% discount made the experience even more affordable and enticing. The absence of a wait time for appointments was another major advantage, allowing for spontaneous indulgence when the mood struck.

The small shops provided good services at a lower price point compared to the spas. While they may not have matched the luxurious ambiance of the dedicated spas, they offered instant appointments and were perfect for those seeking a quick grooming session. The prices across these small salons were fairly consistent, ensuring you get a satisfying treatment without breaking the bank.

Based on these comparisons, here are my recommendations:

  1. If you're seeking the ultimate luxury and are willing to splurge, Karsa Spa is the place to be. Just remember to book well in advance to secure your appointment.

  2. For a convenient and affordable spa experience in central Ubud, Kamalika Spa is an excellent choice. The half-price promotion makes it even more enticing, and you won't have to worry about wait times.

  3. If you're looking for instant grooming and a budget-friendly option, the random salons scattered throughout Ubud will fulfill your needs. While they may lack the luxurious ambiance, they provide good services at a more affordable price point.

Ultimately, the choice will depend on your personal preferences, budget, and availability. Whether you opt for the opulence of Karsa Spa, the convenience of Kamalika Spa, or the quick and affordable services of a random salon, you are sure to find exactly the level of pampering that you want.


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