Where the sky meets the sea
Set in lush, landscaped tropical gardens punctuated by bright pink bougainvillea and brilliant blue skies, Thermes Marins Bali at the Ayana Resort offers treatments using marine-based products known for their ability to firm and tone skin.
Located 35 metres above the palm-fringed shores of Jimbaran Bay on the southwestern tip of the holiday island, the sprawling spa complex features plush spa villas, a reflexology and relaxation lounge, steam and sauna rooms, spa boutique and a cafe. For those looking for more than mere relaxation, there are tennis courts, a yoga pavillion and an 18-hole putting course.
The spa's main draw, however, is one of the world's largest Aquatonic seawater jet pools, which contains 700 million litres of water warmed to agreeable temperatures, directly supplied from the Indian Ocean. Sea-based vitamins, mineral salts, amino acids and micro-organisms are believed to restore and rebalance the body. There are 12 hydro-massage stations to be tackled methodically (staff will tell you in which order) beginning with the cross-current walking corridor and culminating at the relaxation pool. While some of the pools are hard work, particularly on the legs, the effort pays off when you finally arrive at the sunset bubble bath pavilion, especially if you're there to catch an electrifying sunset.
Couples looking to escape the Aquatonic pool's energy-sapping clutches can book in at Spa on the Rocks, two treatment villas spectacularly anchored on natural rocks away from the main spa. Therapies such as the 'diamond miracle' are both luxurious and romantically inspired, featuring a bath filled with 500 red rose petals and a Creme de la Mer facial using sea quartz and diamond dust. A five-course butler-served dinner after your treatment can be arranged if you're reluctant to leave.
At the main spa, four treatments have recently been added: hot shell massage, lava stone reflexology, Ayana fusion and chakra dhara. I opt for the last one, and while sceptical about a tuning fork's ability to turn my fortunes around, I appreciate the hypnotic strokes of the ayurvedic massage and the soothing scalp massage at the end.
The hot shell massage uses shells and sand to exfoliate your feet before a massage with a dozen hot shells. Also recommended is the traditional Balinese massage, famed for unravelling the tightest of muscles. You won't find these body slimming and anti-ageing facial treatments outside the Thermes Marins spas in France.
I head over to the Spa Cafe for something light and nutritious. I find a shady spot under an umbrella on the spacious outdoor terrace and sip on a carrot, apple, celery and lemon juice. Like most spas, the food here takes a low-calorie, low-fat approach with dishes such as poached eggs and steamed spinach. And later at the resort's famous Rock Bar, an open-top venue dramatically draped at the base of Ayana's towering cliffs, the martini selection was devised by Laval Lim Hon, who has mixed cocktails for everyone from Princess Grace to Clint Eastwood.
Thermes Marins Bali
Jalan Karang Mas Sejahtera
Jimbaran, Indonesia ayanaresort.com
Direct flights from Hong Kong to Denpasar. Ayana Resort is about 10 kilometres from the airport. Transfers available.
US$429 for a club room to US$1,239 for an oceanfront villa