From facial accupressure to the glorious creambath, contributor Aimee Hurn recommends the top six traditional beauty treatments you have to try while in Jakarta
In the UK, the word “spa” is very much associated with luxury. Spa days are reserved for hen weekends, landmark birthday celebrations and wedding anniversary treats. For most Indonesian women however, massage (or pijat), is not thought of as a self-indulgent, once-in-a-blue-moon kind of treat, rather they are an essential part of any self-respecting ibu-ibu’s weekly routine. The kneading hands of the therapist are believed to boost circulation, relax the mind, and leave the body feeling refreshed.
But apart from the ubiquitous pijat in all its forms, there are a host of other traditional Indonesian remedies, rituals and treatments, with many drawing from the practices of ancient Javanese palaces. From coin massages to scented smoke infusions, here are our top six must-try treatments for those looking to “go native” and take a more holistic approach to beauty.
Lulur (Body scrub)
Lulur, meaning “scrub,” originated as a pre-wedding beautifying ritual of Javanese ancient princesses that dates back to the seventeenth century. Historically, the lulur ritual was performed every day for 40 days leading up to their wedding ceremony, and would soften, sweeten and lighten the skin.
Today, the legacy continues in traditional spas with a whole range of body scrub treatments available. The lulur paste incorporates indigenous herbs, spices and flowers like jasmine, turmeric, ginger, coconut, coffee, frangipanis and rice for its exfoliating qualities.
Your treatment begins with a rose petal foot soak and relaxing massage before the exfoliating scrub is applied to the skin. As the therapist rubs and scrubs the mixture onto the skin, you can feel the dead skin cells being filed away. After a few minutes, it’s time to rinse the mixture off revealing smoother, more hydrated skin.
Jamu Spa in Cipete offers six different types of scrub, including a “jasmine lulur” and a “sea salt detox scrub”
Jamu Body Treatments; Jl. Cipete VIII 94 B, Cipete, South Jakarta; +62 21 765 9691.
Totok Aura Wajah (Healing facial acupressure)
Dian Kenanga Salon offers a special kind of totok wajah (acupressure to the face). A totok aura wajah combines the therapies of acupressure and your own natural chi or bio energy. Besides boosting circulation, naturally “lifting” the face, and softening the skin, this version promotes overall health by balancing the energy within your body. Dian Kenanga has a league of supporters who claim that the treatment helps with migraines, stress and other ailments. During the treatment, you lie flat on your back as the therapist begins massaging your face upwards to relax the muscles – so far, so good. Next comes the most intense part, as various pressure points on your face, neck and head are stimulated (around the eye sockets, below the cheekbones, on top of the head for example). Everything is finished off with a face mask leaving your skin silky and soft (but parts of your hair, greasy and untamed!).
Dian Kenanga; Jl. Pejaten Barat Raya No. 38, South Jakarta; +62 21 780 6679.
Literally meaning “fogging,” ratus is a traditional treatment designed to keep a married woman’s intimate areas fresh, healthy and sweet smelling. A mix of fragrant herbs, including kayu rapat, which is believed to have tightening properties, is prepared in a ceramic pot and burnt with charcoal to create a sweet smelling smoke. As you sit, knickerless, on a rickety, bottomless wooden stool with your legs open, the preparation is placed directly underneath and the fragrant fog travels upwards essentially “fogging” your vagina. As well as leaving you smelling herbaceous, this treatment is believed to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties as well as helping to ease itching caused by yeast infections.
Martha Tilaar Day Spa (several locations across Jakarta)
The good ladies of Jakarta love a good cream bath. And what’s not to love? A crème bath is essentially a hair spa; your scalp is massaged, your tresses are lovingly washed and left in a hot towel wrap while the therapist’s methodical hands work the tension out of your neck and shoulders. After a blow dry, you can step out of the salon feeling utterly relaxed and with sweet smelling, soft, bouncy locks.
Puri Santi Spa
IDR 170,000 – IDR 230,000 (depending on hair length)
Puri Santi Spa; Jln Bunga Mawar 19, Cipete, South Jakarta; +62 21 766 2423.
After arriving home from an arduous day’s labour in the rice fields, Balinese farmers used to relieve exhausted muscles with a warming, herbaceous concoction of indigenous spices, roots and plants – the boreh. Like so many other Indonesia’s iconic spa treatments, today’s jazzed up boreh treatments pay homage to the country’s romantic and pastoral past.
First, the body is relaxed and indulged with a slow, steady aromatherapy massage before being wrapped in a warm and exfoliating heady spice pack of turmeric, cloves, sandalwood, cinnamon and other ingredients. Regular boreh treatments are said to prevent colds, relieve aching muscles, relieve stress, and ease headaches.
ZEN Family Spa (several locations, including Jl. Gunawarman)
ZEN Family Spa; Jl. Gunawarman 43; +62 21 726 2375.
Kerokan (coin massage)
Kerokan (coin massage), which is as often carried out by a concerned relative as by a spa therapist, is believed to cure that peculiar ailment of masuk angin (entering of wind). Anyone who has been living in Jakarta for a while will know that masuk angin frequently befalls unfortunate Indonesians who have been caught out in the rain, sitting beside an open window, drinking chilled instead of room temperature water, eating too late or are just generally run down, tired and overworked.
Kerokan involves a coin being scraped diagonally across the length of an oiled back. This is believed to release the wind which is trapped inside the body by increasing the blood flow at the surface. A word of warning before you opt in for this one: After the treatment, the skin is covered in quite a shocking pattern of red welts; the darker they are, the sicker you were.
Martha Tilaar Day Spa (several locations across Jakarta)