Translated from German, Zeitgeist means "the spirit of the moment", and is the key principle underpinning AYANA's service philosophy. Here, we share our inside tips and favorite haunts to help you experience the AYANA Zeitgeist.
Let me start by saying I am not your typical spa junkie. In my time off, I’d rather do something more active like play tennis or other sports. But since so many men seem to be showing more interest in spas than ever before, I decide to see what all the fuss is about. After all, I am in Bali which is one of the spa capitals of the world.
The spa at AYANA is considered to be one of the best on earth. In 2010, it was voted by Conde Nast Traveller readers as the #1 Spa in the World. Seems to me, there is no better place to embark on my first ever spa adventure.
I am feeling a little uncomfortable thinking I will be the only man there. But the opposite seems to be true: men almost outnumber women in the reception area when I arrive and I start to feel more comfortable. But have I missed something, I always thought the spa was a ladies thing? (Later, I jump on the internet to do some research and learn that men actually account for 35% of the entire spa-going population, making them the fastest growing segment according to Conde Nast Traveler, and that number is expected to increase further in coming years.)
As soon as I arrive, the very-friendly staff offer me their signature welcome drink of ginger and lemongrass tea. This drink is a perfect reflection of what a spa experience is all about: it’s healthy, refreshing, unique, and makes you feel like you’re treating your body well, summarizing the reasons why you are probably there in the first place.
My first treatment is the Detox Body Treatment, which comprises a seaweed body mask to release toxins. My therapist wraps a warm blanket around me for 25-minutes while the mask does its work, during which time she gives me a facial massage. Afterwards, I shower and then enjoy a full body massage that leaves me feeling completely cleansed and re-energized.
The second treatment is the Men’s Facial. Now, I know the word facial sounds very feminine but this is actually a facial developed especially for men, and incorporates a full body massage to make it as attractive as possible to men. I am not used to the sensation of someone cleaning, scrubbing, moisturizing and applying a mask that makes my face feel frozen, but I am convinced of the benefits of this, as I did feel a big improvement in my skin and very refreshed afterwards.
My last treatment is the Exotic Bamboo Massage, which is a very firm (ie. manly!) massage based on a technique that uses different types of heated bamboo tools. The therapist shows great skill in using her hands, elbows and the bamboo tools in long strokes to release knots and tension. I fall into a deep state of relaxation (and may have drooled into the flower bowl just a little).
After experiencing all three treatments, I can now say I am a spa-convert and believe it is far more effective in reducing stress levels than having a drink after work. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you exchange your nightly aperitif for a spa treatment, but why not benefit from both? The spa is more than just women’s beauty treatments, the focus is not really on how you look at all, but on how you feel. And men like to feel good too, simple as that. Another round of pampering please!
We are all still drying off after annual training with a Thermes Marins Hydrotherapy trainer this month! Nine of our therapists took part in 6 days of intensive training to review techniques, skills, products and facilities for our hydrotherapy treatments, including Underwater Massage, Aqua Exercise, Sea Breeze Massage and Oceanic Ritual package (my personal favorite). The trainer, who is based at Thermes Marins headquarters in St Malo, France – nice spot to be living but then Bali’s not too bad either! – also checked and approved the temperature and water quality in the Aquatonic Seawater Therapy Pool, which contains 700 million liters of seawater pumped in from the Indian Ocean. Everybody raves about Rock Bar, but personally I think sunset in the Aquatonic Pool is not-to-be-missed ;-) It’s even better if you follow it up with a Rock Bar cocktail afterwards – when the crowds have died down a bit and you can enjoy your beverage under a star-lit sky listening to the waves of the spot-lit ocean. That’s why we call this package the Perfectonic! Sundowner anyone?
PS – Happy Second Anniversary for AYANA! It’s now been 2 years since we rebranded as an independent resort. Another reason to celebrate :-)
March 5 is Balinese New Year, otherwise known as Nyepi, or the ‘Day of Silence’. This is a very important date on our Balinese Hindu calendar, as it involves an island-wide purification. Some tourists avoid Bali at Nyepi time because of the restrictions placed on movement around the island during the 24-hours of silence, but I think it is a fantastic time to be here, an opportunity to experience many colorful festivals and ceremonies and learn a lot about our culture.
Nyepi is marked by 24 hours of silence, a day of introspection when everyone in Bali must stay inside their residence and keep quiet. No vehicle or machinery is allowed to operate (which also means Bali airport closes down on this day each year), no fire or electricity may be used, no work may be done. All shops and businesses will close and the whole island will literally ‘play dead’ from dawn on March 5 until dawn on March 6. The idea is that the demons who inhabit Bali will be fooled into thinking the island has been abandoned, and will go elsewhere, like Lombok or Java. A little sneaky of us perhaps!
For tourists, the rules are more relaxed, as long as you do not leave your hotel. AYANA minimizes use of lighting and power, halts its shuttle service, and asks guests not to wander around outside or leave the property. However, otherwise guests are welcome to use the resort grounds and facilities as normal, while keeping noise to a minimum.?
It is an interesting time to be in Bali, because in the days leading up to Nyepi, you will have the opportunity to witness some unique aspects of Balinese culture. These include the preparation and parade of ‘ogoh-ogoh’, large papier mache statues of various things, ranging from skeletons to monsters.
The night before Nyepi, you will see villagers all over the island parading ‘ogoh-ogoh’ through the streets and making a lot of noise with a marching rhythm band, as they spin the monsters around in circles. This is like the last ‘hurrah’ before the island shuts down on the following day, for the period of silence.
At AYANA, our Guest Activities team is busy creating two ogoh-ogoh dolls: one is a 2.5-meter-high figure of Hanoman, the famed monkey general, fighting a demon, while the second is a smaller 1.5-meter-high figure specially created for children. Tomorrow on Nyepi Eve, a priest will bless the ogoh-ogoh dolls and then we will parade them together with our guests, through the resort grounds, as we try to wake up the demons before we go to bed and ‘play dead’ for 24-hours. Hopefully our trick works and we can rid Bali of any evil spirits lurking about!
Hi everyone, I’m pleased to join the AYANA team as Chef de Cuisine at Dava restaurant. I visited Bali once before and it is a dream come true to have the opportunity to work on this island, with so much fresh produce and so many creative and skilled people. Dava has always had a stellar reputation since it opened in 2005, but I will be “reinventing” the concept as an “innovative steak and seafood restaurant”. I haven’t stopped for breath since arriving but I’m loving it!
My first major responsibility – apart from launching the new a la carte and tasting menus – will be overseeing our Valentine’s Day dinner at Dava. This is such an important evening for couples, and we’ve prepared a special menu that evokes sensuality and romance. Hope you can join us!
Cinnamon Smoked Pumpkin
Cured Duck, Spicy Maple Dressing, Apples and Arugula
Braised Oxtail Omelet
Blue Crab Bisque, Asparagus and Pecorino Cheese
Lobster and Crispy Pork Belly
Kimchi Sauce, Fiddlehead Ferns, Lemon Basil
Pan Roasted Red Mullet
Garlic Emulsion, Coco Beans, Red Peppers and Cilantro
Australian Wagyu Filet
Toasted Candlenuts, Pickled Radish, Watercress Sauce
Red Velvet Fondant
Milk Ice Cream and Strawberry Pudding
Speaking of love, people always ask me how I got into cooking. It was while I was working at a ski resort back home in the USA. I was 17 and I was assigned to banquet set-up, but I decided I wanted to wear a tall, white hat. Now I never wear a hat, it falls off going in and out of coolers and is very inconvenient. But I’ve never lost my passion for cooking!
There are so many fantastic restaurants here and I want to do something completely different with Dava. My menu draws on the concept of a classic steakhouse offering the best cuts of meats paired with your choice of gourmet sauces and sides. But we’re taking it upscale with a modern twist, offering seafood dishes, small touches of molecular gastronomy in the mushroom gelee and horseradish espuma for example, use of local flavors and ingredients, and a larger selection of meats than a traditional steakhouse.
All meats and seafood are prepared using the sous-vide (French for ‘under vacuum’) technique preferred by the world’s best chefs – perhaps most famously, Paul Bocuse, Michael Mina and Joel Robuchon. Sous-vide maintains the integrity of the ingredients and ensures even, slow cooking for full flavor, by sealing the meat or seafood in an airtight plastic bag in a water bath and cooking it at low temperatures for many hours. At Dava, the Braised Short Ribs are cooked for more than 24 hours, while the Angus Beef Fillet is cooked for two hours. The results are amazing. I have also created a new Tasting Menu for more adventurous guests, with a choice of 3, 4 or 5 courses. This is my play area, where I get to do the really fun things.
Before Bali I was based in Doha, Qatar, where I was Chef de Cuisine at The Ritz-Carlton’s La Mer French restaurant. Qatar was an extremely interesting and inspiring experience. It is a lot more conservative than Bali – the only places people can drink alcohol are in hotel bars and private clubs and the local people are not allowed in them, which makes the social scene quite different. Bali is much more relaxed and the climate and atmosphere of a tropical island wash over you like a cool breeze.
Hope to see you here soon :)