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In Bali, a couples massage is a healing affair

The spa at Alila Villas Soori in Bali.


The Retreat

Water retention is never amusing, and even less so when you're due for a romantic meet-up in Bali. Before his arrival, I'd been indulging on babi guling (Bali's famed suckling pig), and upon arrival we both tucked into the blond ales. Between us, we were facing a serious case of bloat, and were hardly primed for our From Here to Eternity close-up. It was time for Alila Villas Soori's signature couples treatment Beauty and Balance, a coffee-driven ritual that flushes excess fluid and smooths pork-fuelled cheek dimples.

Our therapists are welcoming and refreshingly giggly. No spa stoicism here; they smile as they stroke our soles in the opening foot bath, which relaxes us more than the lemon grass scrub. Next, an exfoliation with coffee grounds (the coffee is grown locally) – talk about catching a buzz. Then, huddled, the four of us make our way to the pièce de résistance in this private spa temple – side-by-side terrazzo hot beds. A cocoa and coffee body mask is lathered over our bodies, our heads lolling from side to side in the delicious heat. A Vichy shower rains release on target muscle groups and by the time the massage stage rolls around, we're all in a deep, hushed silence. The Balinese are so accustomed to massage as a way of life that a couples treatment is a collective healing affair in the best sense, with little subtext and zero baggage. I'll happily admit, the best part – if the therapist is skilled enough – is when you forget your beau is even there.

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The Benefits

If the mere whiff of steaming Starbucks sends you to your happy place, you'll go spa gaga for this sumptuous affair. Caffeine draws out impurities while virgin cold-pressed coconut oil deeply conditions.

The Spa

Bali's building boom on the southern Seminyak coast is enough to send most privacy-seeking couples across the strait to Lombok. But don't throw in the Do Not Disturb sign just yet. The newly opened Alila Villas Soori, on the low-density west coast of the island, offers a beautifully balanced way of life. The setting makes it ideal for spa getaways: Desa Kelating is an artisanal, prosperous village of spellbinding magnetism. Far from the Euro ghetto beat of the resort town of Kuta, Alila's all-villa resort is peacefully laid out between sinuous rice terraces and a spectacular black sand beach, and features private pools, top-of-the-line digital entertainment, and seriously superior bathing amenities. Dramatic common space interiors feature banyan tree driftwood as big as a king-size bed and relic-inspired terra cotta tiles in the spa. Dining is not to be missed as chef Ashton Hall offers by far the most comforting yet truly innovative cuisine of all of Bali's high-end resorts (including haute Indonesian or inventive Western classics served by the pool, or on starry nights, a balmy barbecue on the beach).

Alila Villas Soori at Banjar Dukuh, Desa Kelating; Bali; 62-361-894-6388;; $200 for 150 minutes.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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