Sun, 28 May 2000

A do-it-yourself spa job in the home

By Bruce Emond

JAKARTA (JP): Spas are the in-thing at Indonesian hotels and fitness centers.

Call it the ultimate in self-gratification or merely part of the holistic approach to putting both mind and body on an even keel, but spas are opening their doors across the city. They have even received the lofty stamp of approval from major women's magazine Femina as the latest "trend".

Several major hotels in Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Bali are offering clients the all-over treatment, the complete works including facials, sauna and Jacuzzi, massage and aromatherapy.

Although spas feel good, soothing frazzled nerves and tired muscles, they can hurt when it comes to forking out hard-earned rupiah for all the add-ons.

The sting is even greater when the glossy brochures and plush surroundings are accompanied by a sauna that is more often out of service than in, untrained staff who define "gormless" and a hot whirlpool which stubbornly refuses to whirl and never rises above tepid.

The next best thing to having someone pamper you into the never-never land of complete relaxation is to do it yourself, or so says The Body Shop which recently launched its Africa Home Spa line of products at a media conference at the Shangri-la Hotel in Central Jakarta.

"This is all part of the movement toward people taking care of themselves, both physically and mentally, and you don't have to go to a spa to do that with these products," said store operations manager Indra Sitompul.

Sourcing exotic products from deepest, darkest Africa makes for good advertising copy, but why venture so far afield when Indonesia has its own traditions of lulur (body scrub), mandi susu (milk bath) and fragrant oils?

Company general manager Toha Azhary said the choice of Africa was part of its mission to stimulate community trade in the continent. The company is not only intent on assisting, Toha said, "but conducting fair trade with poor communities in Africa."

"Therefore, the communities become equal business partners with us, and not parties which receive assistance that is passive and ineffective," he said.

Company matriarch Anita Roddick, her of the fervent opinions and wild-child hairdo, could not have said it better herself (then again, she probably has in one of her country-hopping jaunts).

There was also a little contribution from the domestic front. Marketing and communications manager Andrei Wicaksana said the company looked home to the Badui ethnic group of West Java to source the string bags in which the African goodies were presented.

The company named Ghana, Zambia and Nicaragua as some of the countries involved, the latter a curious choice as, other than being the homeland of that other wild child Bianca Jagger, it is smack in the heart of Central America (so what for geography, it's all about helping out the have-nots of the world through the haves cosseting themselves).


The launch included a product demonstration on a model who ably withstood the glare of curious eyes and flashbulbs, no doubt grinning and "baring" it for the greater good of community trade with Africa.

The products included the Body Salt Scrub, a mix of shea butter, honey and salt which is applied to wet skin as an exfoliant; Hair & Body Honey Mud, made from rhassould mud and organic honey, which can be used on the body and hair; the heavenly smelling Baobab Bath Oil; Rich Cocoa Body Balm, made from cocoa beans, shea butter, organic honey, beeswax and sesame oil, to enhance body moisture; and Hand and Feet Body Butter.

The assembled reporters were given a goodie bag, one of those made by the Badui, containing a loofah and one of the products which are in big preserve jars. After a little negotiating with a colleague's girlfriend, I ended up with the Hair & Body Mud to try in the confines of my home.

One lonely night last week, with Celine Dion in the background straining that she was crazy for me and would never let me go, I did the dirty. Meaning, I slopped and slathered that body mud all over my ample personage, plus hair, and let nature take its course.

Was it a luxurious trash wallow? Yes, in the sense of how much luxury can be had in a two-room boarding house in Central Jakarta. Did it make a difference? Hard to judge, but the mud is fragrant, it feels great and, yes, my hair positively hummed with its sweet aroma for the next few days.

The Body Shop is not cheap, even if the salespeople try to assure you the prices are in line with those at shops abroad. The products come in big jars, but the Africa Home Spa products are pricey expenditures. The Body Salt Scrub and Hair & Body Honey Mud each cost Rp 200,000, the Baobab Bath Oil Rp 100,000, the Rich Cocoa Body Balm Rp 135,000 and Hands & Feet Body Butter Rp 125,000.

With prices like these, a touch of spa pampering, including the at-home kind, will remain an occasional indulgence.