East Day Spa owner's Bali affair

By Zoe Walker

East Day Spa owner Ina Bajaj tells us what it is that makes her so enamoured of her adopted second home.

Ina Bajaj. Photo / Babiche Martens
Ina Bajaj. Photo / Babiche Martens

Bali is a second home for East Day Spa owner Ina Bajaj, who owns a luxury retreat in rural Canggu. Her love affair with the Indonesian island, a mecca for spa junkies, began when she "ran away" to Bali and found her new love. Soon after, her other spas - Bajaj also owns East Day Spas in Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown and Melbourne - began adopting a strong Balinese flavour in design and therapies, and she bought land in Bali in 2008, opening the East Residence and Spa a year later. A decade after her first visit, Bajaj is now planning to expand and open a boutique resort.

"I love visiting Bali for the nature aspect, like the beautiful beaches and the emerald green rice fields, but it's the freedom I enjoy most," she explains of her adopted home. "The freedom of not living in an overly PC society, always watching ones Ps and Qs. I love being able to blast my music at full volume but at the same time, I exercise tolerance when the neighbours do the same." Bajaj, who previously ran a restaurant in Wellington, loves the expatriate community too, as most are there by choice. "No one's been transferred or been offered a high paying job - expats live in Bali mostly because they love the lifestyle and people."

10 FAVOURITE THINGS

1. Donut chairs

My friend Dana makes most of the furniture for our properties. His major market is the Hawaiian one. The great thing about Dana is that nothing is a problem. When I needed outdoor furniture for my New Zealand home, I called Dana and we came up with his version of the "donut chair". It's comfortable and all-weather resistant.

2. Toraja carving

The Toraja are an ethnic group who live in the mountain regions of Sulawesi and their art is very tribal. For East Residence and Spa in Bali I purchased two antique Sulawesi warrior waistcoats that sit against whitewashed walls in our upper level hallways. I couldn't resist this lovely Sulawesi guy who had a shop near the Kerobokan side of Sunset Rd. He did not speak a word of Bahasa, let alone English, but together we discovered his treasure trove and I bought a few Toraja carvings along with the warrior waistcoats.

3. Vespa

Our previous manager, Raka, used to have a business exporting reconditioned Vespas to Ibiza. I purchased one, picturing myself as Julia Roberts riding along the rice-fields. Having spent a small fortune getting it painted East Green, and with my fake L.V. leather helmet, I was armed to take on Canggu. But alas, the starter pedal for the Vespa is so heavy that with my Havaiana's on I can't get the darn thing to start. It won't start unless I have biker boots on! Needless to say my beloved Vespa now sits proudly in the garage for guests to enjoy.

4. Lombok statues

During my first trip, when I did the procurement for East Day Spa Auckland, I stumbled across Jonathan Lombok pottery. Since 2005, the tiny corner shop has grown and now has a large factory warehouse in Kerobokan. I found the soldiers for the front of East Residence and Spa here, and when I moved into my current New Zealand home, I had a perfect alcove where they could play sentinel to my wellbeing.

5. Wayan Wijana and Mas Handewi

Two of my wonderful therapists from East Residence and Spa. I looked forward to and enjoyed so many treatments with Hani and Wijana, that I had to bring them with me. Hani is now based at our Sky City Grand Hotel spa and Wijana has just arrived and will be based at our new Spring FootSpa in Queenstown.

6. Light fitting

Carlo, an Italian who has spent many years in Bali, designs fantastic light-fittings for his shop Disini in Seminyak, Oberoi. We had a large, long 10-seater dining table, and Carlo designed a magnificent light fitting that acts as a canopy over the entire thing and a feature to the room.

7. Land

The best thing I ever bought in Bali was the land East Residence and Spa now sits on. It was after the second bombing and Bali was deserted. No tourists were coming near the island, and hotel occupancies were down to all-time lows. For me this did not stop the love affair I had with the island and against all professional advice we acquired a hectare of land.

8. Bali peanuts

Ever wonder how they get their satay sauce tasting so good? It's the peanuts. These garlic flavoured peanuts are worth going through the red channel at Customs for, and are available at Carrefour and all supermarkets.

9. Day bed

Raka and I found this piece when we used to pound the pavements of Ubud. We were at an art gallery when we saw this day bed by reception. I asked the owner, and he laughed and said "I sell it to you, but my wife will kill me, it belonged her family". Oh my God, it had history, so I wanted it more. So I said "go call your wife". After an hour of hilarious bargaining we sealed the deal.

10. Fashion items

Forget Kuta and Legian and head down to Jalan Oberoi - hand-made shoes that would give Jimmy Choo a run for his money, fantastic jewellery and beautiful silk georgette numbers. Stop off at the Red Carpet Champagne Bar to rest your feet, and head down this shoppers' paradise street. As well as the Shakahuchi shop, you can find global brands and designers that create bespoke one-off items. Then end your day with a sundowner at Ku De Ta.

* Check out Viva's brand new Facebook page, the place to find out what's hot in fashion, beauty, food, wine and design.

- NZ Herald

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