Paradise in Prague - the Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa

Indonesian rose, lemongrass, sandalwood, peppermint — already my olfactory system is overwhelmed, and the ‘rituals’ at Prague’s newly opened Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa haven’t even begun.

 Indonesian rose, lemongrass, sandalwood, peppermint — already my olfactory system is overwhelmed, and the ‘rituals’ at Prague’s newly opened Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa haven’t even begun.

 But even queens for a day (okay, two hours) have to make difficult decisions, so I finally decide on the Indonesian rose essential oil, which seems appropriate for the occasion.

 Only a few decades ago, experiencing the traditional spa rituals of Indonesia would have been impossible if you weren’t native royalty. But through the efforts of DR. BRA. Mooryati Soedibyo, a politician, entrepreneur, and member of the Javanese royal family, the Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa franchise has brought these once carefully guarded beauty and health secrets to select cities around the world.

 The spa’s ornate interior is an immediate, stark contrast to the bare, almost sterile hallway that leads from the elevator to its embellished door. Taman Sari translates to “beautiful park”, but “beautiful woods” seems more fitting for its Prague location. Large, intricately carved panels of teak wood accent the walls, filling the room with a warm, earthy smell. A similarly styled gazebo acts as a bold centrepiece. The only curiously contrasting detail are the crystal chandeliers playfully reflecting the soft, low light.

 The spa offers eight private rooms — half are quite spacious, containing two massage tables (mainly for couples), a jacuzzi, a shower, and a few even include a lounge area. The other half are smaller and for individuals, with a single massage table and a shower. While most spa rituals last between two to two and a half hours, the Pamangun offering is a whopping seven hours of royal beauty treatment, including lunch. And at 3,950 CZK an hour, the air of exclusivity does not go unnoticed.

 I’m led into one of the individual massage rooms by a traditionally dressed Indonesian woman whose genuinely welcoming smile not once receded far from her ears. All of the masseuses at Taman Sari are trained in Mooryati Soedibyo's own education and training institute, and the professionalism is evident.

 The ritual begins with a scented foot bath (a relief after a long Monday at work), followed by a 60-minute massage. Don’t be fooled by the masseuse’s gentle appearance — she’s strong. After some quick ankle and hamstring stretch, the back work begins. Within a couple of minutes, my spine is releasing built up tension in spurts of audible, painless cracking. Calves, thighs, shoulders, torso — by the end, nearly every crevice and concavity of my body had been attended to with expert precision, including some light work around my eye sockets and temples. There are few opportunities in modern life to quiet the mind. But at this moment, I am in a state of euphoric relaxation.

 While relieving stress and promoting longevity are the ultimate goals of the spa’s ancient rituals, certain massage techniques serve more specific purposes. The Royal Coin massage incorporates metal coins and is designed solely for men. For pregnant women, the gentle Princess Prajati Purasara prepares a woman both physically and mentally for childbirth (while Atikrama Jati Purasara promotes healing afterwards). Couples can enjoy “a new spark to their relationship” through the 270-minute Rumpaka Bagyaning Radya Parakrama treatment. Whatever the choice, catering to clients’ personal needs and desires is always the main focus.

 After the massage, my skin is exfoliated using a sea salt scrub. The coldness of the scrub briefly rouses me from my half-sleep. Next is the body mask, which is pleasantly warmed before application. Once covered in mud, the masseuse places a towel and heavier blanket over top of me. She turns on the self-heating massage table, and I’m left in the room alone for about five minutes to incubate in the warmth, giving my skin time to absorb the hydrating minerals.

 The ritual ends with a quick shower to remove the scrub and mask. As someone who has never experienced a body mask treatment, I’m awed by the softness of my skin. Which, I might add, has lasted for a full three days thus far. With a few sips of soothing green tea and a final, ear-to-ear grin from my masseuse, my two hours in paradise come to an end.

By: Caroline Corrigan