We were tired after a day’s walk around the city and needed to kill some time, so Kyle and I once again found ourselves in a mall. The malls offer air conditioned refuge, cleaner air and often a nice place to sit down and enjoy a tasty snack. So there we are, strolling up escalator after escalator when I see the Fish Spa!
The helpful signs inform us that for the meager cost of 99 Baht ($3) we can receive 15 minutes of treatment from the Doctor Fishes. They will apparently rejuvenate the skin, eating off any dead skin cells and calluses and leave us healthier and happier. I am immediately sold, but Kyle takes some convincing. I finally get him to agree to try it with me and we step into the spa. We are told to wash off our feet and then shown where we can sit on nice wooden benches and dangle our feet and hands into large fish tanks full of thousands of guppy-sized “Doctor Fish.”
I stick one foot in slowly, not sure what to expect and the fish immediately swarm to my foot nibbling softly and tickling like crazy. I am near tears when Kyle gets to the tank and tries. He too starts to crack up and we slowly try to ease our way in. It tickles so much that I think I won’t be able to handle fifteen minutes but I try to relax and sure enough I am able to stick it out. After two minutes or so it stops tickling and feels almost pleasant. They just nibble a bit at your skin and move around a lot. To be honest it hardly feels like anything.
Some Wikipedia-ing tells me that these fish are called the garra rufa and that the fish spa tradition originated in Turkey of all places. The little guys apparently just eat your dead skin cells leaving the healthy skin to grow. In reality I am not sure they do anything besides tickle. Our fifteen minutes of treatment was fun but I didn’t notice any difference in my nasty two-months-in-Ton-Sai feet (not that I expected to). As an added bonus you wash before you put your feet in the flesh eating fish tank but the lady working there informed me that I did not need to wash afterwards. Apparently the doctor fish had done the cleaning for me.