That's right. I paid money to stick my feet in a tank of flesh-eating fish.
There are a number of Fish Spas all over Penang, and I've been meaning to try one ever since I arrived. When a Groupon showed up for a US$6 session, how could I resist? Garra Rufa (a.k.a. "Doctor Fish") were first discovered in a hot spring in Turkey. Some dude over a century ago went soaking in it and noticed that, after a few sessions, his skin was noticeably smoother. Flash forward to the 21st century. George Will is holding them up as a symbol of free enterprise while Nickelodeon's VicTORIous shows tweens the downsides of trying it out.
What you're probably wondering is "How does it feel to be attacked by flesh-eating fish?" Back in high school, my Biology II Lab teacher had a piranha. If we were good that day, he'd let us feed it a hot dog. Wowzy, it really had sharp teeth and could gobble huge chunks out of the sausage. Luckily, the fish spa was nothing like that.
I was a tad apprehensive at first. When I looked down into the tank, at least the fish were small, probably no more than an inch long. So, how big of a bite could they really take out of me? It felt like light, feather kisses, no more troublesome than a little fly crawling on my skin. The fish only eat dead skin cells, leaving the healthy skin alone. I giggled at the ticklish feeling of them nibbling at my feet. I even wiggled my toes a bit, trying to get more of them to come over.
|How could I possibly be afraid of these small fry?|
It brings new meaning to "The fish are biting today."
Then, my friends and I decided to move on to the medium fish. These were just a little bit larger, so I wasn't too worried about sticking my feet in the water this time. What was most interesting about this room is that it's also for the private VIP full-body fish spa treatment. Yup, some folks immerse themselves from tippy toe up to their shoulders. According to the brochure, the Doctor Fish "industriously yet gently exfoliate stubborn and unreachable dead skin layers from your body." Ack! My feet are one thing, but no way are they going near anything else.
|I'll have an order of Medium Fish, please.|
As I relaxed in the darkened room, so many deep, philosophical questions floated through my brain. Where does this put me on the Food Chain? Where on the karmic reincarnation scale do Doctor Fish fall? What movie should I see when I've finished up here?
We saved the big fish for last. These were about the size of a bratwurst, almost as long as my foot. Doubt set in again. How committed am I to my quest for baby-smooth feet?
|Much, much larger fish|
I can see it's eyes!
I waited until everyone else submerged their feet before gathering my courage. I gingerly lowered my feet, but squealed and pulled them out when one started in on my ankle. These weren't gentle, little nibbles. These fish felt like some person was scraping their nails on me. Eeek! I put my feet back in and was relieved when they started in on my heels which were much less sensitive.
After 30 minutes, the attendant told us our time was up. How effective was the treatment? Probably about the same results that I'd get from a session with a pumice stone or Ped Egg (As Seen on TV!). But then how would these little fishies get their food? They probably licked their tiny Trouty Mouth lips and thought all-you-can-eat buffet when they saw me coming.
Would I do it again? If my friends and family come and visit, I'd definitely take them there.
This post is part of the following link-ups. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.