Today I did something I did not have on any list, something that previously had no special appeal: fish spa. I walked in, made the deal and plopped my feet into the tank. I instantly wondered why I had been so glib about this, so dismissive. I thought of it as just another empty novelty. But no! Within the first 30 seconds I was shocked, amazed, tickled, awed, repulsed, attracted, hooked!! Here I was, sitting on a cushioned bench, dropping my bare feet and legs into a fish tank. And here they were, dozens of 2-inch fish attacking my feet and ankles for their next meal. You can call it cleaning dead skin. You can call it grooming, even. I call it a ravenous tickle-fest by a remorseless gang of minnows! I am being eaten alive!
They attacked my toes, my cuticles, underneath the nails. They attacked my ankles all the way up my leg, toying with the surface for every possible nibble they could get. I shook my feet, I withdrew them from the water. The sensation was so intense I guffawed, I giggled, I gurgled epithets.
What is this? This is a fish pedicure. The fish is a garra rufa.
According to the CDC, “Garra rufa are sometimes referred to as ‘doctor fish’ because they eat away dead skin found on peoples’ feet, leaving newer skin exposed.
Garra rufa are native to the Middle East, where they have been used as a medical treatment for individuals with skin diseases, like psoriasis (1). One study has illustrated the effectiveness of fish pedicures in the treatment of psoriasis; however, this treatment was performed in a controlled setting at a medical university in Austria, not at a nail salon (2).”
I befriended a pair of Danish girls sitting opposite from me. We speculated about them becoming the Fish Spa Queens of Denmark. But they said there are already fish spas in Denmark–at 4 times the price of Chiang Mai. Surely, there is still time left for me to become Entrepreneur of The Year! I can see it now: Fish Spa Goes Public!
I watched individual fish, trying to track their movements. They would attack, their tiny mouths munching at every curve, between the toes, the sole, the achilles, every minor abrasion, every I-don’t-know-what. Then they would swim away, only to dive in again at another location. The sensation was electric. It was several minutes before I could even stand as much as 30 seconds without shaking them away again. But my tolerance built.
Fifteen minutes later, I had the cleanest tingling feet ever, barely even touching the ground as I walked away. I can only say to you, dear reader: Do. Not. Miss. This!