A fishy spa experience

Fish spas were all the rage in Southeast Asia several years ago. I passed by various such spas in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand on numerous occasions but I never could muster the courage to walk in and give it a go. The thought of having hundreds of fish nibblling on my feet was simply…err.. gross. The fish spa fad tapered off somewhat in the past year or two and I didn’t see those spas again.

So, there I was in Kuala Lumpur, strolling around the massive Pavilion mall with my pal, Nellie, when we came across a large sign advertising a fish spa in the mall. Nellie said that she’d tried it once before in Thailand and it was a very cool experience – seriously, that was all the encouragement I needed! We headed straight for the spa and there was no looking back.

We were greeted at the entrance by a very friendly lady who explained how it worked. You roll up your trousers, sanitise your feet, then sit at the edge of a large basin and hang your legs in the water. Within moments, fish would start nibbling at your feet, ridding them of those dreaded dead-skin cells. The lady went on to explain that it was not only a very natural way to get a quid pro quo foot scrub (you get clean, smooth skin while the fish get some grub), but that it was also a good way to improve blood circulation. She added that many people often walked away with a light-headed sensation after a 30-minute session. I bet! I asked her what species of fish were used. “Two types”, she replied, “the @#%^!*^@# [I had no idea what she said but later found out that it's called Garra Rufa or doctor fish] which sucks at your skin, and a Malaysian river fish [uh huh!] which has small teeth and they nibble”. Cool. “As long as they’re not piranhas!”, I remarked. She looked at me with slight disdain – my lame attempt at some humour obviously didn’t impress her. ;-)

I paid for a 30-minute session, washed my feet with a disinfectant of some sort, then slowly lowered my legs into the basin. Within minutes, schools of fish had gathered around. My legs and feet were probably the equivalent of a ten-course gourmet meal at a 3-star Michelin restaurant as they munched, nibbled, sucked, gnawed and nipped every square inch. I’m not sure how to describe the feeling except that it felt rather quirky… and ticklish! However, as the minutes passed and my mind got used to the idea, the tickling sensation subsided and it actually felt very relaxing.

My feet were almost completely enveloped by nibbling fish!

The time sped by and before I knew it, the lady was standing by my side to announce that my 30-minutes were up. I lifted my legs out of the water, then washed and blow-dried my feet. The result: …and I’m not kidding…. the skin on my feet have never felt so smooth! I walked away feeling great (no, not light-headed); my feet felt terrific and I was happy to indulge the fish with a gourmet meal! :-)

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21 Responses to “A fishy spa experience”

  1. It is the best and nicest way to exfoliate your skin. It is very relaxing. The fish eats away the dead skin on your feet.

  2. Tom @ spa malaysia 03/03/2011 3:23 pm
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    I’m glad you managed to finish the 30 mins fish spa. When I was there few months ago. I actually witnessed a couple that couldn’t even stand the ticklish sensation for more than 5 mins. I bet they’ll never come back for another one. :)

  3. Michael Jentsch 26/02/2011 8:23 pm
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    Great post, my wife visited the Fish Spa too and she loves it.

  4. velvet 21/02/2011 3:00 pm
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    The fish at the spa I visited in Kuala Lumpur sure did a great job in exfoliating my feet. I was, to be honest, very surprised! :-)

    Cheers,
    Keith

  5. wally 20/02/2011 8:08 pm
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    I’m sorry to squat on all the fun posts, this is a common tourist trap in Asia and are located on almost every corner. It does feel strange but as far as exfoliating anything, not even close.

  6. Ticklish Feet 24/01/2011 6:17 pm
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    It is the best and nicest way to exfoliate your skin. It is very relaxing. The fish eats away the dead skin on your feet.

  7. velvet 16/01/2011 1:12 pm
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    Haha! It’s not as creepy as it looks. Surreal: YES, creepy: no. :-) You should try it once. Ve prepared for a good tickle. LOL!

  8. Dalene 15/01/2011 6:05 pm
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    OMG!!! I have never heard of this before, and am totally creeped out by it. I literally shuddered a few times while I was reading your post. Yowza!

  9. OMG, the fish in your spa is sooooo much bigger than what we had. I think I might be a little freaked out if that had been the case. And maybe that’s why you could tell the before-after difference while we couldn’t… Maybe the spa we went to should be investigated for employing child (fish) labor… *snortz, giggles*

  10. Lisa E @chickybus 15/01/2011 5:57 pm
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    Oh my god…trippy! I love your description and the line about how, for the fish, it was the “equivalent of a ten-course gourmet meal at a 3-star Michelin restaurant.” Hilarious. And your pic reminds me of Fear Factor a tiny bit–LOL. Still, I would try it sometime. I think. :)

  11. Travelfusion 11/01/2011 10:55 am
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    This is CRAZY but also so cool Keith. I’ve been wanting to try this for a while now and your write-up may have just given me the courage I needed to finally do it. I have ticklish feet though so I’m worried I’d be laughing like a crazy lady the whole time! :)

  12. Fida 07/01/2011 9:23 am
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    Honestly Keith – I’d be too ticklish – I stick to my own scrubber ;)

  13. velvet 06/01/2011 3:13 pm
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    A natural fish body spa? Yikes! Let me know how it goes David! :-)

  14. David @ Malaysia Asia 05/01/2011 9:21 pm
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    Ahhh, the good old Fish-Spa here in KL. Funny thing is that 2 years ago when it hit the city, it was such a big thing… and sadly after the fad has died, a few remain left servicing the tourist visiting here. It’s an experience to try so if you ever have the chance, try it! I am out to try a natural one in a river somewhere in Sabah. Fishes as big as a shoe are doing the ‘spa’ thing and you are dipped up to your neck in the river so this is definitely on my list! *imagines the thought of 50 shoe sized fishes going at you*

  15. velvet 05/01/2011 12:19 pm
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    Haha! The lady assured me that the disinfectant is 100% organic.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  16. Clare Appleyard 05/01/2011 12:10 pm
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    Would love to try one of these one day! My feet could do with a make-over ;-)

  17. Nico 05/01/2011 2:22 am
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    I’m glad someone tried this… so I don’t have to. Honestly, I can’t make it past the gimmick, but if you say it works, then I’ll believe you, and then make my way over to the full body massage shop.

  18. Rob 04/01/2011 10:20 pm
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    Today I have the impression that the guppys in my fishtank have a weird way of staring at me…they scare me..

  19. santafetraveler 04/01/2011 9:56 pm
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    EW! I’m with your original reaction. I had the piranhas thought, too. I hope the disinfectant is organic- hate to think of the fish getting chemicals with their dead-skin meal. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m sticking to a pedicure to get rid of my dead skin.

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